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Cathy Hartgraves: Creative & Grateful

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By Carol Burns

If you’ve been in many Stockton restaurants or shops or bid on an art auction at a charity event, you’ve seen Cathy Hartgraves’ Art. This exceptionally talented and diverse artist has been painting and creating art on floors, walls and even ceilings in many stores, restaurants model homes and personal homes for years.

Stepping away from a 12-year banking career, Cat started and scaled up multiple successful businesses including her handpainted clothing line in over 250 national shops and catalogs along with marketing exquisitely handpainted linens for custom weddings and hotels. “When I get an idea, I read and research extensively, attend conventions and make connections” in the industry, she said.

Although her decorative painting style remains her true artistic love, Cat’s innovative brain continues to conceive creative ideas for marketing art. Her Inner Artiste was the forerunner of the sip ’n’ paint phenomenon and kept Cat and son, Jeremy, a graphic artist, busy traveling all over California teaching workshops, sometimes up to 75 people at once. “I would sketch out the design on each canvas, then teach the attendees how to flesh it out. Seeing people discover their artistic potential gave me such joy,” she recalled.

Cat Hartgraves, 99.9 percent pure Italian, is undeniably one of those people you’ll want to share a glass of wine with at sunset in her gorgeous garden, listening to “Unstoppable” and laughing with her at her life’s escapades filled with unbridled enthusiasm and new adventures.

A straight-A student, Cat didn’t grow up in a highly creative family, but she was always encouraged. Her gratitude extends to her junior high art teacher, Ed Carr and his indelible influence, her mother and her older brother “who made her think she could do anything.” Once her second grade teacher discovered she could draw, she became the school artist. She laughingly remembers her excitement at winning Captain Kangaroo’s art competition and seeing it featured on TV. “School was different in those days,” she remembered. Today they seem to miss the importance of art in the classrooms. “Kids in school have to learn the hard stuff but they also need the fluidity of art to give them motivation and spark imaginative creativity.”

Cat, passionate about nurturing artists, is grateful to The Exchange restaurant, Woodbridge, recently rebranded from Oddfellows Tavern, for their support of all things local, including artists. Not only is she creating new art for them, but she is busy selecting local artists to feature and hang their art for sale. “We have a great community of artists who are so gifted. We need more studios like The Catalyst on Yosemite Street, offering a safe place to be uplifted and supported, encouraging artists to continue their art. We all need to be with each other, support each other. If I do any mentoring at all, I tell them what amazing qualities I see in their work. As I recognize the gift of art in people, I’m grateful to be there to bring that out in them, to show them their gift,” she affirmed.

“Everything we do for enjoyment in life and work hard at is based upon art, whether it’s painting, dancing, gardening, photography, even entertainment. Everyone needs art!” Art brings inspiration, reflects our ideas, makes us think, feel, laugh and hopefully brings diverse people together.

Cat agrees with Henri Matisse’s words, “Creativity takes courage.” “As artists, we put our hearts on our sleeves; we do it because we believe art is important,” she asserted.

Cat is slowly moving through her grief after suddenly losing her husband and strongest champion, David, to cancer. She is so grateful for the support and time with her friends and sons as they continue to stand by her during these difficult days. She’s trying to take care of herself, starting her days working out and walking Rudy, her Jack Russell, before stepping inside her studio. “The practice of painting calms my mind and gives temporary relief from my grief,” she said.

A self-taught artist, Cat continues improving her craft, taking inspiration from reflective times in nature and artists’ communities, such as Sausalito, one favorite. “I want to develop a style that is identifiable, but not predictable. My style is an accumulation of all I’ve done and loved the most as an artist,” she said. Cat’s innate color sense and unique diverse art ranges from decorative painting, charcoal portrait sketches, murals and her well-known “wonky” mixed-media art. “My brain jumps around; I actually enjoy having multiple projects at one time.

“I’m so grateful that I can do what I love and that I’m well accepted in the community, supported and embraced with what I do, love and am financially rewarded for,” she concluded.

One friend’s comment: “Every time I see a painting you have created, it makes me feel, and that to me is what a truly talented artist gives.”

To enjoy more of Cat’s art, visit @CathyHartgraves on Instagram.