Kate Jarvik Birch

Finding beauty in the mundane

<em>Wake Me Up</em>, 2024, original gouache painting on paper, 6x6 inches with small white border.
Wake Me Up, 2024, original gouache painting on paper, 6x6 inches with small white border.

Decades after studying art at the University of Utah, stay-at-home mom Kate Jarvik Birch landed a job illustrating children’s books, and in her spare time, began painting with gouache every day as a form of meditation. “It’s almost ‘found’ art,” she says. “I have to find a thing to paint every day that is just what I’m seeing or where I’ve been.” Birch started posting her work online, and it quickly won notice. Soon, she was able to support herself and her children full-time. “I wanted to make original art and collecting art accessible to everybody,” she says. Now, after five years, she continues to “find beauty in things that are around us” by painting and posting her work each day.

  • Box of Crayons, 2024, original gouache painting on paper, 8x8 inches with small white border.

Birch finds inspiration in everything. Sometimes she even paints what she had for breakfast. “We infuse all the things around us in our everyday lives with memories, you know?” she says. “And we don’t even realize that we’re doing it because they’re kind of the background of our lives. But every once in a while, one object will end up meaning more than we realize.” Viewers have found immense meaning in her depictions of the mundane objects of our lives—a stick of butter, a leftover cupcake, a stack of crayons. Several years ago, for example, she painted a small rendering of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. “I remember my mom saying, ‘Nobody is going to buy that, that is the weirdest painting, why did you do that,’” she recalls. “The woman who ended up buying it was so emotional because her mom had just died fairly recently, and they had this inside joke about cranberry sauce, so it spoke to her so vividly and brought up so many memories for her.”

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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