It’s hard for anyone to make a living as a full-time artist, much less someone with a background in business and marketing. But that’s what Gig Harbor’s Kate Larsson has done, in her flourishing second career as a watercolor painter.
She worked as a sales representative with Xerox for 28 years, and toward the end of her time there was “on the hunt to find out more about my creative side,” Larsson said. She tried a few different art classes, including quilting and stained glass, before finding a class on watercolors.
“I just knew that was what I’d been looking for,” she said.
This was 15 years ago, and Larsson was soon painting two or three hours every day. A few years later, her work was accepted into several galleries and she entered into local art festivals. A few years after that, she left Xerox to devote herself full-time to her new career.
Now, Larsson is not only a member of Gig Harbor’s cooperative Gallery Row, nor just the official poster artist for this year’s Gig Harbor Garden Tour. She also sells her art at 197 locations nationwide, in retail shops and garden stores, as well as through wholesalers in the United States and Canada. Larsson participates in about 20 art festivals each year, including the Gig Harbor Summer Arts Festival, and has work featured in several galleries around the region.
“It’s really fabulous to be able to make a career at something you love,” she said.
Larsson said that she was immediately attracted to the style of watercolor paintings.
“I love the fluidity of it – the way the colors can merge and come together. It’s always unexpected, to see the way everything works,” she said.
Watercolors can blend in surprising ways, Larsson said, which makes each of her painting a bit of an unknown, even though she works from photographs and sketches. Watercolors can also be altered to create different pigments and textures, by adding bleach, salt or other items to change the flow and look of the colors.
“It’s really a reactive medium, so it’s such a fun one to work with,” she said.
Larsson estimated that 60 percent of her paintings include flowers, a natural subject for a painter primarily focused on colors. As such, she’s often drawn to events, such as the Garden Tour, that highlight this aspect of art – Larsson was the poster artists for last year’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, as well as for this year’s Edmonds Fine Art Festival.
“I think doing posters is a really good way of becoming visible,” she said. As a former marketing professional, Larsson said she feels comfortable in promoting her own work, whether selling to a wholesaler or putting her paintings on posters. She said working as the main artist in this year’s Garden Tour was an easy call. “I really like to participate in anything that has to do with Gig Harbor. I like to have my presence felt where I live, to support the community,” she said. Larsson will donate the original of her poster painting to the tour, which benefits the Adult Basic Literacy Program at Tacoma Community College.
Over a decade into her new and successful career, Larsson said her excitement has not diminished.
“That first time I put some color down on a sheet of paper, it’s still really exciting for me,” she said. “I still get a thrill.”