(This story was first published in the Jan. 3, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
Rick Russell Photos
Local Gardener’s Artwork Is Now In Season
By Dillon Walsh, Standard Correspondent
As a gardener who moved to Vermont in 1973, worked with a botanist then later took over his landscaping company for 35 years, Kate Reeves has had a busy life. However, during the winter months, she found herself with a lot of time on her hands. Time she decided to pour into her passion: painting.
As a watercolor artist, Reeves has always been interested in art. Before going on to business school, Reeves took all the art classes offered to her at community college in New Haven, Conn. After relocating to Vermont, Reeves decided to pursue her passion again.
“I started painting again about 10 years ago. I was painting with Annette Compton and she had Compton Art, which was in Woodstock,” Reeves said. Compton has since passed on, but Reeves went on to explain that “(Compton) was well known for being probably one of the best watercolor teachers in the Upper Valley. She really gave you a lot of good habits and she was a great teacher.”
This revisited passion has allowed Reeves to cultivate an impressive body of work. This Jan. 4 through Feb. 12, Reeves will be displaying her “My Winter World” exhibit at the Norman Williams Library in Woodstock. The opening reception will be held on Jan. 10 from 4-6 p.m.
The winter season isn’t just the focus of this exhibit, it happens to be the main focus and passion for almost all of the paintings done by Reeves.
“I particularly love winter,” Reeves said. “I think it’s the most beautiful and the most peaceful (season) but also what I like is the snow when it lands on the branches as it brings out all the texture.”
It is this passion for winter that also informs her style.
“My style is to use gouache, which is an opaque water-based pigment. It goes on pretty thick, but it also just looks like snow — how it blankets the earth and how it falls on the branches. It sort of covers over it,” Reeves said.
With more intricate winter scenes she wishes to depict, Reeves has added and developed many tools to have at her disposal. One of them is the ability to mimic snow falling.
“I use a screen that you paint with gouache, and you blow through it and it makes snow on your painting. So after I finish the painting I’ll do my snow treatments on top as snow would be,” Reeves said.
A cross-country skiing instructor for 28 years, Reeves enjoys being immersed in nature. The majority of her winter paintings come from her own personal photographs she takes, which has grown in quantity to more than 5,000 and counting throughout the years.
“When I need inspiration I’ll go through my photo album,” Reeves said. “I’ll go through them until one of them inspires me. There might be something I’ve forgotten I’ve done. You certainly have different moods.”
For a taste of what to expect at the exhibit, Reeves mentioned one particular painting she discovered while cleaning out her family home.
“There’s a small oil painting I did when I was 15. The winter scenes (in it) are so much like I do now, I was astonished to see that I still had that same kind of style and the snow stuck on the branches and stuck on the sides of the tree trunks,” Reeves said.
This identifiable style over the many years can be attributed to the determination of Reeves to stick to her own voice, even if it possibly wasn’t the traditional way to watercolor.
“I like to do a lot of layering. I always thought maybe that wasn’t the right way to do it,” Reeves said. “I just decided, ‘Well, this is how I paint, and this is what I’m gonna do.’” Reeves maintains that finding the time to paint is the biggest obstacle she faces when it comes to her art. While she isn’t always painting, she finds when she is out in the world, whether it be in a car or especially in nature, the artist part of her brain is always working. Reeves finds this to be particularly true when she discovers something that catches her eye.
“I try to analyze the color that’s there — like the sky might be a cobalt blue, or a French ultramarine. So I try and pick apart some of the colors I see and I think even if I don’t get a chance to paint, it exercises my mind as to what colors I might use,” Reeves said. “I’m always looking and I’m always trying to see the colors that are out there or how I would transfer them into something else.”
Although she paints in her studio — a converted extra bedroom in her Barnard home — Reeves draws a lot of inspiration from the town of Woodstock.
“I think the historic preservation of the homes is very picturesque. I love the green, I love the brick buildings. I love the old historic shops and things like that,” Reeves said. “I did a couple paintings of Christmas with the lights on. If you take a picture at just about 4 o’clock when the lights are on and it’s still light enough to take a photo, it’s just beautiful.”
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