Joyful and triumphant

“Joyful and Triumphant,” acrylic on canvas by Stephanie Khattak.

Every year, from the time I was about eight until eleven or 12, our church would produce a live nativity scene. Community members of all ages were instructed to stand like statues for a few freezing cold hours over a weekend while cars from as far away as Lufkin and Nacogdoches slowly drove through the parking lot. No chewing gum or tobacco; no chit-chat; no silly dances, waving or hollering at cars we recognized, nothing. Just stand there.

The first year was contained to the walkway between the church sanctuary and fellowship hall; subsequent productions had shepherd fields out among the trees. The set was constructed from wood scraps covered with moss and other scavenged greenery.

The costumes were old sheets and ripped up cotton fabric; there were sneaker logos shining under robes; at least one king sported a repurposed Burger King crown. Fountain drink cups were barely hidden, as was the inevitable appearance of neighborhood dog. We never stood like statues when there was gum to chew, chit-chat to share and silly dances to perform. The best part of the evening was going inside for a hard-earned hot cocoa when it all got to be too much.

But “joyful and triumphant” are guiding words for the season, and that has never been lost on us.


*I talk a little more about the annual Christmas nativity and other traditions in my 2021 holiday podcast. Yes, I realize it’s now 2022 and almost 2023. The podcast has been down, but not out. Can’t say for sure when I will have a new episode, but it’s still cooking. Just on a back burner for now.

Recent Paintings

I’ve continued my Pine Curtain Project pieces with the folk/narrative art pivot, and as I do so, starting with a blank canvas rather than a photo or historical context, I am seeing more of a personal artistic style emerge.

I gravitate toward juxtaposition of bright and cool colors, which give the paintings kind of a whimsical, otherworldly glow effect. I also create some figures in more detail than others, which places my “characters” within a greater community. I also make sure there’s a little dog with a curly tail somewhere in there, representing my childhood dog Tater (1980-1997) who was always in the mix and lived long enough to bear witness to many life and community milestones.

With everything else going on and general life happenings, I usually do about one of these a month. So far, they have coincided with seasons or events, but that is more by inspiration than by design.

“Fall Festival” by Stephanie Khattak, 2022. Acrylic on Canvas.
“Too Much Sugar!” by Stephanie Khattak, 2022. Acrylic on canvas.

Exhibition: Dallas Public Library

Installed art at the J. Erik Johnsson Central Library, Lillian Bradshaw Gallery.

Last Friday, I made a trip to Downtown Dallas to install my first solo show at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. This show was supposed to happen last spring, but schedules could not quite align. Happily, now is a better time, and I have the space for the next month or so.

Although I have been creating some new work since the show was proposed and accepted, monotype prints still comprise the majority of my work, so that’s what’s on view.

I’m still in the “bring your own hammer and hangers” phase of my art career, but unlike my last big show, James was able to help me out, which made it a bit easier.

All-in-all, I have 16 pieces up, framed in various sizes. Since it had been a little while since I worked on these prints, it was fun to go back through them to pick and choose which art to display. The majority are from family photos, but one wall’s art highlights the greater Lufkin and East Texas community.

Here are a few that I chose, which link to their accompanying blog posts!

To see the rest, make a trip to the library! (While you’re there, get a library card! If you already have a card, pick out a new book! And if you already have your card and plenty to read, check out the library’s awesome new historical exhibition of archival materials around Big D Reads and “The Accommodation” book! I have to say, it’s an honor to be part of the good work of the Dallas Public Library.


If you see a piece that you are interested in here, at the show, or elsewhere please get in touch. After a break to focus on other things for the summer (did you know I published a travel book?!) I am open again for sales and a limited number of commissions. I am always interested in opportunities to showcase or share about my art, process and research project. Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Happy Summer!

“Night Swimming,” Acrylic on Canvas by Stephanie Khattak.

Hello, why yes — it HAS been a while since I last updated my blog and my web site. What can I say, the first half of 2022 has gone by really quickly. And while in some ways it’s been really nice, it hasn’t left a lot of time for more creative pursuits, much less documenting those pursuits.

