If you’ve spotted an artist behind an easel on Ballymoney beach, there’s a good chance it’s Kate Kos working on one of her watercolours. “I love painting Ballymoney, because the light, the sea, the scenery is different every time. I know it so well, I can even paint it from memory!”
Born in Poland, Kate has lived in North Wexford since 2004. “I came to work at Kilmurry Nursery for a summer and stayed there for eight years,” says Kate, adding that she loved working with owners Paul and Orla Woods. Back surgery put paid to the day job and Kate turned to her first love, painting.
Today, she’s an accomplished painter, with her bold, fresh watercolours held in private collections around the world. She’s also amassed some impressive awards, including a Bronze Award in Art in the Open 2018, Silver in Art in the Open in 2015, and first prize in Artfest in Gorey in 2013.
With flowers one of her favourite subjects, Kate joined the Art in the Open initiative to meet other artists. “You paint in particular locations and, when I tried it in Ballymoney, I loved it. It gives you a vocabulary to work with – painting is a totally different language and it’s wonderful to still be learning how to create mood, how colours work together, how light works.”
Plein air – painting outdoors – is also a great way to meet people, some of whom end up in the paintings! “People come up to chat, and kids ask about the colours I’m using. People love to compare the painting to the landscape they can see. And, with people on the beach, that can be challenging as they move around, but it’s interesting to observe how the light catches their skin!”
Never one to shy away from an artistic challenge, Kate has expanded her collection to include acrylic. “Watercolour is the hardest medium to work in as there is no white colour but the art is fluid and fresh. I love the transparency and of acrylic and the intense colours it produces.”
At the moment, she is working on a series of sketches of Gorey’s town features. And, she’s finding huge favour with her series of children running through the fields. “My own daughter is at the stage where she doesn’t want my company anymore! So, I started this series as a way of capturing the freedom I had in my own childhood in the countryside in Poland and to remember the times my daughter and I had as well. People are connecting to the work and to the nostalgia of them.”
With a recognisable style, Kate will be giving a watercolour demonstration at the Gorey Art Collective Open Night for Culture Night in their new studio space in Trillium House, St Michael’s place, on September 21.
It’s been a wonderful journey so far for the woman who prefers to be called a ‘painter’ and who started out with a set of watercolour paints bought in a local supermarket!
Interview and Kate Kos photos: Deirdre O’Flynn