THE YOUNG ARTIST
Growing up on her parents’ small farm in rural New England, Kathi’s early childhood years were encompassed by nature. She adored all of the pets and farm animals her family owned, but her first pony held a special place in her heart. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that pony was used as a model for Kathi’s earliest ventures in art. “That was the start of my love affair with horses,” she recounts.
Paint what you love.
Her passion for creating art was later deepened when a transatlantic move to Milan, Italy was prompted by her father’s job, “I was steeped in the art culture of Italy’s environment.” After graduating from a prep school in the U.S., Kathi returned to Italy upon being juried into the Rome Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. “I was immersed into the life drawing classes and their classical art training ethic,” she says. At her father’s suggestion, she also attended ENLAC, a separate commercial art school in Rome. There, she narrowed her artistic focus to fashion and design.
It was while studying in Rome that one of Kathi’s drawing professors gave her the best art advice she has ever received. “He told me, ‘Paint what you love. You have your own unique style. Stay true to yourself always. You have a way of capturing the soul of your subject as if you can see inside their hearts. Paint your own song always.’ His words will always be a big part of who I am as an artist,” Kathi recalls fondly.
Kathi’s contemporary impressionist style closely aligns with the early Impressionist Movement. The basic mission is to depict the changing quality of light through the flick of expressive brush strokes and thoughtfully crafted color palettes. Casein, Kathi’s favored medium, dates back another several thousand years. The ancient paint, derived from milk casein, is a fast-drying, water soluble medium akin to modern acrylic paints. Today, casein paints are rarely used, but Kathi loves the matte, earthy color palette and finish the paint offers.
As a lifelong artist, Kathi has invariably been inspired by fellow artists along the way. The influence of all three of the following artists makes subtle appearances throughout Kathi’s portfolio. Lucy Kemp-Welch, whose illustrations illuminate the pages of the 1915 edition of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty is one of Kathi’s favorite’s.
She was a genius at depicting the horse. I have a large book of her work that my husband brought back for me after a trip to England, and I never tire of looking at her paintings. I grew up loving her work. I love that she brought her equine subjects right into her studio to paint them. Good thing my studio is too small to allow our horses into it, or I am sure I would be doing the same!
Kathi also names Joaquín Sorolla as an influence; a Spanish artist who used large, painterly brush strokes and alluring color palettes to masterfully portray life around him. “His heightened use of color and brilliant designs amaze me,” she explains. “His palette excites me, and I am sure it has influenced my color choices for my work.”
And what inspiration list would be complete without mention of Sir Alfred Munnings—perhaps one of the most well-known equestrian and sporting artists? Kathi is particularly drawn to Munning’s studies. “Munnings knew the horse. I think it is evident in an equine artist’s work if they actually live and breathe horses, or are just painting them. Munnings lived them.” It is evident that Kathi also ‘lives and breathes’ horses.
In 2006, Kathi suffered a stroke. The following months were marked by numerous therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. Kathi knew that as long as she could still paint and spend time with her horses, she would be alright, and so she used her passions to fuel her recovery. After all, horses and art are the best sorts of therapy.
Kathi remembers the first time she was finally able to visit her horses after the stroke. Her physical therapist helped her down to the barn and instructed her to run her fingers through the horse’s mane, wrap her arms around his neck and inhale the wonderful warm and familiar smell that is ‘horse’. This was a major turning point.
Soon after, Kathi took on the task of cleaning the stalls again. The first time, it took her an hour to make it through one stall, but she pushed on, enjoying the time spent in the barn. This type of physical therapy was much preferable to the normal boring exercises!
Today, Kathi and her husband Les own a gorgeous pair of driving horses fondly referred to as “The Ginger Boys”. “I haven’t been riding much since my stroke, but I didn’t want to give up our horses, so we have been carriage driving, a discipline that my husband and I can enjoy together with our two Morgans,” she explains.
In addition to taking care of her “Ginger Boys”, Kathi still paints or draws each day. She is grateful to now be working as a full-time artist. “I enjoy being a working artist, where every day starts with the possibility of promise. I am doing what I was meant to be doing, everything that I have experienced and felt throughout all my life has led to this. My current body of work is a reflection of all that has come before in my life and all that is now—full circle, evolving.”
My muse is with me here, in my immediate world around me.
Kathi and Les currently live on a picturesque farmelette in midcoast Maine with their two Morgan geldings and Nell, their Jack Russell Terrier. Maine is home to a number of artists, and it is no wonder: the U.S.’s’ northeastern-most state possesses some of the most sublime landscapes. “I don’t need to go far to get inspiration. It is all around me. I can step out the door of our small cottage and be inspired every day by the beauty of Maine. I could do a painting a day on our small farm and never do the same scene for years,” Kathi remarks.
“When we go carriage driving on the fifty-seven miles of carriage roads at Acadia National Park, my creative energies are set alight,” she continues. “When I work in my perennial gardens, weeding and transplanting the flowers that are taking over my flower beds, I watch the sun’s light play against the bright colors of flowers in bloom and the dark shadows beneath. I am inspired by the wonder of it all. I watch our horses in summer’s green landscape and am drawn to paint them. With winter’s white blanket of snow laying over our fields and forests, I am inspired to capture the light and shadow that stretches over the horses and pastures. I don’t need to travel anymore to look for inspiration. My muse is with me here, in my immediate world around me.”