The Watercolor Wanderer
Kate Kvasnicka finds freedom through brushstrokes
By Liesel Schmidt
There’s nothing stuffy or staid about Katherine Kvasnicka’s paintings, no tight lines that suggest a need for perfection or realism. Instead, there’s a looseness, a freedom and sense of whimsy that shows that Kvasnicka doesn’t subscribe to the strict expectations of so many professional painters.
Instead, she lets her paintbrush dance over the paper, allowing the paint to take its own path to create something that is a joy to look at.
“Watercolors are, hands down, my favorite medium to work with,” she says. “I love how they can't be totally controlled or manipulated. In an instant, pigment can hop, skip, and run across the paper without any warning. It’s a dialogue and a dance, and the colors bleed and sing together. Wet areas will always flow to other wet areas, and the process is a living organism right before your eyes on paper—until it eventually dries.”
She adds, “As an artist, this is a true authentic expression. There can’t be any hesitancy in painting with watercolors, and it is the closest thing to magic that I have experienced. I also love to mix in ink and acrylic for texture—and sometimes a surprising pop of gold leaf that winks at you in just the right light.”
Growing up, Kvasnicka was an only child, so art was a way to entertain herself.
“My grandmother would say, ‘Kate, go paint the view,’ so I’d paint what I saw: the overlook from our mountain house in Caesars Head or the beach in Sullivans Island. When she brought flowers home, she always said that they would live longer if I painted them,” Kvasnicka says. “My earliest recognition was when I won awards for my artwork at the South Carolina State Fair during grade school. My school and other commercial establishments also used my artwork for branding in high school. Those moments encouraged me to continue studying art, and I took classes at the College of Charleston, and later the Corcoran School of Arts and Design at George Washington University in Washington, DC.”
While her true passion continues to be art, Kvasnicka still maintains a day job in the corporate world. Still, she is determined to show her son that dreams are possible—and so she pursues her career as an artist, not only selling paintings at galleries but also doing commissioned work, including a recent baby nursery.
“As a parent you have to show, not tell,” she says. “I also had a feeling that I could do anything after childbirth.”
Painting out of her sunroom studio at home, Kvasnicka describes her style as fresh and enjoys ample white space in her work to make paintings feel light and airy.
“The white space coupled with the translucence of watercolor really captures a certain light and glow,” she explains. “I use white space in both my abstract and representational work.”
While she now lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and son, Charleston holds a large piece of her heart.
“My family has deep roots in South Carolina, mainly in Camden and Charleston,” she says. “I am the descendant of six governors of South Carolina and my grandmother, along with her sisters and first cousins, were heir to Mary Boykin Chestnut’s papers and her famous Civil War diary, which is now at the University of South Carolina and won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1982. My grandmother went to Ashley Hall with Barbara Bush, and my mother was the film commissioner of South Carolina and spent a lot of time recruiting films to Charleston and shutting down streets for production of films like The Prince of Tides, Rich in Love, The Patriot, Die Hard, and Ace Ventura 2. I was always on set in Charleston watching, so it was a creative place for me from a young age. I was born and raised in Columbia and attended the College of Charleston where I took several art classes on campus. I remember walking through The Cistern hauling canvases and dropping paintbrushes on my way to my studio art classes.”
Understandably, Charleston has influenced her work in subtle ways.
“I love the deep-rooted history, beautiful pastel houses on palmetto tree-lined cobblestone streets, and flowers that bloom year ‘round,” she says. “It’s almost tangible. The church steeples were one of my favorite things I painted in college. Charleston historic colonial, Georgian, and neoclassical architecture transport you to a different time and place. Charleston has such a rich culture and it truly is a city of details, which is a lost art in itself. Charleston is an artist’s muse.”
Kvasnicka’s work is represented at the Scouted Studio in Charleston as well various galleries and shops along the East Coast. Her work is available online at Katekoriginalart.com or follow her Instagram @katekoriginalart.