One of the Top Ten: My Video for the Design Sherpa Contest

A few months ago, I entered a contest sponsored by a social media company from Atlanta named “Design Sherpa.” It sounded like fun: Submit a picture and write 100 words about “What Inspires You.” Although the challenge was directed primarily to interior designers and other home-related professionals, I checked the box “Other” (as an artist) and wrote about the beach glass I find here on the shore and how the patterns and worn soft patina influence my paintings. Here’s what I wrote.

A little bit later, I was notified that my little entry had made it to the Top 100. And the next challenge was to write a 350 word essay again on Inspiration. I love to write so I had to jump in. And the fact the the Grand Prize was a 10-day trip to Paris plus $10,000 was also a wee bit motivating.

The old stone fireplace in our home was my muse. Here’s that essay.

Recently, I got the news that I was in the Top Ten. Yikes! The next challenge was to do a 3-minute video about Design Inspiration. It’s one thing to sit at a laptop and compose a paragraph or two sitting in your pajamas. Quite another to have to walk and talk on a video. Eek! I ran for the makeup bag and got rid of my paint-splattered Converses! Grab your popcorn and settle in. (P.S. My patient son shot the whole thing on his iPhone!)


New at Swedish Medical Center: 3 of my paintings!


I’m so delighted to announce that one of Seattle’s largest and highly regarded hospitals, Swedish Medical Center, has selected three of my paintings to be installed in one of its healthcare facilities.  I  am honored thinking that in some small way, the work might spread a little joy and comfort to someone during their visit. The reds and blues, the pinks and yellows, the roses and vines, the birds nesting and cuddling, the cherry blossoms and patterns–I hope the paintings help brighten someone’s day!

( There will be an upcoming presentation of the public opening of the center and the artwork. I’ll post the details soon!)

Sakura Kisses
Les Fleurs Qui Chantent

Where to find the new KF Greeting Cards!

The cards are here and we’re so excited! While we work to finalize the details of distribution, it’s easy to order the cards direct. The minimum order is a set of 8, each based on one of my original paintings, US$28, includes shipping and handling to the US and Canada. The cards are printed on heavy stock and are 6 3/4 x 4 1/2.  (Envelopes are included of course!) We accept credit cards and PayPal. Please Email my DH/business partner (Jeff Fraga) for details. Merci beaucoup!

Kathe Fraga Greeting Cards

New! (Sneak Peek) The Kathe Fraga Greeting Card Collection

Okay, I admit it, I’m pretty excited about the debut of this new collection of cards. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but sometimes it’s hard to put down the brush and wipe the blue paint from one’s face and sit down and look over all the paintings that might translate to a card.

For those of you who know my work, I usually paint pretty big. So it was a teensy bit of a challenge to see my birds and botanicals in a smaller setting. But, that’s what friends are for. I want to thank the kind people and collectors who have encouraged me to add the card collection to my studio. Merci beaucoup all over the place–you know who you are!

There are eight different images–yellow, pink, blue, light jade green, turqouise (and orange–eek!)–each based on an original painting. The stock is heavy and blank inside so you can add your own message. More details about the stores carrying the collection to come–stay tuned!


Eek! It’s Orange!

Tis the season for orange: Orange leaves, orange pumpkins, Fall is orange. And I’m loving it, surprisingly. Because L’orange is simply a color I haven’t ever just adored. I’ve just sort of walked by it with a sidelong glance and looked away real quick …it’s so, what? Quirky? Odd? Extreme? For the longest time, I labeled orange as the troublemaker on the playground, not friends to blue, always bothering pink, scaring green. But I’ve changed my mind and, bit by bit, I’ve fallen head over heels for this standout fire ball. I’ve brought it into the studio and onto my canvases and I’m liking the way it seems to surprise and shake things up–like a Halloween pumpkin with a spooky face, or the tiny brilliant jewel tone of a single nasturtium blossom.

