Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Artist of the Month - KA Compson

I shared in my July issue of my e-zine, Feather Your Nest, that this July I've selected a fabulous photographer to highlight and interview as my Artist of the Month. KA Compson is a newcomer to Etsy, and, I have to say, a woman after my own heart! I'm from the Pacific Northwest myself and have quite a soft spot for the UK. I'm always fascinated by people who have followed their hearts, taken hold of their talents (or allowed themselves to be taken hold of BY their talents) and have pursued a creative career. She travels extensively and photographs all along the way, so you can travel vicariously through her and her lens. For me, there is such a sense of peace and serenity in each of her photographs - and to top it all off, she's a generous person with a humble spirit. (We've been corresponding since I featured her work in this Friday's Fabulous Finds post, so I know this from experience.) Here is my in-depth interview with her. You can find each of the photographs here in her Etsy shop.

KA, one of the things I love about your photography is that it takes something that might be quite commonplace and finds the beauty in that one object, elevating it to something special. I think of the photo you took of the car in the junkyard – "Triumph". I have to admit that if I had seen that car in person, I probably wouldn't have given it a second look. But I've fallen in love with that photo, because it manages to turn a little corner of that old car into art that is vibrant, alive, and (I dare say) even has a personality. When do you feel most inspired? Do you have favorite subjects to photograph? Things that frequently inspire you?

I haven't had a very conventional life and I think because of that, I see a lot of the ordinary as more than it is- because some of the craziest scenes were the backdrop for my childhood- but that's a whole other fun story. Also, I don't want it to sound like I'm implying some sort of break with reality, but I rarely walk down the street without an ordinary scene turning into something more for me. A lot (if not all) of my photography captures the ordinary. There is something very nostalgic and precious in the common life- and the impermanence of life in general. My favorite subjects tend to be the ordinary.... pastoral scenes, food, animals- nature in general- but from a different angle. One of my favorite ways of shooting is from the bottom up- what I mean is I like to lay down on the ground and shoot a flower for instance from the bottom up. I also am drawn to nature and all things nature, big and small!

One of the things that intrigues me most about you is what you shared in your Etsy profile. You said, "The story starts like this... Two years ago I quit my job in the Pacific Northwest, sold my home and everything I owned (except the dog- he came with) and set off for Kansas to see about a boy. Why? To try something new- to follow the whispers of a promising new adventure. Where did all of this eventually take me? The United Kingdom! I've since started following my creative dream to become an artist, children's illustrator, graphic designer and entrepreneur." Being a Pacific Northwest native myself, but having a real soft spot for the UK, I feel I can identify with you just a little bit. I also admire you for taking the leap. Two years is a relatively short time to go from a stable job in the Pacific Northwest to living in the United Kingdom, where you frequently travel and are exercising your talents through a number of artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits. In addition to your gorgeous photography, can you share with us some of your other talents and interests? What are some of your goals in these areas?

Is it a short time? :-) I really live my life at warp speed. It drives some people nuts, but I don't think I know any other way- I've never been able to sit still. Other things I like to do are play the guitar and flute and I also paint. Gardening and natural pursuits in general are a big part of my life. My folks always had a garden growing up and so that has always sort of stuck with me. I'm also an avid outdoors person. Before leaving the PNW, I used to spend a lot of time road cycling, kayaking, boxing and mountaineering. I'm still doing those things, but on a much smaller scale! Since leaving the HMO I worked for, I've found a renewed sense of self and purpose. Although I spent a lot of time in grad school trying to have that career, going back to artistic pursuits is the only suit I want to ever put on again. I've been really blessed to have the support to go after this dream. I'll graduate from the Art Institute in the summer with my diploma in graphic design but right now I've launched a global sketchbook project called Happy Feats (http://www.travelingsketchers.blogspot.com/) that will travel the world for a year with various artists contributing. I hope to have this published at some point. There are a few other business ventures in the works, but those are secret right now! :-)

You clearly love to travel, as I've noticed that so many of your photographs are shot on location in various countries in Europe. Has there been a favorite destination for you? What about it made you love it?

It's really hard to have a favorite- I've travelled my entire life and picking one out is pretty rough. I'd have to say that I love, love, love the people of Turkey, the food of Wales and the spirit of Poland. I equally love the people of the Middle East, the Med and I adore the traditions of Asian culture. I've got to say, that in my life of traveling, one thing is certain- the people make the place. The spirit is what makes the adventure for me. I was recently in Barcelona during the festival of San Juan and for the Spanish v. Italy soccer game... and I've never seen more passion manifested through fireworks 'til 3am! It was brilliant! My next travels will hopefully be taking me to Scandinavia, Russia, and North Africa. Before I leave England, I'd also love to visit Asia... who am I kidding. I pretty much want to see the entire world!

Ely Cathedral

KA, can you give us a glimpse into your home life? How do you decorate? I know you are LOVING your English garden right now…can we see pics, please? And do you display any of your own artwork at home, or just that of others?

The garden and everything related to it are my favorite. We recently planted climbing roses this year and that was a hoot! We have also planted "trees of love" around the house. It's kind of a silly thing my fiance Brian and I do- we plant trees of love. Cheesy, sure. But it makes us smile when we drive up to the house.

