Like the old adage “birds of a feather flock together”, it was natural for Kathleen Westkaemper to flock towards the arts. Growing up in San Francisco, California, she was influenced early on to pursue the arts by her mother and her artistic friends. “I was always drawing as a child with whatever I could find.”
From Goldfinches to Hummingbirds, Kathleen is now known for her distinct paintings of birds. It was upon moving to Virginia in 1982 when she developed the popular series.“When we moved here I was at home a lot with my kids, and the bird life and plant life was all new to me. I would spend time in the garden and observe the birds.” It was only after taking classes at the VMFA with artist John Morgan that Kathleen was inspired to spread her wings as an artist. Since framing was expensive at the time, Kathleen used her leftover boards to paint on, and eventually made small blocks at more affordable price points. “I wanted to create this sustainable environment.”
Kathleen has since branched out into new artistic horizons and shifted her focus to houses – of course, with birds still in the mix. “My house series emerged during the housing crisis when so many homes were foreclosing, I would look at the houses and skyline and I couldn’t get it out of my head.” While her subject matter has evolved over time, there is a clear intersection between the simplicity of nature and the human experience. “Nature is my biggest inspiration. It’s so fun to just sketch out new scenes and seasons. It’s calming to draw, it’s like an escape.”
For Kathleen, art is an integral part of her life and through her artistic evolution she has practiced simplifying her process. “I like to observe and be aware of what’s around me. It’s such a gift and so fun to be able to do this. I want to keep looking and drawing every day.”
Originally from California, Kathleen Westkaemper has lived and exhibited in Richmond for more than20 years. She has shown her work at Artspace, GlaveKocen Gallery, 1212 Gallery, Capital One, WRIC-TV8 Arboretum Gallery, and 43rd Street Gallery. Westkaemper's work has been selected for juried exhibitions at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Muscarelle Museum at William and Mary College, the Charles Taylor Arts Center, Mary Washington College, the Fredericksburg Center for Creative Arts, Montpelier Arts Center, Longwood College, and 1708 Gallery. She has received numerous awards of merit that include Realist Painting Award at the Virginia Artists Exhibition in Hampton and Juror’s Choice at both the Muscarelle Museum’s American Drawing Biennial and Hampton Bay Days at the Charles Taylor Arts Center. Kathleen’s work has been purchased for the collections of Capital One, Virginia Resources Authority, Harrah’s Hotel, Tumblr, and by numerous private collectors.
Westkaemper works in both printmaking and drawing. Her drawings are made with paint stick and graphite, blending and mixing the materials directly on paper. The colors are intense and textural. Her prints and drawings share the same realistic imagery.
Kathleen Westkaemper is included in E. Ashley Rooney's books, 100 Southern Artists and Artists’ Homes and Studios, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. in 2012 and 2014, respectively.