Kate had a fairly idyllic childhood in a rural setting on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She drew constantly and in junior high had her first exposure to oil painting in Woods Hole, Mass, a particularly scenic, coastal town and home of the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Oceanographic Institute. Her art teacher had arranged for her and another artistic classmate to paint one day there en plein air. She spent the following summer afternoons tending the studio gallery of a lady painter in Woods Hole in exchange for oil painting lessons. Kate was enchanted by the superior skill of her teacher, Gertrude Whiting, who specialized in watercolor portrait commissions, a challenging discipline to be sure. That summer painting still-life and portraits outdoors was life-changing and confirmed Kate’s desire to be a life-long artist. Thanks to the attentions of a couple of supportive art teachers through the school years, that desire never subsided.
After high school, Kate attended a liberal arts college in Boston for a year and a lack of sufficient art courses impelled her to apply to the Museum School of Fine Arts, associated with that museum in Boston. She was accepted with scholarship just days before the new term began. It was a year of exhilaration with figure drawing, oil painting, and design.
Wanderlust struck the following year and Kate traveled to Colorado, for a season of skiing, waitressing, and drawing portraits, followed by a trip to Mexico, before returning to the Cape. She had found that she could support herself drawing portraits wherever there were tourists. She did just that for years on the Cape in different towns she lived in.
Her first marriage was to another artist from the Cape where they lived for a while before moving to New York City. There, her husband introduced her to a lovely Chinese lady, Averil Tong, who had been a professional dancer in the Chinese tradition, and offered to teach Kate how to paint in the traditional manner that her master had taught her. Kate visited Ms. Tong weekly, toting her baby daughter whom she would put down to sleep and then have a painting lesson. A cooking lesson followed on how to cook a traditional Chinese dish, which they would then share. Learning to control the flow of ink, ground by hand with an ink stick on a flat, stone well, with the proper pressure of the brush onto the rice paper, was a challenge requiring many hours of practice. Painting calligraphy is an art form of its own, and until that was mastered to some degree, she was not allowed to proceed to color, flowers, fruit, landscapes, etc. The same strokes used for calligraphy are those used for shapes in nature. Kate produced many yards of rice paper paintings, some of which she made into wall hangings. She found that the colors looked especially rich when light shone through them so she fashioned folding lampshades from some of them.
Kate continued to draw and paint through stressful years of divorce, child-custody battles, and her daughter’s prolonged hospitalizations. She and her brother had taken her daughter to New Mexico for several months to get away from her abusive husband. Again, Kate enjoyed the change in surroundings to paint and also do portraits. However, they were all extradicted back east where the litigation went on and on. She relocated to Boston for a while and then back to Cape Cod some time later with her daughter. In the town of Chatham, Kate had a large storefront one year where she drew portraits outdoors and maintained a gallery indoors. The venture was successful but the place was insufficiently heated for winter. About that time she met and married husband #2 and they moved to Marblehead, Mass. Kate had a studio in the apartment with a sign out front. She made many watercolors and drawings there as it is a pretty, waterfront town. She taught Chinese brush painting in the adult ed program there. She left a display of her work in the office of a local chiropractor who had approached her to exhibit there. When she and her husband took a trip to Maine with plans of moving there, she returned to find the chiropractor’s office empty, with no forwarding address.
Minus most of her recent work from Marblehead, the couple moved up to Blue Hill, Maine, about as pretty a town as one can imagine. The coastal beauty was stimulating for the artist and she drew and painted all the time. Her second child, a son, was born in the winter and by spring she could push his carriage to the nearest boat yard and paint while he napped. On Labor Day weekends, for many years, she rented booth space at the Blue Hill County Fair and did charcoal and pastel portraits. One year she included the t shirts she had tie-dyed and batiked. She also taught both drawing and painting in adult ed there. A trip to Haiti in the late ’70’s was another turning point. Her first husband wanted to take their daughter, Eliza, with him there. He had been there first on a Fulbright scholarship for painting and numerous other trips. Kate agreed to meet them there at the pension (guest house) where they were staying in Port au Prince. Shortly before leaving on the trip, Kate discovered she was pregnant again and decided to go anyway. Her sister-in-law traveled with her as well as her 2 year old son, Jacob. Inspired by the radical color and flora changes from New England, Kate painted numerous watercolors during the four months there. They moved from Port an Prince to Jacmel for the last few months. There she painted the many views from her balcony and gave birth to her second son, Gabriel, with the help of a competent local midwife. Gabriel was an appropriately French name since they speak French and Creole in Haiti. Upon returning to Maine, Kate and her sister- in- law opened the Laughing Lion Gallery/Cafe in a local pottery. Kate gave painting lessons in oil to local kids and they were very popular. The cafe/gallery experience was fun and fairly successful but short-lived. She exhibited and sold in local galleries and a popular restaurant there.
