Katharine K. Thayer, or Kim, was born in rural Pennsylvania and lived her first seven years on her family’s old mill property. She attended grade and high school in New England where one of her fondest memories was studying architectural design under the eaves of a classical mansion. The building had been converted to a high school which granted her a scholarship. In her senior year her artistic gift was recognized with an independent study award at the renowned etching studio, Crown Point Press in Oakland, California. In the avant-garde enclave of minimalist and abstract master artists such as John Cage, Christo, and Richard Diebenkorn, she was exposed to extraordinary artistic works in process.
Spurred by her west coast experience, at age seventeen Ms. Thayer moved across the country to attend the University of California at Berkeley. She focused on black and white photography, drawing, writing and global climate change studies. She went on to the San Francisco Art Institute and has since worked with many mentors. She has followed the centuries old tradition of studying under practicing master artists. Her work is now represented by fine galleries nationwide.
During high school summers, Ms. Thayer worked on cattle ranches in the Rocky Mountains. In these formative years she learned the meaning of hard work and long hours. She recalls one day out painting when a father and son walked by and the little boy asked, “Wow, how do you paint like that?” To his father’s delight she answered “Practice.”
Ms. Thayer is fortunate to be part of a large, extended family of celebrated artists and educators. Her earliest mentors in childhood were professional artists. She has kept sketchbooks as journals from a young age. As a child, she drew and sculpted for hours on end in her grandmother’s sculpture studio, an old converted mill house on a pond. Through painting and drawing outdoors for well over 40 years, she has a seasoned understanding, love and respect for nature.
Ms. Thayer’s ancestry includes a long line of artists in the United States and before that the United Kingdom. Some of her more famous relatives descended from one 17th century American family: Sylvanus Thayer of Thayer Academy and West Point; Polly Thayer, the first female whose work was exhibited by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Abbot Handerson Thayer, renowned impressionist painter.
Painting in Massachusetts
In the late 1990’s Ms. Thayer moved back east and located her studio on the Massachusetts north shore. She creates all small works outside, yet she is not solely a plein air painter. She reworks outdoor studies into very large canvases in the studio. Many small paintings she keeps for years to use later for other pieces, much like a writer uses essays. Occasionally, Ms. Thayer begins large pieces on location, but not often. In her words, “A large canvas with the slightest wind will become a sail, then a kite, then a UFO.”
From Winslow Homer to John Singer Sargeant, countless artists over the centuries have enjoyed the rich terrain and water of the Massachusetts north shore. Ms. Thayer is inspired by its myriad subjects to depict through four seasons. She paints and travels extensively, but some of her favorite places to paint remain the eastern coastal beaches, dunes, islands, farms and forests. Few things are as gratifying to her as painting in the wild. When outdoors she is part of the land, light and water, and expresses that connection through paint and canvas. Working outside always generates new ideas and discoveries. Despite adverse temperatures, carrying heavy supplies and standing for hours amidst bugs and wind, she believes it is worth the extra effort to paint when immersed in nature. Ms. Thayer’s goal in every painting is to move viewers to a feeling of a place and make them want to be right there.
Ms. Thayer and many in her family work to protect wild land. She explains that “We are blessed with clean coastal water, small farms, natural preserves and wilderness. Their beneficence in our lives is incalculable and essential to the healthy evolution of humans and all organic beings. Our oldest tenets of wisdom and beauty spring from the study of nature.”