We also love doing "flower checks" after our nightly walks with our dog Ari. The funny thing about the UK is that random things will show up and grow around here and it can actually change from one day to the next.

As for our house... the English homes are soooo small compared to the ones we have in the states, so we now have to be super selective about what we put into it.

The front of KA's house in England

As for the house itself, I'll share some pictures! It's the funniest little house.... Our home life is very busy, unconventional and very laid back.


Brian can sometimes have a strange work schedule, so we tend to just roll with whatever comes next. Our decor definitely reflects this! I sometimes think we live like two very eccentric professors in a very cluttered closet! We might need Nesting Instincts to help us with our feathering!


favorite kitchen antique

When I look at your photos, I often get a real feeling of serenity and peace. That's important to me, because with my busy life I like to create an atmosphere of serenity in my home through decorating. (Not cleaning though. That's going too far.) I'm anxiously awaiting your Poppiescape photo in my mailbox, because there are many days where I'll want to look at it and pretend I'm there…with nothing around but the grass, the flowers, and the sky. Do you try to achieve a sense of peace in your photography, or do you just photograph what you like, and that happens to come through?

Serenity is a sort of an unconscious objective in my art. I think I am drawn to it because I appreciate and love the simplicity of the country and of nature and natural things. I have always had a very strong and deep connection to the mountains and the forest. During my undergrad years I would often come home on weekends to my parent's home near the Blue Mountains of SE Washington State just to spend the weekend camping out alone with my dog. There is more of a communal and spiritual element I feel that draws me to those places. I find that I also love to photograph old things and broken things and capturing the impermanence of things in general. For example, a photograph I took called Sam and Charlie, is a story of an old mini cooper I met in the junkyard. Someone used to love that car. I think it serves as a reminder to me to live today and to say I love you often to those I do love. Even people I don't know. I try to tell them I love them too. Does that make sense?

So what about the boy? Is he still in the picture or not? (I hesitate to ask…it seems rude…but I'm dying of curiosity…so my curiosity got the better of my politeness!)

Ahhh... well that is my most favorite story of all to tell. The boy is definitely in the picture and we're now engaged to be married. I can honestly say, that Brian is the absolute love of my life and everything tastes, smells and looks better now that he's in my life. Brian is a pilot in the Air Force and was stationed in Kansas when we started dating. We'd been friends for a few years before and I wasn't thinking of a romantic anything between us. He had other ideas and soon flowers were showing up on my doorstep often! We had a few dates, a few visits and dated briefly before breaking it off because I didn't want to give up my life in Portland and everything I'd worked so hard for.
KA & Brian

Then, one day, a package arrived on my doorstep. Brian had just deployed to the desert but before he left, he sent this box to me. Inside were mementos of places he'd visited that were part of my childhood- stories I'd told him of my travels that paralleled places the military sent him. It was the most loving filled box I'd ever seen. I fell to the ground when I read the card inside and just felt my heart crushing. I may have let the most wonderful man slip through my fingers and I was in an absolute panic! I immediately sat down at my computer to send him an email asking him if he was serious about the lovely things he'd written in a card. He called me the next chance he got. The next morning, I just knew. Call me crazy- but I had to get the heck out of Portland and beat feet to Kansas! I marched into work and gave my two weeks, put my house on the market and had a major garage sale! I think everyone thought I'd lost it. But it was the most natural and right thing for me to do. I took my three favorite antiques in a trailer hitched to my car, the dog and a few other things and moved to Kansas a month later. I was there to pick him up at his plane when he landed from his deployment. Three months later, the military sent him to live in England I went too! The rest, is history in the making. We were engaged a year later. Brian proposed to me on the Mariensbrucke bridge overlooking Neuschwanstein Castle in Garmisch, Germany. I'll send you a picture of us too!

And lastly, where can people view your work, either online or in person?

You can find my work at: www.trunkt.org/kacompson , http://www.kacompson.etsy.com/ and at http://www.kacompson.com/. The last is my personal website where I will soon be launching my professional portfolio.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, KA!

Are you kidding me? I'd like to give a HUGE hug and many,many, many thanks to Nesting Instincts for asking me to be a part of this. It's always a very humbling and jaw dropping experience for me when someone expresses appreciation or fondness for my work. I wish you the absolute very best.


  1. Great interview! I "favorited" KA's lavender photo in her Etsy shop when you a first mentioned her, and I just returned to spot two sea cottage photos that I think I need to make a move on! KA, your story is fabulous and that bit about Brian…oh…my…gawd. What a love story! :-)

  2. What an interesting interview. And what a great love story! I was riveted.

    Man, do I feel boring now...

    Love her house and that bright front door, too. Thanks for introducing us to her, Courtney! -Julia

  3. KA Thompson!! Wow!! I love her work!! I need some new artwork so I may be buying a few of her photos. I definitely added her to my favorites in Etsy. Thank so much for introducing her. I loove your blog by the way .. you have some great stuff here..adding you to my blogroll :)


thank you for commenting, dahling! I can't wait to hear what you have to say. :-)