Meet Katherine Updegraff White

An artist bio by Wallace Huff, Administrative Fellow

Katherine Updegraff White, a landscape painter from Waynesburg, KY, is one of three artists-in-residence at Art Center of the Bluegrass. Katherine and her husband Barry were medical missionaries for 18 years – traveling to Canada, Togo, West Africa, & Cambodia. Returning to the states, they lived in Ohio shortly before moving to Montana to adjust to life back in the US. Looking for a place to settle, they relied on their active spiritual lives to give them guidance, which led them to Kentucky.

During her years of traveling and raising a family, Katherine did not have many opportunities to paint and wanted to reinvest in her art. As a first step, she participated in an oil painting workshop taught by Bill Fletcher at the Community Arts Center (now Art Center of the Bluegrass). Shortly after, she submitted one of her works into the Arts Center’s Horizon: Contemporary Landscape show, was accepted, and her piece sold quickly. These experiences gave her confidence in her abilities and helped her enter into the KY art community. She eventually joined the Plein Air Artists of KY, which provided further support and irreplaceable friendships. Since then, Katherine’s works have been featured in the PAACK and New Year, New Art exhibits as well as other iterations of the Horizon exhibit at the Art Center.

Katherine has been an artist as long as she can remember. She feels that the fostering of her artistic expression has benefited her life in more ways than the pieces she has produced. Her attraction to oil painting stems from her fascination with the medium. She delights in the composition of the paint and the vast color pallet available. Artists that Katherine appreciates and inspire her include Joaquin Sorolla, Carl Larsson, Charles Burchfield and many others. She has also had the pleasure of seeing works by Cézanne, Van Gogh, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and John Singer Sargent: all of which have been impactful for Katherine’s style. But, Katherine’s main sources of inspiration are her family, her faith, and her surroundings whether it be serene landscapes or the faces of strangers.

From her many years of traveling, Katherine is acutely aware of her privilege as a modern female artist in the US – women have historically been denied artistic expression around the world. Though the creative process is a joy, Kathrine finds more fulfillment in encouraging others to do art. As the latest artist in residence at the Art Center, she certainly has the venue to do so.

Katherine is currently displaying some of her landscapes in the 2nd floor hallway of the Art Center. Most of these are part of a working series of paintings that are all based on similar reference photographs. Katherine describes her work as follows: “I choose a series of five references from the same area and the same time period, preferably the same day. These are digital photographs that I’ve taken myself of places and days that I have a connection with. I plan a time-frame in which to complete the first series of sketches, usually about five days, and as consecutive as I can make them. I take as much time as needed to compose each piece and mix paint, but I limit myself to 20-30 minutes of painting time.”

“The result is five oil sketches that are direct, vibrant, and only contain the most evocative elements of the landscape as well as a sense of distance from the photographic reference. The reference becomes a step-off point to re-enter my experience in the landscape instead of the primary guide. Of the five sketches, I will choose which ones compel me to further exploration, and whether to keep the small format, or “go big” in more developed paintings.”

The group of paintings include landscapes from Kentucky, Katherine’s adopted home, Florida where she grew up, and the South Carolina Low Country where her sister lives and which has strong connections for her with both Florida and Cambodia.