RED BEAUTY, PASTEL, 8 X 8
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Colorado painter Kathy Beekman knew she would become an artist from the time she was 4 years old and was fond of carting around a tattered tin can full of crayons. As a little girl she remembers thinking, “It’s so great to be an artist.” By the time Beekman was in elementary school, her teachers and classmates recognized her as the class artist. It seemed destined to be her job in life, whether it was drawing the comic strip cat Garfield for friends or rendering three witches from a story that captivated her young imagination. “I was just drawing and coloring all the time,” she recalls.
It came as no surprise to anyone who knew her that after graduation, Beekman headed to college to study art. In her program at Sienna Heights University in Adrian, MI, students were encouraged to develop their own styles. “We never had to mimic a teacher. There was never a right or wrong way to do things,” she remembers.
That laissez faire philosophy was both a blessing and a curse, Beekman says. The downside was that after she graduated college, she suddenly felt adrift artistically. She worked at a civic theater back ‰ home in Indiana painting backdrops and in a frame shop, but as she recalls, “Not a lot was happening in terms of my career.”
HILLSIDE ABOVE THE VALLEY, PASTEL, 11 X 30
Eventually she decided to take a class in archeology. It was a fortuitous decision, because in class she met her future husband and eventually traveled with him to Mexico in 1999 after he landed a job directing an archeology project. During her yearlong stay in Mexico, she experienced a turning point in her art career. Having run out of the white paper that she was accustomed to using with her pastels, she turned to black paper. It caused the colors to pop in a way that delighted her. Today she uses black paper 99 percent of time, blending the pastel dust into the paper’s tooth to obtain a clean, non-textured look.
Her peaceful portraits of houses and barns are reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s spare landscapes, evoking a sense of nostalgia and solitude. But Beekman says one of her greatest influences is Georgia O’Keeffe. “I am nearly obsessed with her life and work. She was a woman working in a man’s world, and she didn’t mimic other artists,” Beekman explains. “O’Keeffe was very much her own person and I draw strength from that fact.”
CLOUDBURST, PASTEL, 30 X 22
These days Beekman’s landscapes are also influenced by her surroundings. Her home and studio are perched about 8,600 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. “The sky here is big, with enormous cloud formations,” Beekman says. “The vastness of the natural landscape inspires my work. My paintings reflect how I think and feel about Colorado.”
In her spare time, Beekman is president of the Evergreen Arts Association and is writing a book about how to be a successful artist—a guide to organizing, marketing, and networking, among other things.
She is represented by Cogswell Gallery, Vail, CO; The Squash Blossom, Colorado Springs, CO; Canyon Road Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM.
Group show at Canyon Road Contemporary Art, December 22-January 1.
Featured in November 2008