Catherine E. Case loves to teach others about the joy and business of creating art


Vecchia Donna, charcoal on paper, 25″ x 19″

Variety is the spice of life for artist Catherine Case. You can see the array of skills and interests in her professional background, the blend of media she uses in drawing and painting, and the ever-evolving artistic styles she achieves.

“Many artists choose one style, one medium and one subject matter, but I can’t be boxed in,” Case says. As a portrait artist, she uses up to eight different media when painting or drawing someone’s portrait. “I create a new style for every person once I get to know their personality, beliefs, emotions and goals, and I never use the same style twice. These traits are as important as physical appearance in how the portrait turns out. It’s my method for showing a person’s emotions through a particular style of painting.”

Illumination, vine charcoal on Rives BFK, 23″ x 18″

Case accepts commissions to draw and paint head-and-shoulders, half-length and full-length portraits. She spends 75% of her time observing in order to get the details just right and only 25% actually drawing. “Portraits will be passed down through the generations, so I take time to notice the details and prefer to draw from live models and not photographs,” she says. While portraiture keeps her busy, it is far from the only artistic product she provides to her clients.

To understand her art, it helps to see her extensive background and how she made her way to where she is today. Case first began drawing at the age of 6. Her parents required her to spend time at her desk studying each day and when she was finished with schoolwork, she began to fill the time by drawing her surroundings and using a sketch pad and drawing pencil gifted to her by her grandfather. By her early teens, she stopped drawing regularly. During college, Case chose biochemistry as a major, following in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career paths of other family members. It was during a class—Introduction to Drawing for Non-Art Majors—that a professor recognized her artistic talent. “He told me I was too good to be making that drawing mistake,” she says. “I went that afternoon and changed my major to fine art.”

Perseverance, pencil on Rives BFK, 10″ x 14″

Today, Case holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in commercial art, a Master of Arts degree in drawing and a Master of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and illustration and has taught at several universities, including the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where she chaired both the undergraduate and graduate degree programs. She spends time developing art and production design curricula and teaches students what she calls “street smarts,” aka how to land a job in the field. By invitation of Vanderbilt University, she actively mentors Master of Fine Arts graduates and seasoned art professionals making a shift in their careers. She also serves as a
juror for art exhibitions across the nation.

Throughout her career, Case leaned into education and used it both to learn and teach others about producing different types of art. She entered the field as a graphic designer and later owned her own advertising agency, working for Fortune 500 companies such as Kimberly-Clark, Tootsie Roll and McDonald’s. Many people have seen her work, whether they realize it or not. She drew all of the Huggies diaper babies, for example. She also drew many prototype illustrations for Kimberly-Clark’s research and development department as researchers introduced new product concepts. Her long history in illustration spans many companies, products, advertising campaigns and corporate identity packages, and even delves into fashion design.

Figures en Noir et Blanc, cattle markers on paper, 38″ x 25″

Originally from Wisconsin, the SCAD position lured Case to the South, and she planted roots in the Lowcountry. While she still accepts commissioned portraiture, today she is newly focused on bringing her knowledge to emerging artists and others who have an interest in fine arts through lecturing and teaching classes. She teaches both private and semiprivate art lessons to individuals. “I really don’t teach how to draw but how to see,” she says. “I teach artists through workshops on technical subjects, such as how to create perspective in a piece, a topic that is always a difficult concept to grasp. Mastering techniques such as this one changes their art for the rest of their creative lives.”

Drawing on her deep experience as a professor, Case develops curricula for artists who need continuing education units (CEUs), which she is authorized to grant to course participants. She also gives keynote speeches and lectures on subjects such as art history, color theory and other topics she thinks will be of interest to the general public. “I don’t want to die with the knowledge I have. I would much rather donate it,” she says.

Male Back Study, compressed charcoal on newsprint, 23″ x 16″

Giving is part of Case’s business model. She engages in what she dubs “Filanthropy Friday” every week, which is a chance for her to give back to whomever she sees that needs it the most at that moment. “I have spent a Friday giving away water and dog treats to pets of the homeless. Sometimes I simply spend time in the Costco parking lot helping push shopping carts for people who are struggling with them during the busy holiday season. There are always creative ways to practice philanthropy. I don’t have to go looking; the opportunities are right there in front of my face,” she says. *

Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design, architecture and art.

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