I have always thought of myself as an artist from my earliest memories. I really should give my mother some of the credit for this, because when I would show her my drawings she would exclaim with such drama how wonderful they were that I would walk away thinking to myself, “I am really good at drawing. I am an artist.” So I had a lot of confidence from my earliest years that fueled my enjoyment of it. In grade school I won one reflections contest after another. In middle school it was my pastime of choice and when it came time for the Indian Hills Middle School art show I entered a stack of drawings and watercolors and I won every blue ribbon and the best of show.
I began to enjoy the skill of rendering from life or photos. In middle school I added watercolor to my almost daily art making. It was my favorite after school past-time. I took the art class offered at school in both 7th and 8th grade but I found the assignments more crafty, than challenging. So I did my own thing at home. I was very ambitious in what I drew and painted, like a large painting of a ballet dancer, spending hours on the intricate transparent folds in her skirt, or finding a photo of an animal in nature, rendering carefully the feathers of a bird, or the fir of an animal and enjoying just as much the nature around the subject, carefully drawing the leaves and grass. It was my idea of a good time. When it came time for the Indian Hills Middle School Art Show I brought all of my drawings and paintings to school and entered them. I won the best of show and every blue ribbon. It seemed to me that my art teacher at school saw me for the first time. She had her favorites and I had not been one of them. It was a proud moment. She said, “Katie, you did all this? When did you do all of this?”
In high school I did a mural to decorate the wall of my seminary class, it was a copy of the popular Book of Mormon painting of Abinidi standing before King Noah, using colored chalk pastels. It had nearly life sized figures and I got a lot of attention because of it. I was shy, at least on the inside so I enjoyed the self esteem boost the attention gave me. Painting and drawing continued to be my favorite thing to do. I also kept a daily journal, which was important to my artistic growth because it helped me define myself and my life experience in words. I was on the literary magazine staff at school which was a class, in which we were required to write a poem a day. That also stretched my skills in verbal expression, which was very good for me. I was such a romantic, really. Another big part of my daily enjoyment was practicing the piano. I loved to practice. I could get lost for hours in the intricacies of a Chopin waltz or nocturne. When I decided it was time to make some money I acquired about 10 piano students, young children in the neighborhood. My daily life in almost every aspect swirled around one form of art or another.
My mother is actually an artist and got a degree in art at BYU in the 60s. Her hero is Picasso and I grew up watching her set up a still life and then drawing, and the drawing was always only inspired by the still life. She was drawing in some variation on a theme of cubism, and I was appreciative of her work, but it wasn’t what I did. I drew and painted the world around me. My mom taught me that there was value to drawing from life, and to being original and interpretive in my work. My mother was a wonderful art teacher, my best art teacher in my growing up years.
When I was a senior in high school I began investigating the art departments at the Universities nearby. I took an art class at the University of Utah the summer before my Senior year which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed driving to Salt Lake City once a week for it…I felt very independent wonderful doing that. I looked at the art department at BYU and decided that was where I wanted to go. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I got a half tuition talent scholarship which was very helpful and validating.
In that first year in college at BYU I was thankfully humbled pretty quickly. The foundations art classes were more rigorous and challenging than I ever imagined possible, and I loved it. I had drawing light with Doug Himes that first semester in 1989, and I spent hours and hours on his drawing assignments, determined to get them right. I had drawing nature with Brent Gehring. We drew leaves for weeks. He taught me about finding and contour lines like no one ever had before. It was so valuable to me. In the second semester was a class about color with Bruce Smith. We did these abstract color compositions. He would give a score out of 10 for each one. It was not about rendering, the skill I was so practiced at. I turned my first composition in and I got an 8 out of 10. I didn’t know why. But I would work on it and turn it in again, and again until I got a 10, and then I would understand better, the difference.
I became aware during this first year, that the BFA students that were further along in the program, and especially the graduate students, and the professors had some theme going on in their work…something they wanted to say and some certain way they wanted to say it, again and again. I began to want this in my own work. But….what did I want to say? I really did not know…I had for my whole life been content with just drawing anything I felt like in the moment, but it was about just drawing, or painting which was just drawing with a brush.
It was in my second year of college and I had for months been searching for what I wanted to say…what inspired me with a deeper meaning that I would be able to communicate with paint that had potential for exploration. I longed and yearned to find something….but what?
One evening I was alone in my apartment and I was longing and yearning for this, and feeling not a little frustrated, when I decided to pray about it. I believe it was the first time I had prayed about my art, something I do now all the time but at that time in my life I don’t think it had ever occurred to me. So, I got on my knees to ask Heavenly Father for inspiration and when I opened my eyes I saw such a beautiful peaceful scene. The sun was setting and the light was soft and peaceful. There were no lights on inside. There was an old chair by the window and the light was hitting it just so and it looked so peaceful and inviting and meditative. I was filled with a desire to paint it, and I did. It quickly occurred to me how multilayered the scene could be: There was the light coming in, and the empty chair inviting, and the chair being sort of figurative…I got very excited and I knew my prayer had been answered. I began painting all kinds of chairs, most always beside of window…it created a visual dialogue that was way too much fun. I began going to Deseret Industries and buying chairs, a variety of them. I played around with different mediums and techniques, exploring.
