Featured Artist: Catherine Puma

An Emerging Artist’s Paintings Stir the Imagination


When asked what she intends with her art, Chicago based artist Catherine Puma replies, “I love recreating beautiful landscapes of places I’ve traveled to before because I’m able to relive those memories and travel back to those places. Other paintings stir my curiosity and I find myself wondering what goes on in those paintings, for example, who lives in that house, who works in that building or who’s traveled to this forest before?”

Using classic composition and high key colors, Catherine is establishing herself as a contemporary realist equally adept at bringing a sense of meditative calm to the Chicago skyline in winter, the seashore in Tobago under a full moon or a single apple on a table. Even in her rendering of a windy Hawaiian shore, one doesn’t feel the sting of blowing sand but the graceful sweep of palm trees against an electric blue sky.

Perhaps it’s the classically balanced structure of her compositions or the judicious color harmonies that make it inviting to roam around her forests and poppy fields. There’s no jarring color, no misplaced tree barring your entry. And you’re free to wonder about the scene just as Catherine herself does when she stands before a painting she admires.

Her paintings are the result of a lifelong interest in art. Her first formal classes followed shortly after Catherine’s mother and grandmother discovered a “doodle” of a horse Catherine had drawn from memory in school and which she was soon surprised to find framed and hanging on the wall. “The class was made up of children and young teens who simply loved to draw and paint,” she says. “The instructor, Mrs. Marinello, was so memorable to me because she encouraged us to try everything. (That is, everything she had in her studio.) Pen & ink, scratch board, watercolor, pastels, colored pencil, oil paints and even crayons! And I remember enjoying pretty much everything I tried. I also studied art throughout high school and college (from figure drawing to photography) and attended additional painting classes which helped me to open my eyes to new techniques.”

“I was very interested in impressionism, particularly Renoir, because the colors he used and his subjects were always so beautiful.”

“For the longest time I was very interested in impressionism, particularly Renoir, because the colors he used and his subjects were always so beautiful.”

Born and raised in Detroit, she moved to Chicago a few years ago and her artistic horizons expanded further when she married her husband, Giovanni who was born and raised in Rome. Since then, Catherine has made several visits to Italy to see family but also to take side trips throughout the Italian countryside where each church, it seems, is a treasure house of artistic masterpieces. Here she has been able to see firsthand many of the classical masters of Italian painting: Caravaggio, Lorenzo Lotto, Dosso Dossi and others. The lights and darks in the scenes fascinated her as do challenging subjects such as water, glass and reflections.

She has ample opportunity to observe the former through one of her many interests: scuba diving. Though none of her paintings depict her underwater adventures (yet, anyway), Catherine recalls the time a large angelfish followed her, playing in the air bubbles from her tank, tickling his belly in them.

Another passion is drumming. As a schoolgirl, Catherine played in a fife and drum corps which afforded her opportunities to travel around the US and the United Kingdom. Her dream, however, is to one day pursue her art career full time.

Discovering THE Resource for an Emerging Artist –

Like many emerging artists, Catherine has given away many of her paintings as gifts to friends. “When I give my art as gifts,” she says, “I’ve had people say ‘Why don’t you try selling this stuff?’ Even something I’m just hanging at home because I wanted a painting above the couch. People would see it and were blown away and I’d ask ‘How much would you pay for that?’ and they’d give me a number and I’d think ‘Wow!'”

The encouragement led her to start looking for ways to gain that absolute requisite for every artist–greater exposure for her work.

“I was doing a lot of research on the Internet,” Catherine explains, “Looking specifically for ways of obtaining certificates of authenticity, and I kept coming across I wanted to start selling my art. I was looking at artists’ work on line to see what they’ve done, those who seemed credible and who were selling work. And, hypothetically speaking, as a consumer, I would have felt more comfortable buying art that was certified.”

Quite an intuitive insight for someone who is not a collector, given that the art market is positively awash with forgeries, fakes and things that are anything but what they purport to be. Of all online art sites, only has a patented, virtually foolproof, system of registering, tagging and provenancing works of art or any collectible.

The value of the system can be seen in this single example from art history involving one of the greatest painters of all. For centuries the painting The Man with the Golden Helmet has been known as one of Rembrandt’s finest. But an ongoing research project in the Netherlands aimed at authenticating all of Rembrandt’s works (there are art historians and other experts who devote their entire careers to the matter) has now determined that the painting was not painted by Rembrandt nor even one of his students and is now attributed to a “follower of Rembrandt.”

By an artist registering his or her works with, their provenance and authenticity will be assured for all time. A permanent, paperless (museums drown in the boatloads of paper accompanying their collections) digital database now exists and is available through for any work of art. While this has value for an artist looking down the road at his work 10, 20, 50 or more years from now, imagine the benefit for a collector faced with authenticating his purchase of one of the thousands of Chagalls, Miros, Dalis and Picassos out there on the secondary market.

An artist near the beginning of her career, like Catherine, is concerned with more immediate matters. “I started looking into ways to get exposure,” she says. “I didn’t know if you had to sign up with a gallery on line and pay these astronomical fees, have your work appraised and all these things.”

“As I was looking on line I kept coming across []… I absolutely do my research first, and is the best site.”

“As I was looking on line I kept coming across I was looking at prices and I thought, ‘My God! for what you’re paying to be a member, this is a great value.’ I bookmarked a couple sites and I kept comparing because I absolutely do my research first, and is the best site.”

“ didn’t seem stuffy, like some of the other gallery sites or art registry sites. It just felt right. I appreciated the fact there wasn’t any stuffiness. I called up and asked ‘How do people become featured artists?’ and Lynn she was so nice and she actually looked at my art and was interested, telling me about particular paintings she really liked. I was blown away. I was a real person to her! She was so pleasant and very informative and thankful for my business.”

In another bit of intuition, Catherine grasps the new paradigm of the art market: “There’s a certain stigma about artists selling their work–like they can only do it through galleries, they can’t do it on their own. Now that the Internet is here, I think we can take matters into our own hands.”

And, acting on her insight, Catherine is now selling her art on eBay and working towards gaining the exposure to build a large clientele interested in owning her paintings. She’s networking with other artists (“It’s kind of funny how I keep discovering that many of my friends and co-workers are related to artists, usually either grandmothers or mothers, and these artists have given me priceless advice!” she says) and building her portfolio.

All the while, she continues to grow as an artist, investigating the effects of light and shadow, reflections on water, glass on a table and using color to stimulate the viewer’s eye and imagination. You can see Catherine’s portfolio at

by Dan Koon | April 27, 2007

View Artist's FAR Portfolio

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