Paris Sunset, 36 x 24 inches
Moonlit Garden: We Dream, We Fly - 40 x 16 inches

Where to find my paintings and other questions

A Song of Celebration, 36 x 48 inches

I’ve talked a lot about what inspires me in my work and shared little stories about the things around me that I love and how they weave themselves into the art–the pink poppies, the ancient old house, the birds inside the kitchen here and outside our windows. But I haven’t really chatted a lot about art galleries and how important they are to me. Other artists may have a different view and that’s okay. For me, I am grateful for the people who, on a day-to-day basis, show my work, are happy to spend time in person and on the phone or email talking about the paintings, and look for new opportunities for ways to share the art–whether in a home or for a corporate collection.

Here’s something that perhaps you didn’t know: for six years my husband and I owned and managed an art gallery here on Bainbridge Island. It was really a wonderful time, just heavenly visiting other artists’ studios, talking art, hosting art, and just being around art all the time. When we first opened the gallery, our goal was to make our space as warm and welcoming as possible. Out went the carpeting, exposing a bare pock-marked cement floor that we had painted black for shine but nothing too glossy. We wanted a good looking, no fuss, no muss surface so that strollers, dogs, wheelchairs, spilled lattes, wine, and high heels could mix and mingle and not make a dent.

An artist friend painted the ceiling to look like a worn and vintagy sky–light blue with wisps of rolling clouds, a nod to the age-old brick buildings lining Seattle’s Pioneer Square and we hung a big chunky sparkly chandelier in the middle of it all–a soft and pretty contrast to the stark and modern white walls and exposed dark floors.

On a pedestal next to the desk–the built in desk being tall and discreetly tucked in the back so that visitors could wander around without feeling like they were being watched (eek!)–there was a big glass bowl filled to the brim with M&Ms. Who can resist M&Ms? (I know I couldn’t and had to discipline myself to stay away from the candy bowl.)

Our trusty and super friendly little pup “Poco” was the ultimate greeter–I think he probably was one of the top ten things that people took pictures of when they strolled along the island’s Main Street. He loved going to the gallery every day and would sit just to the side of the front door (always open rain or shine) and he’d watch the world go by, pose for photo ops, and wait for the his downtown doggie friends to make their rounds. (They had their own bowl of treats!)

The whole goal was to try to make the very fun and exciting time of  falling in love with that special piece of work a great experience! We loved helping people and art find each other!

And that’s just how it is with the galleries that represent my paintings now. There’s a passion there and a knowledge of art and artists and process and history.

Recently, someone emailed me (thank you K!) with some inquiries about my work and about galleries because sometimes purchasing art and all the good questions one might have about a special piece can be a bit overwhelming–especially when buying long distance.

You might find a painting on my website and want to know more:

“Do the galleries ship paintings?”

(Yes, worldwide.)

“How to hang a painting?”

(Galleries can tell you what will work best for your walls and lighting.)

“How can I afford the work?”

(Just ask–galleries are happy to help!)

I love to hear from you. Thank you for your questions. Finding that special “forever” piece is a wonderful feeling!

My galleries:

Pacini Lubel Gallery, Seattle

Roby King Galleries, Bainbridge Island

MUSEO Gallery, Langley, Whidbey Island

Old China Teapots, Vintage Cake Tins and a Taxidermy Skunk

I’m a collector. I admit I have a passion for “les objets.” Sometimes the things I love and search for go together–teapots, big, small, old floral, cracked, missing a lid, modern ceramic–they all share a story and a history. They all were part of a ceremony, probably cookies and little sandwiches were involved, and someone sat a table with someone else and there was a moment shared, a chat, and a time, sitting together, teapot part of it all, pretty and silent, perched there on the starched linen, listening. (I also collect linens.)

I collect teacups. It’s my grandmother’s fault. And my great aunt’s. And my mother’s. I inherited a set of delicate and dreamy and hazy light pink floral Limoges cups and saucers from Great Aunt Sue. I remember her using them at a big party once, and her older brother broke one and I knew she was upset but couldn’t show it because that was the type of hostess she was. I have the mismatched yellow and black and pink and green botanical ones from my Mom and Grandmother, back from the time when ladies had “coffees” and the guests would arrive, patterned dresses and hats on, maybe gloves for a sit in the formal living room where usually no one in the family ever went and the cups were filled and cake was served and the soft murmur of feminine voices wafted in the air.