I secured a new freelance/contract client in January that takes up most of my weekday hours, and I published a travel book! The operative word there (after “published” I suppose) is travel. I haven’t been home many weekends in the past year or so. I am planning more travel books which entails more travel. So, it’s been a bit of a balance to learn, but I am getting better at it.

But I still paint as often as I can, and I still have the Pine Curtain Project going in the background. The above painting doesn’t look quite like the other pieces in the Pine Curtain Project. That’s another reason this blog has been quiet for a bit. I have felt compelled to bring the project into a more modern era, and am always tiptoeing around that a little bit. Some stories are not my stories to tell, but intersect with mine. So, what to do? My solution is to just focus on the scenes and feelings that I want the paintings to evoke while making everything else unidentifiable. This specific swimming pool didn’t exist, and neither did the specific girls in it. But what did exist, for me and I imagine many others, is night swimming with friends on a summer night. One of my besties had a pool, and my church rented one each summer from the time I was in middle school on out. There was a special kind of relaxed that we felt after swimming, and many pool nights melted easily into slumber parties. It was hot, and the June Bugs were loud, and we somehow felt sunburned even though we were swimming at dusk. And it was wonderful.

Embroidered Paper Art

Embroidery on fine art print of vintage family photo, 2022 Stephanie Khattak.

This is an embroidered vintage photo of my dad and aunt in the late 1950s in East Texas. They’re at my grandmother’s house in Homer, Texas outside of Lufkin, and looks like they’re on their way to school on a chilly day!

Pappy and the Band

Painted gel plate in progress, 2022.

A reward of my interest in family history and research is learning not only who my family was as individuals, but how they influenced me. Both of my parents are musicians, my dad – a Gen Z wrapped in a Boomer wrapped in a lounge singer – has an impressive online music career with a bigger and more engaged audience than I could ever hope for. My mom sings and plays the piano and organ but mostly at church. They don’t collaborate because they have ….let’s just say creative differences. But music has always been a part of my life and our household.

I learned from my paternal grandmother that she had written and recorded a song back in the 40s in Houston. This tracks, because my cousin on that side is also a really talented musician – singer, songwriter and guitarist.

But what about my mom’s side of the family? She had a lot of formal music classes, but there had to have been something there for those classes to refine.

In our church archives, there’s a photo of a band in the early 60s, and the guitarist is my great-grandfather on my mom’s side, Pappy. Aha!

I really like this photo, not only because Pappy is in it, but also because it captures a time in the Homer community when it was really thriving – there were enough people to form a band and enough people to come hear them play. This was the case until I was about 17, and then it started to dwindle down. In junior high, my youth group friends and I stood on that same stage and lip synced into bananas calling ourselves “Banangles.” (Not sure why we didn’t go for the obvious Bananarama, but why be obvious when you can surprise and delight?)

I wonder what Pappy and his friends would have thought about the Banangles. But, I also don’t know what songs they, themselves were playing. Same place, same community, same (or similar) families – whatever they were doing, I bet it was fun.

“Pappy and the Band,” acrylic monotype on paper by Stephanie Khattak, 2022.

East Texas Family Photo Art

Setting up my workspace.

Almost one month into 2022, I am finally able to get back in my studio and make fresh monotype prints. Because this process must be completed in one go, it needs more dedicated time than other types of art. And time is something that has been in short supply!

For the my first print of 2022, I chose a vintage photo of my great-grandparents in the 1920s or 30s. Doing the math now, I realize this would make it close to 100 years ago. That seems hard to believe. While Beatrice died at 68 in 1978, Charlie, aka Grandy, lived into his nineties – almost to the year 2000! So, I knew him quite well.

What I like about this photo – other than the people in it – is how stylish she looks. I was too young to have memories of Beatrice before she passed, but I have always been told about her fashion sense and desire to keep current on trends. I see her angular 1920s bob and her shoes and think this was a person who had a sensibility beyond her rural environment.

Not sure if Grandy shared her fashion sense, but I remember that he didn’t like being gifted jogging suits at Christmas. So, maybe.