A Note from Hope, publisher, Inkandescent Women magazine: I had the honor of sitting next to Kay Stratman at a networking event in Washington, DC more than a decade ago. We struck up a conversation about her work as a fine artist who specializes in Asian brush painting — and the creator of a line of hand-painted cravats called Tie Tracks.
Fast forward to 2020. Today she and her beloved husband are residents of Wyoming. She is down to 100 ties left in the Tie Tracks Collection — and Kay is selling them for only $20 each through our Inkandescent Shop. Click here to check them out!
That’s not all! For every tie that Kay sells, she’s giving one away to a gent in need.
What else is Kay up to these days? She sells her fabulous fine art at galleries and community events, streaming the act of painting as she talks to the folks that pass by her booth. It’s a sight to behold, for Kay practices a technique she calls: Controlled Spontaneity. “This dynamic contradiction is what originally drew me to Asian brush painting, an ancient art,” says Kay, noting she has since incorporated this approach into a style all her own, a mix of traditional technique and contemporary aesthetic.
More about Kay: After graduating from college with a BA in Art, Kay spent 14 years at a commercial art studio in Minneapolis, MN but continued to search for her own artistic medium. In 1983, she met a “sumi-e” (Asian ink painting) artist and instantly knew she had found her visual voice. Asian paintings are simple in composition, yet full of harmony, balance and peace, all elements Kay seeks in her own life as well as in her artwork.
Kay’s paintings have since evolved and incorporated those ideas into a much more personal artistic thumbprint. Recent accomplishments are two “Best Wyoming Artist” awards at the annual Watercolor Wyoming national juried exhibit (2015 and 2018), and achieving “Signature Member” status of the Wyoming Watercolor Society, as well as acceptance into Women Artists of the West.
Her focus now is P’o Mo, (translated as “splash ink”), though an ancient Chinese technique, the results look contemporary. Materials used are bamboo-handled brushes, watercolors and gold or silver metallic covered “shikisihi” boards. Thickened watercolor is poured onto the surface and allowed to bleed, blend, then dry. Kay continues the painting by defining areas with brushwork to reveal a more recognizable image. The spontaneous look of P’o Mo disguises the skill required to master the difficult medium and its special tools.
Now, Kay applies a wide range of techniques honed by years of practice and experimentation to the subjects she loves in life: mountainscapes that surround her Wyoming home; cranes sailing across a sunset; a frog bathing in a marbleized pool; wide open wild spaces.
Kay’s paintings most certainly feel simultaneously contemporary yet timeless.
Each one is signed with a unique chop (see below), her signature, which represents the Chinese saying: If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”
Not only will you want an original painting by Kay Stratman, and an invitation to the singing bird, in your home or office, you’ll want to snap up one of the remaining 100 ties she’s been saving in a closet. We’ll share more information on how to we will help make that happen soon in the Inkandescent™ SHOP, coming this fall.
Scroll down for Kay’s thoughts on What’s Next in her life, for her work, and her thoughts on the future of work, women, and the world.
What’s Next for Kay Stratman?
Welcome to the Truly Amazing Women project: Hope Katz Gibbs’ Inkandescent Women magazine has partnered with Cynthia de Lorenzi and her international networking organization Success in the City to investigate What’s Next for women around the world. In this interview with Wyoming-based artist Kay Stratman, we learn about the future of her business in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, and her thoughts on what she believes is coming for the art industry, the country, and the world. Scroll down for our interview with Kay.
Hope & Cynthia: Tell us about your business / industry and where it was before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Kay Stratman: Being a fine artist is a unique situation. In my early years I was a graphic designer, so I worked in a commercial art studio with other colleagues, had contact with the outside world daily, and clients provided direction. As a fine artist (for 30 years now) I have none of that, but I do have freedom! But in order to make it a viable career, one must create your own momentum, which includes many kinds of outreach – participating in community events, contacting and interacting with galleries and their clients, being willing to give your “elevator description” of your work to most everyone you meet.
Pre-pandemic, nearly all of that interaction was in person. I love meeting folks who have an interest in my painting, or have purchased a piece. I tell them “These are my kids. I love knowing that they have grown up, gotten a good job, and live in a nice home.” And I mean it.
I live in a small popular tourist mountain town, Jackson Hole, which is very art oriented. So those potential collectors are easy to meet – even observing Covid-19 precautions. A gallery isn’t crowded, and one can visit safely in person. Because I already had lots of “inventory” when Covid-19 cancelled planned exhibitions, I took several months to learn much needed social media marketing skills with a specialized social media professional/coach, Rose Caiazzo, through Zoom meetings of course. I was reluctant, but it was actually I who reached out to her, and she made it so much less overwhelming. I revamped my Occasional Newsletter, upped my Facebook and Instagram presence, and learned how to create a YouTube video. (Tech isn’t part of my skill set. I use watercolors. Period.) I still meet folks in person and I have to say that personal interaction is still my best sales tool.
Hope & Cynthia: Where were you personally in your life when COVID-19 arrived in the US? What were your short and long-term goals at that time?
Kay: I am so fortunate to live in a small but forward-thinking town where wilderness is just 5 minutes away, for mental and physical health that easily accommodates social distancing. When my husband and I moved here 13 years ago, from the Washington DC area, where I met Hope, we wondered how much “landscape” could sustain one. It turns out – a lot. Maybe not for everyone, but for us it is vital. My husband is a lifelong career conservationist, and the environment and the arts are very important in this town. We do not have children, (though we foster abandoned dogs through the Animal Adoption Center here, 163 so far). Paul is now retired and my studio is in my home. So considering all of that, our daily lives haven’t actually changed drastically. I do consider my painting a full time job, and attend to the business aspects of that as well as the creative process.
- Short term goals when Covid-19 arrived: I was just completing a body of work for an exhibit that was to open mid-March at Raitman Art Galleries in Breckenridge, CO. It had already been shipped when all plans to travel were cancelled. Fortunately we were able to drive to Breckenridge in July for the rescheduled exhibit, and felt safe while there. Here at home in Jackson Hole, I was able to start on a body of work for Horizon Fine Art to begin our ‘high summer season’, though we didn’t know what to expect.
- Long term goals: To keep my artwork fresh and to include my personal experiences in that growth, to build on the partnerships I already have with my current gallery representation and to add another gallery or two. Some artists are reluctant to depend on galleries, and others like me, prefer to take advantage of their business expertise, which allows us more time in the studio. However, I am always interested in additional exposure via community and online events, and opportunities to share with audiences I wouldn’t otherwise have – like through Inkandescent Women Magazine!
Hope & Cynthia: What are your thoughts now about your industry, your business, your personal life, your heart?
Kay: I am fortunate – I am content. I can’t imagine being anywhere else – in my career, personal life, and in my heart. I am deeply concerned for those who don’t have that luxury.
Hope & Cynthia: Now the big question — What do you see coming next?
- For my industry: I am guessing that one’s home nest and office environment will become even more important to each individual and that may be a plus for being an artist.
- For my company: I don’t want to become complacent, so I will seek out challenges. For example – one challenge coming up soon is a Call to Artists to submit paintings for consideration in our newly built senior care complex at our hospital. I’d like to see my work soothing people in environments they would rather not be in.
- For myself: Maintain equilibrium. Learn to make adjustments when necessary. Speak up when necessary.
- This Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote is my reply for the next three items (for the country, for the world, for women): “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Hope & Cynthia: One final question — tell us the one question we didn’t ask you!
Kay: “What would you be doing if you could choose ANYTHING?” Response: I’m doing it.