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Artist of the Month

Carol Armstrong's Studio Painters

At the Norman Branch, in the lobby, we feature Artists from the Studio Painting class at the Firehouse Art Center displaying professional, quality paintings in oils, watercolors, pastels, acrylic and pencil in a variety of subjects and styles.

Katie Kimberling

I am an Oklahoma native who strives to serve the state that I love. Born in Tulsa, reared in Oklahoma City and a resident of Norman since 1991, I have been involved in some type of visual art for as long as I can remember. I needlepoint, paint and draw, and have tried pottery (which was a mild to moderate disaster). A few years ago, my husband, Michael, and I started attending classes at the Firehouse Art Center, and we have been devoted students ever since. Michael has stuck with pottery, whereas I have taken drawing with Craig Swan, landscape acrylic with Thomas Stotts, and studio painting with Carol Armstrong, which is where I found a passion for oil paints, which, before Carol, intimidated me into paralysis. 

For my “real job,” I have owned and operated a tutoring company since 2005. TutorPUG ( is located at Campus Corner, where I work with college students on pre-calculus, calculus, and statistics. Members of my staff can assist with any grade level in (just about) any subject, and we offer high school ACT prep. What I have enjoyed about tutoring for so many years is the ability to truly listen to high school and college students about their lives outside of the classroom, and to offer any mentoring or life coaching I possibly can. I really strive to connect with “my kids” and offer more than just math help - I want to help them prepare, understand and grow in every aspect of their lives - academics and beyond.  

I was a member of Leadership Oklahoma City Class XXIII, and served as the Alumni Chair after graduation. I was also selected to be a member of Leadership Oklahoma (coincidentally also Class XXIII), where I forged lifelong friendships and learned things about my native state I never dreamed of. I served as the Chair for Youth Leadership Oklahoma, and still spend a week every summer on a bus with 50 high school students, touring the state and trying to convince them (the best and the brightest) to keep their brain power in Oklahoma. (Yes, I probably do need my head examined.)  

I am a graduate of Casady School, and I attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology from OU and a Master of Public Health Degree in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, also from OU.  

My husband (the pottery master) and I live on the east side of Norman with our amazing (and constantly ridiculous) two pugs. He rides bikes competitively, and I train and compete in runs and triathlons. Poorly…but I do it. It keeps me from eating my students after a hard day of math! 

About my art:

Clearly I enjoy painting animals. I really like to look for human characteristics in them, and I like to mix and match animals that do not normally occur together. Hence the sudden appearance of a ring-tailed lemur amongst a group of vigilant meerkats (“Um…Guys…?”), and a disapproving ostrich who finds himself in the Amazon rain forest with three-toed tree sloths (“Wrong Turn”).  

This year I attended the Kentucky Derby for the first time - a Bucket List item for me since I was about five years old - and decided to try and memorialize the experience in paint. That’s my “Derby Girl.” She was my first experimentation with palette knife painting, and I immediately fell in love. And when my youngest four-legged child was still a puppy, a friend captured a picture of her sitting in a red chair (that she wasn’t supposed to sit in, of course).  I used a palette knife to paint “Piper,” trying to capture the sassy expression on her face.  

For this past spring semester’s painting class, I challenged myself to try and paint “a la prima,” which means all at once - or painting a picture in one session. I found several 8x10 canvasses on sale, and painted a bird a week. Five out of eight of them came out great (meaning I like them), but my resplendent quetzal was an epic fail. My hummingbird and goldfinch are not quite up to snuff, either, but I did finish them in the allotted class time (about 2 hours). It was a good challenge, though - and kept me (mostly) out of my head, where I tend to hang out and have long chat sessions with my inner critic. Trying to shut her up is a constant battle. The hardest part of art for me is to ignore that inner voice that keeps telling me “this isn’t good enough, it’s not perfect, it’s not nearly as good as her painting/drawing/watercolor over there.” When I focus on creating art for me, live in the moment of the process, and give myself permission to not be the best in the room, I can lose myself in the paint and the colors. 

“Sass” Oil on canvas. 24x12. $100 original, $50 prints (4 available)


“Wrong Turn” Oil on canvas. 18x24. $125 original, $50 prints (2 available)


“Derby Girl” Oil on canvas with palette knife. 16x20 NFS


“Piper” Oil on canvas with palette knife. 12x16. NFS


“Um…Guys…?” Oil on canvas. 24x12. $100 original.