Then I took a trip to Washington state and experienced a rainforest for the first time. Having not been out of Utah except for a couple of family vacations to the beach in California, this was amazing to me. I stood there in the dark shady forest, trees towering above me….so tall, so incredibly majestic! To me it was temple or cathedral like, and worshipful, the sun filtering through the trees like stained glass. I had to paint the inside of a forest.
As I began to paint the inside of a forest, I wanted to communicate the light coming in all around in varying shades and colors. I quickly felt the similarity to my chair paintings which always incorporated a window. I realized that it was this theme of light coming in that made my soul sing. In the forest paintings I used the verticles of the trees to separate panels of color which gave me the opportunity to incorporate the principles of composition I learned from Bruce Smith in the abstract color class I enjoyed so much. I loved abstracting and interpreting the forest and the light in this way. Bruce was my advisor as a BFA student, and he was very pleased with them, which added fuel to my excitement.
First I did several small forest paintings. The process I went through was different than I had ever experienced in so sublime a way. I would go into my studio each day and work on these small paintings. I would look at them, and look at them, change a panel of color to a different hue or value or both, slightly changing the composition, working and reworking marks that implied leaves or grass or mist, finding the right place for each one to finally have the vibe and composition I was after. Layers of paint giving them a rhythmic vibration and depth that I was discovering that oil paint can do. I became completely absorbed in the process as hours would go by, the world happening all around me but I was inside a different dimension of space and time…at least that is what it felt like.
Next came my final show. For the final show for my BFA I proposed to do these forest paintings big. Doing so was harder than I thought it would be, and there were things going on in my personal life that threatened to pull the rug out from under me and break my focus, and did, but I was able to get back up and steady myself with Heavenly Father’s help. In the spring of 1993 I finished 10 large forest paintings for my final show and got my BFA degree. I was grateful to have accomplished it but I honestly didn’t want that college experience to end. It was wonderful.
I did apply to a couple of graduate schools right away, but did not get accepted. I got pregnant with my first, and fell right in love with this amazing baby boy, and he became my focus. I didn’t want to spend any more time away from him than I had to so I didn’t re-apply for graduate school. I saw a need to make some money, and I didn’t want to leave my baby, so I came up with a money making at home plan. I painted a quaint little painting of a home and I put Hunter on my back in the baby back pack, and set off hiking through nice neighborhoods. I would knock on doors, small painting in hand, Hunter peeking over my shoulder cute as a button, and ask people if they would like a painting of their home. If they said yes, I would take a picture of their home right then. Many customers would then have me paint other things. These were almost all oil paintings, and so I was employing my rendering skills with oil paint. I did this in 1994-96, while living in Salt Lake City, Connecticut, Annapolis Maryland and Columbus Ohio where my husband was going to graduate school.
I stopped that self employment when I began working for an artist, Ann Hamilton. I watched her baby boy, actually, who was a year younger than Hunter, who was 2, and I did that for a couple of years while still living in Ohio. From that time on till my third child was 8 my painting was constantly there but I was just not very prolific or ambitious with my efforts. I needed it for my soul, and I always had a painting I was working on, but I was completely absorbed in being a mother to 3 wonderful children that Heavenly Father gave me. I had Hunter in 1994, Dominique in 1997, and Trevor in 2002.
Since this is supposed to be about my art story, about the art endeavors in my life, I am avoiding for the most part the details of my personal life. I do this because it is practical….but I feel the need to say that I don’t believe that art is can be totally separate from one’s personal life. Art is about life, and a persons art is an expression of their self and their life. Indeed, life is itself an artistic expression in the way you respond to it. But it isn’t practical to tell everything here so suffice it to say that I have lived in Pennsylvania for over a decade, with a short adventure in Montana, in between. I have developed in the last 20 years a love for painting and gardening and my children have been my biggest joy. I could not have plowed through the trials without the gospel and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In 2010 I relaunched my efforts to have a career as a studio artist. In 2010 I turned 40, and I had my first solo show at a gallery. The Ragged Edge in Gettysburg Pennsylvania which doubles as a café and art gallery gave me a show, in which I painted forests and chairs, picking up where I left off in college. I have continued to show at the Ragged Edge once or twice a year for the last 7 years.
I also have gallery representation at the Red Raven Art Company in Lancaster Pennsylvania. They are a wonderfully lovely community of artists that I have really enjoyed being a part of. You can find me on their website in their Visiting Artist section under Katheryn Stott.
I have had some shows at other locations also over the last 7 years. There was one at the Provo Utah City library, one at the William Gutherie library in Hanover Pennsylvania, to name a couple. I have been in some juried shows, and won a some awards for my efforts.
I have taught at the community center in East Berlin Pennsylvania, as well as in my home there, some painting classes for adults as well as lots of art classes for children. Sometimes I get invited to teach large groups elsewhere, in churches or in people’s homes. I have discovered that I actually love to teach art!