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The Artist & The Rocket Man by Amy Bartlett, Siuslaw News

THE SIUSLAW NEWS | WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2003

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At Quiet Waters Gallery, the artist is free to play
© 2003 Story by Bret Yager, Siuslaw News
     On a silent meadow sticking like a thumb into the willows and water of Sutton Lake, there is a studio that may well be a small territory of Paradise. For Katheryn Davis, open air landscape and portrait painter, and self-taught artist, it is certainly that.
      “We keep pinching ourselves that we’re so fortunate to live here,” Katheryn says, speaking also for her husband Leroy Krzycki. She has been in Florence 27 years and raised five kids.
     Her gallery on this peninsula of silence is the result of a life’s work on a road that wasn’t always easy to follow. Katheryn remembers having to snatch time to paint while her kids were taking naps. Over the years, she has worked through all of the media, starting in oils and evolving into pastels, watercolors, gouache, pen and ink, and acrylics. Diversifying her technique has kept her perspective fresh.
     “I constantly push myself in new directions,” Katheryn says. “I’ve seen so many artists, good ones, who simply gave up the brush. And I saw it was because they stayed in one medium. They allowed the gallery to make them stay in a medium that sells. If you let money ruin it, it’s not art. You have to be free to play.
     Being free to play means a lot of things. A big one is the sense of limitless possibility, of waking up each morning and looking forward to the tasks ahead." Katheryn paints every day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It just never gets old. “It’s like being on a trip. You completely forget about yourself, and it’s like Christmas.”
     Katheryn has a passion for painting outdoors. It’s a great way to be somewhere, to spend time at a bend in the road or a forest path in a way that we normally don’t allow ourselves. This sense of connection brings life to the creation. “I don’t usually paint from a photo,” Katheryn says. “When you abstract away even one degree, it takes away from the art.”
    When you are painting the lobster villages of Maine, or a street scene in Greece or Portugal as Katheryn has, taking time to be there makes perfect sense.
     Katheryn grew up in Glendale, California. Her roots in art began early, with the other girls on the block and the paper dolls everyone drew. When she was older, her dad introduced her to the outdoor wonder of the Sierras.
      She logged years of practice on her own before going back to school to learn the principles of art. She studied at UCLA, the University of Southern California, and the Pasadena Museum of Art. She has received private instructions from Helen Winslow, Keith Crown, Rex Brandt, and Charles Reid, among others.
      Katheryn passes the knowledge on to her own students now, through workshops at Quiet Waters. She leads groups in April to open air locations on the beach. But none of her students’ work looks like hers, she says.
      “When I teach, I try to give students just the principles, so they have a foundation where they’re free to develop their own style.”
      Katheryn looks forward to pushing her horizons outward. She recognizes that an artist is at risk of self-satisfaction and of becoming locked in complacency. She tears up at least 100 failed paintings every year.
      “And that’s because I experiment all the time. If you take away that risk of failure, painting isn’t what it could be and I don’t want to play,” she says.
      A quote by Andre Gide is hand-written in ink and pasted to the attic of her studio. It is readable from the space by the windows where she puts in her hours at the easel: “What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself.”
      If the dozens of awards that Katheryn has received in 50 years are any testimony, then Gide’s words are good ones to paint by. But the way Katheryn talks about art makes it clear that accolades are not the goal. When she taught arts and crafts, and drug and alcohol counseling at Camp Florence, she sketched the boys there. Then she presented the portraits to them. It gave the youths a sense of something new.
      That sense of discovery is the one that Katheryn pursues every day by the waters of Sutton Lake. It may be the only reward that really matters.

© 2003 Story by Bret Yager, Siuslaw News. All Rights Reserved.