In the Atelier

Monday, February 7, 2011

in the atelier…with Kathe Fraga

In the ate­lier this week is the lovely Kathe Fraga. I 'met' her on Twit­ter and was stuck by the rich col­ors and Old World feel of her amaz­ing paint­ings. To me, each one evokes a small piece of a big­ger pic­ture, as if a larger story is loom­ing in the back­ground. And because art is so per­sonal, every per­son who sees (or is lucky enough to own) one of these paint­ings can imag­ine their own story. Kathe leaves room for a per­sonal expe­ri­ence — what more can you ask from an artist?

"Love Song" will be fea­tured in the March 2011 issue of Seat­tle Magazine

In her own words, I present Kathe Fraga:

1)   What path led you to your life as an artist?

There were two paths in my life…I love to write and I love to draw. I was doing both at a very young age—little illus­trated books, jour­nals with draw­ings, art projects with poetry.  I thought I would be an author as a “grown up” but as time went on, I became enchanted with the wild and very col­or­ful world of adver­tis­ing. That was my career path for a long time—I worked in Seat­tle, Hon­olulu and L.A., and I think that being able to write while being a visual per­son helped me enor­mously. I really got back into my art side when my chil­dren were born—homemade Valen­tines (never store bought), papier mache projects, vol­un­teer­ing in the class­room for any­thing arty—I real­ized how much I missed cre­at­ing art. I’ve never given up writing—mostly “humor writ­ing” (I need to send you my very help­ful arti­cle enti­tled “Kathe Fraga’s Top Ten or Eleven House Clean­ing Tips That Work For Her”) but paint­ing is a pas­sion and my fam­ily puts up with the splat­ters and spills all over the house—mostly pink hues.

"Sakura Kisses" is part of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion at Seattle's Swedish Hospital

2)   Please describe three sources of inspi­ra­tion for your art.

I spent “grow­ing up” years in South Amer­ica, Europe and both coasts—my father was in the Navy. I think the absolute over-the-top grandeur of the gilded and stained glass win­dows of the churches of Quito made a huge impres­sion.  Liv­ing in France and expe­ri­enc­ing  Europe and its beauty—old, decay­ing, historic—this mem­ory guides me every day in my color choices and how I like my paint­ings to appear worn and with a story—like they were plas­tered pan­els in an old French man­sion and had been cut away and pre­served just before the wreck­ing ball hit. My pinks, oranges and pur­ples, these are the pig­ments of the ancient times and sto­ries. Not just for princesses and fairy tales—although there’s noth­ing wrong with that. Lastly, I grew up with par­ents who just embraced color in their lives, from the way they dressed to the way they dec­o­rated their home. (Even though Dad’s lime green and bright yel­low sports coats could be embarrassing.)

"Paris Sun­set"

3)   What was the last item you brought home from a trip? Where did you go, and why that item?

Whid­bey Island, Wash­ing­ton is one of our favorite “close-by” des­ti­na­tions that we love. A cou­ple of fer­ries from Bain­bridge Island and there’s the tiny sea­side town of Lan­g­ley. I’ll tell you a secret—one of the best thrift shops is in Lan­g­ley! “Good Cheer” is a trea­sure trove of won­drous fab­u­lous­ness. One of the last lucky finds we just had to have is a clock that is held on both sides by two white and light blue cir­cus ele­phants. Pink shades are also involved. It works! We have it above our bed and we call it “Remem­ber the Happy Times.” (We also have a taxi­dermy cat named “Mort” from Dey­rolle in Paris, but that’s another story.)

"Chez Nous"

4)   Please fill in the blank: If I was not an artist, I’d be:

A writer—trying to get pub­lished in the “Shouts and Mur­murs” sec­tion of The New Yorker. I sub­mit­ted a piece called “Fly Strips and Cham­pagne” recently and they  rejected it  “despite its obvi­ous merit”.

"La Belle Saison

5)   What advice do you have for peo­ple who are afraid to buy art?

