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More than meets the eye – Kati Garrett Filho’s story

Art Lovers | 22 October 2019

By Sunnefa Hamar Penning


Kati Garrett Filho is a portrait artist from the Far North Coast of New South Wales. Her art, described as ethereal and emotive is a collection of illustrative, semi-realistic portraits that feature female subjects, flowers, feathers and birds. The use of colour in her work is beautiful and the depth of character captured in the intricate details of her subjects leaves the viewer wanting to know more about the story behind the portrait. Art has been a lifelong passion for Kati and something that brings her closest to the state of feeling self-actualised. To her being an artist is both a playful and meaningful existence. “I get to nourish my inner child every day and live in the quiet, sheltered, safe world of my own imagination. And that I get to feel like I contribute to the world in some meaningful way”.

Full Dreamweaver By Kati Garrett Filho

Dreamweaver (38 x 56cm, Charcoal, graphite & watercolour on paper)

Although as a child Kati Garrett Filho could not vision a future for herself that was not art inspired, her path to becoming the talented portrait artist she is today was not conventional.“I never imagined I would do anything but art when I grew up”. After being awarded the “Schools Best Artist” Trophy in year 11, her teachers encouraged her to go onto a four-year Visual Communications Diploma.Upon attending an exhibition by the diploma graduates, she decided to take a different path “I weighed myself against those artists and came away feeling talentless and discouraged. So, I gave up any hopes of an artistic future and obeyed my parents’ ‘sensible’ decision to go work in a bank”.

Full Dreamweaver By Kati Garrett Filho

Kati Garrett Filho (Artwork: Gathering Water)

In her late twenties, then a stay at home mom to a young family, Kati’s passion for art re-surfaced and she started painting signs for local businesses.“I went on to purchase an iMac and some software and taught myself to do Graphic Design. For the next 10 years I worked successfully as a freelance graphic designer”. Her career in graphic design was cut short when a messy divorce, single parenthood and 50-hour work weeks started weighing on Kati resulting in a bad case of burn out leading her away from any form of creativity. During this period, she home schooled her daughters and took various part time jobs. It wasn’t until 2011, when love changed Kati’s life for the better. “I married a wonderful Brazilian man, Omar, and blossomed under his love and company. The desire to draw began to return”.

Faith Ethnic Art By Kati Garrett Filho Main

Ethnic Faith (42 x 59.4cm, Charcoal & acrylic paint on paper)

In 2016, the artist was met with yet another setback when her health turned for the worse resulting in Kati having to quit her job and reduce participation in social engagements. “I was in terrible pain and x-rays revealed two 45-degree angles in my back, creating a very large “S” curve”. She was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition that can significantly impact one’s quality of life. “Surgery isn’t an option in my case, so I am learning to somewhat manage it with natural therapies. But it has resulted in reduced participation in a social life, loss of fitness, physical pain and as it progresses, reduced mobility”. Due to this diagnosis the artist battles daily with secondary conditions, poor self-image and depression. “Drawing and painting is my escapism. I now try to see the scoliosis with gratitude because it has allowed me the luxury of doing what I always wanted to do!”

Full Eagle Huntress Kati Garrett Filho

Eagle Huntress ( 56 x 38cm, Mixed media on paper)

Kati is inspired by the human form.“I am really inspired by female faces and eyes that tell me a story or stir an emotion. There are a million stories behind the eyes of a person. I also find that as a sensitive introvert, my environment while creating a work, definitely affects the outcome of that piece”. The artist works predominately in charcoal, graphic and pen “focusing on the visual language of light and shadows.The result is emotive, ethereal, semi-realistic portraits that convey a sensitivity in the subjects“. Wanting to draw out the details of her subjects with accuracy and allow space for a fluidity in the way she uses colour results in a mixed method. “I love the simplicity of drawing with pencil and charcoal on paper and how much control it gives me over the finished artwork. But then contrasting the control and detail of the pencil work with the fluidity and wildness of watercolour is really fun…a little scary sometimes cause on occasion is hasn’t gone well. But it’s cool watching the two mediums fight it out on paper as I try to act as some sort of referee”.

Main2 And She Was By Kati Garrett Filho

And She Was Again (21 x 29.7cm, Graphite, watercolour & pigment liner on paper)

As it is for many artists, talking about her pieces and distinguishing favourites is a challenge for Kati. “Like a Mother with her children, I find it hard to point at a particular artwork and say that one is my favourite. They are all special to me in their own way”. Perhaps due to her introversion, she identifies with the portrait “Gathering Thoughts”.“It’s about the process you have to go through when you feel distressed or disoriented, how you need to take a moment to organize your emotional state and make the decision to carry on. A process that can be completely hidden from those around you. There is a quote by Charles F Glassman I like that embodies this perfectly“ Amidst the swirling tides of frustration and overwhelm, there is always enough time, to take a step back, gather your thoughts and say, I can do this!”.

Gathering Thoughts By Kati Garrett Filho

Gathering Thoughts (42 x 59.4cm, Graphite & acrylic on paper)

Kati’s road to achieving all that she has, has been anything but easy. Today she finds herself in a great place reaping the benefit of all of the hard work she has put in over the years.“In the last few months I have felt like I am really beginning to unleash my true potential and that makes me excited for the future. I want to expand my repertoire in every sense of the word. Work more with colour, perhaps try larger scale and experiment with different mediums and styles”. Look out for Filho’s portraits on Art Lovers Australia, you have to see them for yourself to fully appreciate Kati Garrett Filho’s incredible talents.

Full Eagle Huntress Kati Garrett Filho


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