Talking process with my sister Kate

“Approach everything as an experiment, not a masterpiece.” That’s my younger sister Kate’s advice. And she’s taken her own advice over the past seven years as she’s transitioned her career as a landscape architect to that of a pastel painter.

Much of her work is, not surprisingly, about landscape. Her plein air paintings of the vineyards and soggy bottomlands, the fields and hills around her home near Corvallis, Oregon, are a result of many, many hours outdoors, catching a certain light on her subjects.

But recently she gave herself a still-life assignment: paint a weekly bouquet of flowers before they were past their prime. “You have to let yourself give it a try,” she said. “Not all results are successful.” Here are some that worked.


Bouquet #5


Flowers for Jane


Sunflowers for Jane. Juried entry in the Northwest Pastel Society National Show this May at The American Art Company Gallery in Tacoma.

I remember reading in Art and Fear about a pottery instructor who let his students chose how they wanted to be graded: either by their best single pot or by the weight of all the pots they created that semester. It turned out the best pots were thrown by the group who were graded on poundage. You have to create lots of work to get to the good stuff. That’s what Kate is doing.

Most writers I know have had that experience of the gift story – a text that seems to be born whole, dropped into their laps. But I don’t know anyone to whom this has happened who hasn’t been working at writing daily.

Looking ahead, Kate plans to turn her eye and hand to painting architecture, specifically the lumber mills in her part of the world. She expects it might take three weeks of concentrated work before she has anything she feels is successful. Recognizing that makes it easier to get started.

p.s. you can see more of Kate McGee’s work at:


7 responses to “Talking process with my sister Kate

  1. Sarah Lamstein

    Lovely, Laura. Thank you!

  2. Laura,
    Sounds like you are having a vacation of renewal. Thank you for sharing your love of art with me and others. Learning how others over come their fears and just play and enjoy without the worry of creating a master piece! See you soon. Linda

  3. Laura,
    It’s clear to see artistic talent runs in your family. Wow! What a gift.

  4. Thanks for sharing Kate’s new work in pastel florals, Laura! (Such a timely posting, as I, too, am just starting to experiment with pastels on colored papers, so I really appreciate seeing these bright arrangements.) But what seems amazing to me is that we inherited from my mother a silver(plated?) flower pitcher very similar to the one that Kate painted, but the lid probably broke off and was mislaid! It makes remember all the tall arrangements, including cattails and pussywillows, my mother placed in it for us so many years.

  5. I love those wild bright bouquets Katie. I am so blessed to have three such talented sisters!
    I like the idea of poundage instead of one single pot, but am I ever a single pot artist. I’m wondering the best way for a novelist to go fast. Try to write a novel in a month? Or produce 20 pages a day? Or write eight different first chapters and choose a favorite? A complete novel in a year? I wish there was a way to write a novel in a day. Wouldn’t that be a kick?

  6. Reblogged this on kate mcgee art and commented:
    My sis is making me famous!

  7. Beautiful post and amazing work by your sister.
    Be it a blogger,writer,photographer or any skill for that matter – it takes time,and usually more failures before the sweet taste of success.
    Love your blog.

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