If you love it, buy it. You’ll never regret it—and the couch you were try­ing to match it to will be headed for the Good­will in a few years anyway.

brand new — "When Love Blooms"

I hope you enjoyed learn­ing more about Kathe and her work. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @kathefraga or see more at

Kathe will also be hav­ing a solo show at Pacini Lubel Gallery in Seat­tle in June, a great oppor­tu­nity to meet this tal­ented artist!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

in the atelier…with Russ Potak

Art inspires me and artists amaze me. The abil­ity to cre­ate beauty from such raw mate­ri­als can­not fail to impress. Every built envi­ron­ment ben­e­fits from the addi­tion of art in any of its forms. ‘In the Ate­lier’ is a new blog fea­ture spot­light­ing artists I have met in the real or vir­tual worlds. They have gra­ciously agreed to answer a series of ques­tions I hope will help read­ers under­stand more about their art.

Today’s fea­tured artist is Russ Potak. His work, to me, rep­re­sents quin­tes­sen­tial New Eng­land. His brush strokes add lively energy to his sub­jects, and while still real­is­tic, his paint­ings bor­der on the impres­sion­is­tic. I espe­cially love the rich colors!

1) What path led you to your life as an artist?

The path that led me to be an artist was already paved when I was 5. I just kept doing what came nat­u­rally to me, like walk­ing, speak­ing, eat­ing,  and breath­ing.  I never con­sciously acknowl­edged that I was an artist. I just com­mu­ni­cated in a visual way. It wasn't until I had to put a tag on it, for edu­ca­tional pur­poses, that it became a "thing".

2) Please describe three sources of inspi­ra­tion for your art.

I've always been inspired by just see­ing art. What peo­ple have done. Liv­ing artists and deceased ones. Muse­ums and art gal­leries have drawn my inter­est. I've always felt like I was home when I vis­ited them. The other thing that was a big inspi­ra­tion was life itself. The big pic­ture. The real deal. The ulti­mate cre­ation. And from it, these feel­ings and impres­sions formed that needed to be told, in the only way I knew how. To paint them. I con­sid­ered writ­ing them, but I felt they needed so much more than words alone.

I guess, paint­ing is my first lan­guage. Eng­lish my second.

3) What was the last item you brought home from a trip? Where did you go, and why that item?

The last item I brought home from a trip was a stick from the seashore. It was the coast of Maine. A mist rolled in. You could hear the fog horns in the dis­tance. The ocean was grey and mys­te­ri­ous and I walked along the sand and peb­bled shores. I came upon this stick, which was really more like the staff of Moses. It had washed up on the shore from the tide. It was well pre­served in salt and time, and had a whitish grey patina like the bone of a whale. That, to me, was a trea­sure of more wealth and sig­nif­i­cance than had I found a hun­dred bucks. I picked it up and strode off with it like I had owned it my whole life. All I needed was a peg leg and an eye patch to com­plete the ensemble.

4) Please fill in the blank: If I was not an artist, I’d be a__________.

If I was not an artist, I guess I would be a writer, a film pro­ducer, or some  other sim­i­lar thing that filled in the need to express myself. The cre­ative drive needs a vehi­cle. I would have found one, ..  some­where, some­how, to get to where I needed  to go in the cre­ative realm of things.

5) What advice do you have for peo­ple who are afraid to buy art?

My advise for peo­ple that are afraid to buy art is this. Buy small. Buy afford­able. Buy unpre­ten­tiously. Buy like you were spend­ing money for a good book, a movie, a con­cert, or  a fine meal. Its not some­thing that you have to have to get a co-signer for, or give up your first born. Just like it, buy it, and enjoy it.  Don't get too heavy with brood­ing mean­ings as to its exis­tence or feel that it has to answer the ques­tions of  the mean­ing of life. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Just con­sider it a pur­chase to pam­per the inner self. Kind of like that stick I was talk­ing about ear­lier. It felt good, and I liked  it, so I took own­er­ship of it. I'm the stew­ard of that stick. When you buy art, you're invest­ing in your­self. You become a stew­ard of that paint­ing. Its a win-win situation.

I hope you enjoyed learn­ing more about Russ and his work. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @russpotak or see more at:

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