By ALEXANDRA PFEIFER | Special to the Palisadian-Post
Our relationship began solely as neighbors: a kind glance, cordial wave hello, and, of course, the frequent yet brief run-in at our local Gelson’s grocery store. The relationship was simple and friendly, that is until about two years ago …
After living a stone’s throw away for over a decade, a fate-filled business meeting between Catherine Kanner, her architect husband Winston Chappell and myself would quickly reveal a world of similarity, synchronicity and serendipity—a simple bond between neighbors that would soon become much greater than that.
Two worlds intertwined: We discovered we had very similar pasts. With a connected genetic background, having grown up in the same Brentwood neighborhoods, with families that had attended similar local schools, our similarities were uncanny, no pun intended.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend Catherine Kanner: writer, artist, illustrator, neighbor, wife, mother and, simply stated, an all around incredible human being.
She is the epitome of kind and understated. She is quiet, reserved and modest.
“Cat,” as I like to call her, has a gift: She is the true definition of an artist. Her editorial illustrations have been featured in the Los Angeles Times and syndicated in some 3,000 newspapers worldwide.
But her career is diverse and widespread. As a writer, illustrator and all around artist, Kanner has penned more than 20 volumes, including “The Book of Bath, Beauty From a Country Garden.”
Her graphic design work in the area of print has gained many accolades and multiple prestigious awards. In 2013, Kanner was inducted into the Album Cover Hall of Fame for her cover design for Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming”—not a small feat.
All of this design inspiration sprung from a rather ordinary childhood on an Air Force base in Arizona where Kanner’s dad was serving. Her parents had met and then married while both attending USC. Her father was a student of architecture; her mother was a writer and designer in her own right. Both parents’ passion and skill in the arts would be instilled in a young Kanner.
Following her father’s two-year commitment to the Air Force, the young family returned to Los Angeles and settled in the Brentwood area, where her mother still resides.
“I grew up in Mandeville Canyon and went to public schools, including Brentwood Elementary, Paul Revere [Charter Middle School] and Palisades High School,” Kanner explained. “I attended Pali for just one year. My parents then transferred me to the Oakwood School to pursue my creative learning.
“At this point in my life, ballet became extremely important to me. I had studied from age 7 to age 18 through high school graduation.”
Kanner then made a life-changing decision: “I wanted to go to college instead of following ballet into a dance company.”
Kanner majored in fine arts with a minor in art history at UC Santa Cruz, where she got close to inspiring professors, including a gentleman named Jasper Rose, a Fellow of Cambridge and Provost of Covell College at UCSC. Rose became Kanner’s mentor.
A turning point for the young artist came when she submitted a series of lithographic prints on the subject Le Morte d’Artur, which captivated Rose.
“He called me into his office and suggested a course of independent study supervised by him,” Kanner said.
The opportunity changed her life: “I received a one-on-one independent study on the history of prints, books, drawing, sculpting and painting.”
Life in artsy Santa Cruz came to an end and Kanner made her way back to LA, landing a job as an illustrator with the LA Times where she worked for 15 years before going freelance. She was assigned to the Opinion Section, producing editorial art with plenty of political punch.
For the artistic Kanner, it was a natural progression to move into the arena of book publishing, incorporating her skills in cover design and illustration.
“My first book was ‘Cetus The Whale,’ a companion to ‘Moby Dick’ from The Melville Press,” she shared. “The edition sold out, and I went on to produce other volumes, which have been collected by individuals and fine press libraries across the U.S. and internationally.”
Career has not been the sole pursuit in the life of this artist. Kanner is most proud of her home and family life. Married for 30 years to Chappell, they are the parents of two daughters, Annakate and Rebecca. The family has lived in the Palisades for 28 years.
Kanner is often seen walking the Palisades Village: “Life is so ideal here,” she said.
Kanner is in many ways the poster child for “having it all.” Children, a career in the arts, a long-time marriage, and, most importantly, the spirit to continue growing, learning, traveling and creating.
She said with a smile, “In the next 10 years, I will be doing more of everything!”
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