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Little Falls artist making colorful ripples in the art world

Kathy Braud remembers her moment of inspiration as well as the artist who inspired her to also become as artist. Angie Beaumont, a Little Falls artist and one who went to Kathy’s church, encouraged Kathy when she expressed her desire to paint like Angie.

An obstetrics nurse for 23 years, Kathy has gradually shifted her days from working with new mothers and their babies to experimenting with color and a variety of materials that produce that color. She wasn’t drawn to arrange flowers, fish in sunlit waters, ride carousel animals, or snowboard off cliffs, yet she has figuratively done all those things through her art. In order to paint flowers one studies flower arranging. To understand sunfish one must dip beneath the rippled surface and swim in their waters. To reproduce a carousel on paper one distinguishes between reality and fantasy and takes a circuitous route of minute color and brush decisions. In many ways, an artist lives vicariously yet Kathy has found that her art has taken her many places she wouldn’t have otherwise gone, and brought fascinating people, by way of the miracles of the internet, to her living room.

Kathy paints on her antique round kitchen table in one of the oldest homes in Little Falls. “I’m a solitary painter,” she said.

Situated across from the Pine Grove Zoo, the house is 120 years old and unlike many of its neighbors, has only had two owners: the family that built the home and the Brauds who purchased it from the last elderly member of that family.

Though her kitchen studio is bathed in indirect light from three directions, Kathy has found that a painter never has too much light. “I turn on every light I have,” she said. When her two boys were at home and she worked shifts at the hospital, she painted more at night. Now that the house is considered an empty nest and she’s officially retired from nursing, she paints during the sunlit hours. Working there also means she can stir up a quick meal to share with her husband, Jim, on his lunch break from Larson Boats.

Kathy discovered early on in her art career that, for her, learning from books had its limitations. Angie Beaumont loaned her a Watercolor Workshop book but it wasn’t long before Kathy needed some hands-on help. “A book doesn’t show in person what happens.” And what happens, particularly when working with watercolor, Kathy’s chosen medium, often isn’t exactly what the artist planned. Colors have a way of moving, blending and bleeding. The artist, like a cowboy on a horse, controls the cattle herd of colors as they race across the paper. Techniques, picked up along the trail ride, are the tools of control.

In the summer of 1994, Rose Edin offered a week long workshop class and Kathy quickly signed up. She hasn’t stopped exploring through demos, workshops, learning about new tools, techniques and styles since then. And gradually, she has shifted from student to teacher.

“I liked Rose Edin’s bright wonderful colors,” said Kathy, and that appreciation for color is apparent in her work. “Lately, I’ve been bringing those darks back in.” She’s also explored abstraction. She often works on full-sheet (22” x 30”) paper though occasionally half-sheet or quarter sheets seem the appropriate size for particular projects. A recently completed painting of a woman is on a quarter-sheet and pinned to a black felt board in Kathy’s living room (pictured right).

Kathy uses that black background when she photographs her work. She’s meticulous in documenting her work and good quality photos are a must-have when it comes to online marketing, something Kathy is aggressively pursuing.

For four years, Kathy and Jim, explored the highways and bi-ways of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin, attending outdoor art fairs. Though the experience taught her much about the art world from the perspective of an artist, from what other artists were doing and from what art buyers were attracted to, she harbored no affection for being at the mercy of the weather. “The rain, humidity and sun damaged paintings. At one show near a lake, male mosquitoes came out and crawled into everything.”

The changing economy of the first decade of the 21st century challenged artist’s livelihoods with dipping sales at art shows and festivals. Though the concept of starving artists may be familiar and the idea that artists create for the satisfaction of self-expression is commonly held, unless supported by a generous patron, an artist must sell their work to continue.

After those four years of putting her work in jeopardy, Kathy opted to nurture her connections with other artists through art organizations and to display her work at the art shows sponsored by those organizations. She is currently a member of ten organizations and has friends all over northern, central and metro Minnesota. She is a signature member of the Red River Watercolor Society. This RRWS status was achieved by being accepted into three national shows within ten years. She has earned four RRWS awards.  Her work has been accepted five out of eight times in the juried Minnesota State Fair Fine Art Exhibit earning her a prestigious 3rd   place in  the watercolor category and two merit awards.

Kathy not only has made valuable connections in the art world, she has a significant presence in the “virtual” online world. Recently, a company from United Kingdom purchased her original “Northern Lights on Superior Shores” for their new branch office in China. A Minnesota poultry company also purchased an original painting of chickens for their corporate office.

Kathy regularly uploads images to her website on Fine Art America where she also maintains a blog and schedule of upcoming shows. Seven of her paintings have been accepted for the Söntés Spring/Summer 2013 show in Rochester, a block and a half from the Mayo Clinic, continuing now through mid-September. May 17-18-19, Kathy will display her work at the Northstar Watermedia Society show “Art on a Line” at the State Fair Fine Art building in St. Paul where she is often a demo artist.  If juried into RRWS, the Hjemkomst Gallery in Moorhead will feature her work from mid-June through mid-July.  She is part of Ten Brushes, a group of 10 women who gather to learn, critique and display their variety of art in a common theme.  They recently exhibited at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

Kathy’s work is on display and can be viewed easily by the public in many local establishments in Little Falls and Brainerd and her home gallery.

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