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Conductor Riccardo Muti returned to the podium of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in September after a long COVID-19 hiatus. In an unusual, moving gesture, he spoke directly to the audience, thanking us for our presence and continuing support. He noted that we, the audience, were not there to be entertained. We were there so the musicians could provide us their gift, and we could receive and appreciate the gift. The gift was culture in the form of live music.

Art is another form of culture. Artists create their work and present it in galleries, art shows, public parks and facilities and numerous other venues. We can all go and appreciate the gift of their creativity in these forums.

Roses by Kate Wyatt. (Photo by the artist)

And like music, many of us would like to purchase artwork for ongoing consideration or viewing or just to add interest to our home or office. But art takes up more space and often costs a lot more than recorded music. And for some who appreciate and want to own the gift of the artist, they might not have the space or there is a gap between what the art costs and what the buyer wants to or can pay.

Kate Wyatt, a watercolorist and oil painter, has tried to fill that gap and enable her art to be appreciated by a broader audience. Wyatt creates botanical watercolors and abstract landscape oil paintings. In addition to her originals, she also sells a variety of prints and unique embroidery kits based on the originals.

Skokie artist Kate Wyatt. (Photo by Kate Wyatt)

Wyatt has a full-time day job, so she usually produces her art after 5 p.m. and on weekends. One day each weekend is spent on administrative tasks that are critical to bringing her art to market. She tends to work in spurts based on her personal schedule while working around her day job.

Vaulted ceilings and large windows that open onto a balcony define the studio space in Wyatt’s 1940s-era home. You can see some of her interests around the studio: driftwood, Tibetan images and living plants. The studio has two custom tables topped with old doors she uses for work surfaces. One table is elevated to counter height with storage below. The other is table height where she can sit for watercolor and other small projects. A large cabinet holds her painting supplies, mainly Winsor & Newton tube watercolors and some half pan Daniel Smith colors, plus a large metal watercolor tin for her pans and half pans.

Sunflowers by Kate Wyatt. (Photo by the artist)

For her watercolor botanicals, Wyatt starts by deciding what botanical to paint and then finds fresh stems with large blooms locally or from her travels. The composition – getting the image placed properly within a window of space – is the most exacting part of the art. The composition will be of one species only. She does not mix botanicals. Here placement of the blooms emulates how they would appear and move on a live bush or plant. She then draws the composition while viewing the actual plant; never from photos. Her initial sketch is on sketch paper prior to the final paper board.

Next she strokes color layers from light to dark, allowing the paint to provide the tone for the area via an underlying color and followed by a light wash. She really takes advantage of the power available through watercolor. Slowing building up the colors usually takes four to five days.

Wyatt works on one watercolor at a time and uses her “waiting for the painting to dry” time to work on her oil-based landscapes.

Water Lillies by Kate Wyatt. (Photo by the artist)

When she thinks she is about done with watercolor botanical, she laughingly said, “I squint at it.” Squinting allows her to see if she has adequate contrast and that the form pops out. Lastly, she outlines the images and color segments with acid-free felt-tip pens. Overall, Wyatt does one watercolor botanical and 10 oil landscapes a month.

This is just the process to create her original piece. To extend access to her art to a broader audience, she then creates the peripherals: prints and embroidery sets. The basis of each is a high-quality scan of the painting. She has a home scanner and uses FedEx Office for larger images. With the scan on screen, she spends one to two hours using Photoshop to edit out the “tooth,” or surface of the paper, so the background is pure white. She makes note cards and different size prints from this edited image. The prints are always done on archival paper with her original signature.

Abstract Landscape No. 69, an oil painting by Kate Wyatt. (Photo by the artist)

Wyatt created her first embroidery kit using her bestselling piece, Peonies. A kit is developed from that same great scan. Using Illustrator software, she crops and sizes the scan to fit an embroidery hoop. Then she reduces the color variances to only 10-30 specific colors that match the original well and still allow the image to pop and have good contrast. These colors are then matched to embroidery floss color sets. Next, she creates an image of only the black outline that is then printed on fabric for the embroidery outline. For instructions, she creates a printed image of the finished embroidered botanical with corresponding floss color numbers and an instruction sheet describing what stitches to use to achieve the best texture. Next, she procures the floss, the hoop and needles. Last, a kit of all the elements is assembled and then marketed. The kits have been very popular, and she has nine more images in process.

Wyatt’s work reflects her commitment to integrity and quality both in the creation and the reproduction of her art.

Marketing is one of the activities she does on her administration day, including photographing, written descriptions, pricing and posting to her website. Kate has been selling her art since March 2020.

If you would like to see more or purchase her work, visit Four Finches Flowers & Gifts in Evanston at 2016 Central Avenue, the Evanston Art Center Holiday Show, Evanston Made events or her website, https://www.kateswhitepaper.com.

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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