I use my teacups now for my parties but I don’t offer coffee. No, the cork is popped and pink champagne (not sweet) is poured and it gets lively. Everyone needs to have champagne in a dainty and delicate  porcelain teacup. Have you ever noticed that they are as pretty inside as out? Through the foamy bubbly champagne in the cup you can see the roses floating there with each sip.

I collect cake tins. When we remodeled the kitchen in our very old house, we made sure to build a little area above the white painted bench for all the tins to gather. One is my favorite. It’s a dusty 40’s type of green and has a little lid with a black knob and on the very front it says something. Can you guess? Well, you are right–it says “CAKE” in black letters, proud to state the obvious and share the good news. I liked the color of this old tin so much that we painted the walls in our kitchen the same green and it’s funny because the moment I walked in this house, before we even bought it and were “just looking” I knew the kitchen should be green. Perhaps in another life it was.

I collect Van Briggle pottery from Colorado. I collect state plates from all over the U.S. I collect Eiffel Towers. I love those  little tiny rocking chairs that used to hold spools of thread. I collect small children’s chairs–they are lined up on the top of the landing leading up to the second floor and flank an old doll house, white and blue with a porch.

I love old vases with no names–soft white, yellow, blue, green and the occasional shocking orange. Wooden boxes are stacked in the guest room, alligator purses line the shelves upstairs. I collect boxes made with shells.

In the living room, curled up on an old bentwood chair, our grey tabby “Mort” cat snoozes-he’s from Paris and is always asleep. Along with the taxidermy skunk and armadillo and dancing snow goose that balances on one leg, wings spread, head and neck bowing just so. There’s a tiny taxidermy mouse that sits on the top of a framed painting in the entry.

I notice that in the same way that I gather these treasures, I gather colors and paint–my favorites, red and pink and yellow and soft green, always there on my canvases joined by the blue that’s as familiar as an old friend and now purple and orange (new to the collection). I store all the tubes and pots and brushes in a collection of wicker baskets so that when I’m ready to paint (which is always) a comforting crowd sits nearby and I start a new painting, inspired by their endearing silent pasts and lovely quiet stories.

Paris Sunset, 36 x 24 inches

Brown Brambles and Pink Poppies

I’ve probably mentioned  to you before that I live in a very old house–it’s more than a 100 years old, the bottom floor constructed entirely of grey banarckly spattered beach stones, the top half,  faded grey shingles, a patch near one upstairs window, dark brown and out of place–a remodeling job that happened before our time and still waits for a matching coat of paint. (It’s on “The List,” don’t worry.)

The house used to command 500 acres when it was first built, the property stretching out behind it included dark towers of massive pines and firs and a lake! The view in front, an orchard and a stone staircase to the beach below, the only way to access the house was by water.

Okay, you might shed a tear or two when I tell you that the stone staircase is no longer–smashed to bits and hauled away by the bank during the Great Depression when the house was foreclosed on and some of the property below sold off, reachable only by a new narrow and gravelly accesss road.

Some the old apple trees struggle every year or so to produce and the beach plums still bloom and fruit. The property basically shrank by well, a ton over time with each new family that moved in and adjusted things the way they saw fit. Now it’s just big enough to get a little bit lost in (see my last post about finding the blue clawfoot tub behind an old hedge) and small enough to keep track of the dog when she wanders offwhere.

It’s all tangly and dense and green and wild with little spots here and there that have bowed to my will–a pink birdcage filled with strawberries hangs from an old rescued trellis in the back and the steps that lead up above to the road are lined with gravel from the beach. But I don’t want things too spiffy and manicured and, you know, perfect, because that just isn’t what I adore and value and cherish.

