Sometimes a Painter Has to be Quiet to Make a Scene

Kate Thayer textures her paintings to suggest a 3D quality.
Portrait by Paul Stebner

Landscape painter Kate Thayer doesn’t just recognize earth tones. “All colors are in nature if we really see,” she says. But that kind of deep looking can usually only be done solo. The mountains, forests, and rivers of Western North Carolina form the collective muse for Thayer’s work. “Walking in the snow, rain, or sun-filled woods recharges me,” she says. Later, “creating something with my hands that can be shown to others is a way of giving back what nature has given me … and the process provides me with a connection to the natural world.”


When she goes to recreate these scenes, she does so in her Flat Rock home studio “alone and quiet.” She works from photos she takes; however, contemplation is still key to a successful canvas. “Remembering the sensations I felt while being at the area in the photos brings energy to the work,” says Thayer.

As a young child, she visited the home of an uncle who had just passed away. “His paintings were all around,” she recalls. She was given her uncle’s black doctor’s bag, filled with paints and brushes. “The things in that bag began my interest in drawing and painting … the bag stayed with me for many years.”

Top: Rustic Season, Bottom Left: Watching the Splay, Bottom Right: Stream Dreams

She started painting watercolors and doing life drawing in charcoal, pastel, and later oil. Her works today are often a combination of mediums. Many of her pastel paintings are done on white sanded paper, with grit that holds the dry layers. In her newest series, she applies a pastel medium that produces lines and smears. Once that’s dried, she uses a watercolor wash of mingled colors that’s allowed to drip down the paper, showing through in the final work. Then comes cold wax and more pastel, dry this time.

Thayer says these layers add an element of mystery and depth. She uses palette knives and her own fingers on her oil-on-linen paintings, aiming to replicate textures seen in nature. The three-dimensional quality enables viewers to sense, as well as see, the scene.

“The world is full of exhilarating wonders,” she says. “I want to bring to life what adds to life.” Just like every natural cycle in the universe, though, “a painting is never finished, and there’s always another [one] to start.”


Kate Thayer, Flat Rock, studio visits by appointment. Thayer is represented by Asheville Gallery of Art (82 Patton Ave.), Seven Sisters Gallery in Black Mountain (117 Cherry St.), and The Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy.). For more information, visit

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