Artist Profile

Kate Wood

Story by Amy Armstrong

“I certainly like to catch the essence of them, so I paint their eyes first,” Kate Wood, a Fairbanks artist, says of the canines regularly featured in her work. “It is like I am getting to know them as I paint them.”

Eyes tell of personality, she says.

Personality is exactly what Kate strives to capture when including dogs in her work – especially the canine portraits she is regularly commissioned to paint. Often, these portraits are commemorations of a four-legged companion that has passed on.

Her work is found in many Fairbanks art galleries but also in collections around the world as her love of Scottish Terriers has led to creating fundraising calendars for rescue groups.

Kate began painting as a child – long before her feet could touch the floor beneath where she was seated. Her New England-based childhood was spent in museums, she recalls. Attending art college as an emerging adult was no surprise to Kate or her family.

It was at a time in the 1960s when women were just beginning to gain a foothold in the American art scene.
“Back then, nobody was encouraging women to become artists. Women were encouraged to become nurses, so I became a nurse and supported myself that way but always did art on the side,” says Kate.

She came to Alaska on a vacation 30 years ago and fell in love with the spectacular scenery. She sold her 20-acre New England farm and took a nursing job that would take her into the Interior where her passion for painting would also flourish. She lived in the Bush for 15 years filling many sketchbooks with what she saw every day.

“At that point in time, I was painting a lot of scenery because that was at hand,” she says.

Kate lived on a bluff with a panoramic view of the mountains. One year she was determined to paint the scene outside her cabin every day in an effort to capture the nuances of the ever-changing scene.

She works in several mediums, but watercolor is her favorite.

“You can catch a moment in watercolor,” Kate says. “If you see something, you can literally splash it down on canvas or paper to get the effect that you want. You can catch it with the initial effort and then go back to the details.”

Kate appreciates the ease of taking watercolor painting along as she ventures in the outdoors.

One just needs to pack a bottle of water, a brush, a little bit of paint and a sketchbook, she says. It is lightweight yet handy.

She is also a big fan of scratchboard work. Not many artists use the unique drawing format that creates white lines on a black background. It is most often done with a thin layer of China clay coated with a dark or black India ink. Very sharp knives are used in an engraving manner to create the images.

Kate finds scratchboard work “exciting” because its exacting nature utilizes (and sharpens) her drawing skills. When working with a new subject, Kate often does a scratchboard first to master the details she wants included when she paints the subject.

Kate is well-known for a series of comical ravens – a bird that dominates the Fairbanks area. Her raven paintings feature bright colors around the otherwise dark bird thus creating a sense of humor in the painting.
“They are tricksters, clever, able to mimic many other animals and fun to watch. They can catch the wind and soar, tumble and play in mid-air. When in the sun they look bejeweled with their gorgeous, lush plumes,” Kate says. “They sit high in spruce trees above my cabin talking, jeering and laughing with my Scotties.”

She is contemplating a series dedicated to another animal popular in the Fairbanks area: reindeer.

“I have been fascinated with them for about a year now. I saw caribou in the Bush all the time,” Kate says. “I see fun possibilities with the antlers and the hooves.”

But as with any animal Kate paints, she will begin her work with Santa’s critters by first capturing their eyes.
“The eyes tell so much about an animal,” Kate says. “It is the eyes that capture the essence.”

Learn more about Kate Wood online at: