Artist Profile: Kate Scott, Lopez Island

“Suddenly – all the Cheeks she had Ever Turned...”  color pencil. -
“Suddenly – all the Cheeks she had Ever Turned...” color pencil.
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“I always drew secretly. I kept it under wraps, except in school. In fifth and sixth grade I got to paint big murals at the back of the classroom while the other kids did schoolwork. That was really the only encouragement I ever got.”

Lopez artist Kate Scott no longer has to do her art on the sly. Her colorful, tongue-in-cheek pencil and pastel drawings can be seen in local galleries, for sale at the holiday bazaar, and hanging in various island locations, like the post office and library.

Kate grew up on Bainbridge Island, and she started drawing as a kid, beginning with copying tall ships and horses out of her mother’s huge Currier and Ives book. “I loved drawing tall ships. I’d lay on the floor and copy from the book. Later on, when I saw a real horse, I discovered the Currier and Ives horses were weird. They were very long and skinny!” laughed Kate.

Between her fourth and sixth grade years, Kate read all the books about whaling and tall ships that she could find in the library. “I wonder if I was a pirate in a past life. Or a captain, that would be better. Most likely I was a grunt though,” chuckled Kate.

Kate recently went to a class reunion, where several classmates told her: “All you were ever doing was drawing, drawing, and drawing.” Kate says she doesn’t really remember it that way, but she does admit she has been drawing her whole life.

After high school she attended Olympic College in Bremerton and took art classes. Kate then moved to San Francisco, where she also took art classes. “I always painted in my spare time, but I’ve had a gazillion jobs.” She married, moved to Los Angeles with her husband, and attended art school at night. In 1966, she moved to San Luis Obispo, Calif., divorced and later remarried, had a son, (her very best work of art), worked as a book keeper, was the first female “mail man” in San Luis Obispo, did house cleaning, window display, ran a little shop where she sewed, was a secretary, and then painted houses for seven years, while slowly remodeling her own little house. Kate stayed in San Luis Obispo for 22 years, and went back to school in 1980, earning a graphic art and design degree from Cal Poly University in 1984.

“They totally looked down on art there. Art was considered selfish and graphic design ‘solved problems for other people.’ So that was the closest I could get. But I loved that school. I learned so much. And it was cheap! It was only $160 per quarter. People going to school now would croak if they knew how much college was back then.”

In 1990, a single Kate returned to Washington. She looked at property on Bainbridge, Port Townsend, San Juan Island, and Orcas Island, but it wasn’t until she drove onto Lopez that “a huge cloud lifted.” She knew it was the one.

“I wanted a shack on the water with a winding driveway into the woods with no visible neighbors.” And Kate got just that on Lopez. Her house, which doubles as her studio, is brimming with art and eccentric decor and is home to a black cat and a friendly, shaggy dog. Her only gripe is space: “I need a bigger table and more space! There is art stuff under my bed, in the kitchen, it’s everywhere. I don’t think people realize that you need mountains of supplies – frames, mats, glass, and more - besides the art itself.”

Kate says that the themes in her art haven’t changed much over the years, although her technique has improved immensely. “When I work in colored pencil, the art is uptight and contained. When it’s oil pastels, the art is very loose. I change back and forth between the two.”

Kate describes her work as “heavy subjects done with humor.” Her titles are nearly always a play-on words, like the black pen and ink drawing of an elderly woman with moths for hair entitled “My Mothair.” Sometimes her drawings are provocative, sometimes sweet, but they always invite conversation and require thinking outside the box. “I look at life with humor. I’d have to, otherwise I would have cut my wrists a long time ago!”

Kate, who is also politically active, often uses her art to convey a message. Her pencil drawing of rows and rows of tiny houses, with one huge tree encased in a glass cover, is called “Bell Jar.”

Kate, who had several different friends stop by her house during the course of this interview, is also a “collector of friends.” She says she had to create her own family, so keeping good friends from her childhood, college, and beyond is important to her.

Kate has shown her work locally at Grayling Gallery, Gallery 10, the Lambiel Museum, Lopez Center, galleries on Orcas and San Juan, the Bra Show in Seattle (a fundraiser for breast cancer), and galleries in Bellingham and Langley. To contact Kate, email greatscott@rockisland.com. Her home/studio is open by appointment only. Email ahead of time or call 468-3837.

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