The mystery and the untamed nature of all the  brambles and ivy and yes, even the bindy weeds (they bloom white!) and the out of control purple wisteria (for a time it grew up and into the house, so happy to come inside, I think) influences how I paint.

If you see my paintings, what stands out from across a room might just all change when you get up close. A broad band of red and green and pink from far away insists on being bold–take a peek from a few feet away, you’ll discover that a pattern rests softly under the color, maybe a lacey curling vine, a shy bloom, a butterfly, a French phrase, a heart.

It’s like that here in the garden–dark green and dense. But look again. There’s a pink climbing rose wrapping its arms around that one tall tree in the front. And that brown spot where we cut down some brambles this summer–surprise! A perfectly lovely rosy poppy pops up to say hi.

It wasn’t there yesterday when I looked but maybe I just wasn’t seeing its pretty pink petals waving at me when I glanced around the yard from the front porch some distance away.

Kaleena, 36 x 24 inches

A faded wicker basket, a paper Chinese lantern, a wee bouquet.

One of my very favorite things to do–besides painting–is to prowl thrift stores, comb through weekend yard sales, watch for “freebies” put out by the side of the road.

Did I ever tell you that I own five of those overstuffed cushy rockers from the 40s that sit on stationary wooden feet? They all have different fabric patterns and colors, their wooden arms are each a bit different, a few are more worn than the others but they all go together like a klatsch of old friends. I found three of them, each in a different neighborhood on the island,  booted from their nests, sitting forlornly on the road, looking woefully out of place among the brambles and weeds, desperate for a new and loving home. Who was I to ignore their quiet pleas? So here they now all sit together, happy and jolly again and I am glad because I love old things, well-loved things like chairs and china, paintings and porcelain, that have a history and a story.

I like to think I paint “old.” I paint to tell a story and I paint to explore how a piece of art, whether it’s on canvas or a mural on a wall, can be part of so many families and so many lives and times. Often, when I have the opportunity to meet people who ask about my work and inspiration, I like to have them see the painting as a bit of a much larger piece, so that perhaps it was cut out of a grand plastered wall of a Paris mansion, or pulled from a frame or hidden behind a grand ancient armoire. Paint splashes over paint, hiding a hydrangea or a peony or a cherry branch that was there before–you can see the petals silhouetted in the background. Flowers and color extend beyond the size of the canvas, a swath of blue or red or orange might cover the bottom where at another time and another age, things and circumstances changed and parts of the original image were altered, remodeled, redone.

Have you ever worked on an old house? You yank the crumbling molding surrounding a window and there, underneath, a sweet faded bit of wallpaper is revealed, a long time hidden and out of view but just as pretty as it ever was.

That’s what inspires and thrills me: the patina of time, the history and romance of what came before.

So that all said, you can imagine how I felt when I stumbled upon a somewhat rickety soft blue wicker basket at one of my favorite thrift spots in Langley on Whidbey Island. (It’s Good Cheer Thrift if you must know, but keep it yourself!) I like to store my paints and brushes in wicker baskets like these and I knew it would fit right in with the group I’ve collected over the years.

But once I got it home and was admiring the aged blue on the slats, a paper thin coral and red Saturday yard sale Chinese lantern–a veteran of many a party it would seem– lay nearby and the color combination was one I really fell in love with! Not to mention the little birds on the lantern, so stylized and beautiful.

I gathered up the basket and the lantern–the new best friends–and introduced them both to a weathered old beach board I found stuck in the sand just days earlier, a bit of bright green seaweed still clinging to it. Blue, red, coral, orange. What could be sweeter…except when pink arrived. A tiny bouquet–a much appreciated gift!–with a combination of hues, some deep, some shy and light.

I sat and stared at all of them sitting there and the tones and contrasts, the easy familiarity and loveliness of the pigments made me feel so happy.

I grabbed my frescoed pink canvas and I started to paint, colors inspired by a basket, a lantern, a board and a teeny bouquet.

Lovely, Lovely Dream - 24 x 18 inches