I first saw Kathleen Howsare’s acrylic on canvas paintings at a pop-up art show in Leesburg, VA exhibiting several Loudoun County painters. Her artwork included Winter Sunrise, a stunning image of Pearl Farm in Northern Loudoun County which left me feeling homesick for days on my grandparent’s winter garden farm. That feeling was the painting talking to me, transferring the energy and emotion that Kathy originally invested in the painting; sincerity, authenticity and a wistful love for unheralded beauty.
Ms. Howsare paints images of the land and inhabitants of western and far north Loudoun County. The area includes the Blueridge, farmlands, Goose Creek and tributaries of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The images are of remote natural places that few ever see in person and the paintings help the viewer feel present in a wonderous place. She paints in nature and from photos about the four seasons, magical mixes of shadow, reflection and the moods created when warmth grows cold and darkness turns to light.
Water is the most commonly represented element. But these are not images of the large, open lakes or the ocean. There are no trite sail boats or beach combers. Instead, Kathy’s characters are trees, trails, creek beds, rivulets and snow melt seeping through fallen stone. Her painting, Potomac inlet at Brunswick of a mostly frozen winter morning shows us the glorious transition from the inlet to a glassy half-mile wide water way to the bluish-purple shadows on the hills rising to meet a hazy yellow dawn sky. The inlet’s frozen but flowing constitution reminds us that nature is in constant transition from one state to something else.
Ms. Howsare’s landscapes and riverscapes are unusually intimate in that we feel gently swaddled in her dense foliage. She paints large old trees reaching out to embrace us. Her painting of a Grove of Gingko trees in full yellow bloom remind us of the strength and comfort we feel when in the company of friends. She is a skilled colorist, deftly working with orange and turquoise, violet and yellow, pink and lime with a subtlety similar to vocal harmony. Kathy’s compositions consume the canvas space in the same way our eyes are filled with trees while in the forest.
Kathleen Howsare acquired a BA in art from Mary Washington College and an MFA in painting from American University. Her work has been widely shown in festivals, galleries, group shows and non-traditional spaces in northern Virginia. Her June 2019 exhibit at Tryst Gallery in Leesburg showed more than 15 of her most recent paintings. She acknowledges that her work is influenced by the French Impressionists and it would be true to say that she is an American Impressionist. Education, achievement and influences help us understand how Kathleen Howsare came to the task of painting but it can not explain the feeling you will experience in the presence of her finished works. The German word for that feeling is “Waldeinsamkeit”. There is no English translation. The closest we have is the phrase “Alone in the woods. At one with the universe.”