Overcoming the odds: Woman with rare disorder is successful artist, designer, author

Katherine Klimitis
Your Stories

POSTED: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 10:44pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 9, 2014 - 1:01pm

"My Mom especially, would never--and still doesn't (not that it's that big of a deal now) never let me feel sorry for myself, which was a major, major thing in my house."

That's despite the fact that Katherine was born with a rare congenital disorder. Osteogenesis Imperfecta affects just three in fifty-thousand people. In her case, it has meant hundreds of broken bones, and many surgeries. But, it was after a couple of those surgeries that Katherine discovered art. She was just five years old at the time. "When I got into first grade, second grade, I had a really good art teacher who encouraged me to learn and do more." she says.

Katherine sold her first art work when she was ten years old. By then, she knew art was her passion. Within a couple of years, she began doing pet portraits. Again, it was a favorite teacher who paved the way. Katherine laughs when she remembers how the conversation went : "She said, you wanna paint Willie for me? And I was like okay...and she was like I'll pay you! And you know, at 10, 11, 12 years old, I'll pay you sounds really good you know!" Katherine's been getting paid for her pet and animal portraits ever since. As you can imagine, her work is in high demand. And each stroke of her paintbrush is a labor of love, that's very time-consuming. She says, "If I sit down and like really work on it for like three of four days, I can knock one out. But I have to have nothing else going on, which NEVER happens."

That's because Katherine has so much going on. In addition to her art, she's been designing and creating jewelry since the age of thirteen. She wrote an insightful book about her life while studying at Loyola. She started her own successful graphic design business about the time she graduated in 2011. Katherine says she couldn't have done any of it without the constant help of family and friends. Yet, even that can be a double-edged sword...because she's never alone. "The hardest part about it sometimes, is I don't get a lot of alone time." She laughs and continues, "And it's nice to be alone for just a few minutes."

Katherine has a lot of help too...from Lexi her loyal service dog, to her Mom and Nicole, Katherine's aide, assistant, and all-around helper. Because of her disability, Katherine needs help nearly every second of every day. "If I'm waiting on somebody, I can't get up and go to the bathroom. I can't get up and get food.", she explains "I can't up and move. I mean, I can't get up and go get my paints if that's what I need. You know I can't do any of that. I'm pretty much stuck where I am." And that certainly doesn't sit well with this young lady, who likes to do what she wants when she wants to do it.

Concerts are one of those things. Katherine says they are "her thing". She sees about twenty-five of them a year. Along the way, she's met quite a few celebrities...and you can be sure she's left them all with a lasting impression, thanks to her outlook on life. "You can't live your life being cooped up in a house because you're scared. That doesn't work. You know, cuz that's not really living."

If you'd like to see Katherine's art work in person, maybe even get a piece for yourself, she has an exhibit running right now. You can catch "Natural Selection" at the Benjamin Franklin High School Atrium Art Gallery on Leon C. Simon Drive in New Orleans, now through June 13th.

You can also visit Katherine's website here.

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