After a second divorce, Kate remained in Blue Hill for years to come to raise her children and moved to the big city of Portland, Maine, in the early ’90’s, when the boys were teens. Kate kept painting and showing in restaurants and cafes with sales here and there. She had acquired some commissioned work while in Blue Hill drawing people’s homes in great detail. She received more of that work in the Portland area, often bartering newspaper ad space for commercial drawings.
When her youngest child graduated from high school, Kate moved to Florida to settle her late mom’s affairs and make a new life in picturesque Saint Augustine. Before long she was drawing portraits in the Plaza of the historic district. From that location, she did many landscape sketches in ink, watercolor pencil and crayon. The subject matter for artists is endless there. When her daughter came to join her, they moved to Jacksonville for a while for more work opportunities and Kate worked mostly at nanny jobs, sketching all the children too. When a friend invited her to the Clearwater area, she worked out on the Pier there with other vendors for a season before traveling out to New Mexico, for the second time in her life, where she felt she had been rudely removed years before. She drove out of town to sketch and paint landscapes, drew portraits at fairs, worked in a restaurant, then a supermarket, a gallery, and best of all, the top of the ski mountain, selling ski school tickets. Free skiing came with the job. She was commissioned to paint a mural of a waterfall in a private home, as well as a canvas shower curtain of a golden eagle silhouette over a mountain landscape. The latter was done with airbrush. At her daughter’s urging, she returned to Florida in 2000, but not before an unforgettable round-about road trip through the four corners of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Along the way she did many sketches of the beautiful landscapes that were all so new to her….the canyons and mountains. She stayed at hostels, sometimes cleaning to cover rent, and met a lot of interesting people. She camped out in some beautiful places, visiting some of the most spectacular national and state parks.
Kate is now back living in St. Augustine in a small house which she bought in 2003. Just before that major purchase, her brother, who married a native of New Zealand and lives there with two children, sent Kate a ticket to that stunningly beautiful country and she stayed for a month. The train ride from Aukland in the north island to her brother’s family’s home in Christchurch, in the south island, was a once-in-a-lifetime voyage of sights and new acquaintances. The ferry ride across Cook’s Strait, separating the two islands, was other-worldly…..breathtaking. She drew and painted often, including portraits of her two nieces. Riding a bicycle in that country is an experience to remember…down to the hedgerows and hedgehogs.
She paints now in her porch studio and worked on a series of 12″x12″ acrylics of flowers, insects, and hummingbirds. She seeks a colorful, expressionistic result inspired by numerous trips to the Dominican Republic, where her daughter spent 8 years, Costa Rica, where one of her sisters lives, Puerto Rico, and of course, that special trip to Haiti. She is especially attracted to orchids for their beauty and weirdness. Since New Year’s Eve of 2015, she challenged herself to do a drawing or painting everyday and post it on this website and on social media. While challenging at times, she enjoyed it so much she is now doing the same thing this year, 2017, after completing 2016. She says all work is for sale as original, if still available, or print. Contact her by email at KatejMerrick@gmail.com.
Her daughter and two children settled in Fernandina Beach, which is on Amelia Island, a barrier island about as far north as you can go on Florida’s coast. Kate plans to move up there too, within the year, to be closer to her grandchildren. Son, Jacob, has a son in Maine, Kate’s youngest grandchild, where she also loves to spend as much time as possible. Each summer she stretches out the visits there as long as she can and wants ultimately to divide her time between Florida and Maine.
She accepts commissioned work for portraits (people, animals, houses, boats, etc), murals, or paintings. She has specialized in meticulous renderings of private homes in ink or in watercolor or oil. Clients often have the finished portraits reduced and printed on cards, stationery letterheads, and so forth.
Open working studios, Cape Cod & Marblehead, Mass. & Portland, Maine