A Brush with Kate: Diving Headlong into Watercolors
In a way, I can thank Style.com for meeting Kate Schelter ten years ago, in the busy streets of New York.
I remember running around from one place to the next, when this tall, beautiful blond girl stopped me and asked to take a picture of what I was wearing.
We began to talk. While being a stylist and creative director, Kate was one of the original photographers for Style.com’s street-style category. Kate’s vibrant and positive personality caught me right away, and we completely clicked! She has been a co-worker, close friend, and even like family ever since!
Kate recently gave birth to her beautiful daughter Charlotte, and it was during her pregnancy that I first found out about her charming watercolor series. When I asked her about how she started painting, she told me that being a stylist and a creative director, she always painted when she traveled. She never made the time or felt inspired in NYC until Julia Chaplin asked her to illustrate her book Gypset Travel. This was followed by Julia Restoin Roitfeld’s request for her to contribute illustrations to her Web site, Romy and the Bunnies, so Kate started painting daily, a wonderful discipline. Now her paints and paper are always out and ready.
Kate’s fashion work has heavily influenced her paintings. Just like in styling, her subject matter is curated based on her personal taste; she paints what she loves. On a holiday, she sometimes paints the contents of her suitcase, cataloging each item she packs—no matter how absurd or mundane—as well as the local flora and fauna. Her work is grouped and contextualized by the location where it was painted: Mexico, Cape Cod, Harbour Island, the Amalfi Coast, and her own house. When she likes an object, she studies it with anywhere from seven to seventy-five paintings, as watercolor is subject to a certain element of chance that makes each painting slightly different, depending on how the water bleeds and dries on the page. She works quickly on multiple paintings at once, keeping her brush moving as she impatiently waits for the paint to dry.
Mixing her colors from primaries (she never uses black or white), she utilizes limited palettes of colors that she learned from studying her heroes: Bonnard, Matisse—all the Impressionists. In fashion, she is drawn to vibrant prints and bold colors (Yves Saint Laurent is her favorite), and I think she is attracted to the same strong colors and graphic qualities in her work, but with the softer touch that watercolor allows.
Kate posts works in progress on Instagram @KateSchelter (#KatesWatercolors). She has to feed her ’Grammers! Social media and the Internet is saturated with polished photographs, so her hand-painted brushstrokes stand out. Something imperfect, unretouched, and very real.
Photos: Courtesy of Kate Schelter