Kay Stratman Artist Review


The distinctive medium of watercolor straddles between the worlds of painting and drawing. Made from pigments suspended in a water-solvable medium, watercolors can be applied to everything from paper to fabrics. The use of watercolor dates back to the earliest discoveries of man made artworks and has been a favorite medium for artists ever since. Watercolor found its importance in Western art in the 18th century in England to later influence the Impressionists. Nearly every famous painter has works done in watercolor to demonstrate their reflective styles and voices. 
Carolina Parrot 1955 John James Audubon water color painting
Parrot, 1955
John James Audubon

Landscapes in paintings has been a favorite subject matter for artist’s for thousands of years. The earliest pure landscapes are found in Greek frescos from around 1500 B.C.E. However, it was not until landscape paintings saw their beginnings in East Asian art when spiritual elements were included that drew from philosophical traditions such as Daoism. In these ink paintings, human presence was only glimpsed and the focus was entirely on the landscape. They focused on balance, harmony and the use of positive and negative space to create dreamlike landscapes that made the viewer see more that just a pretty place. These imaginary landscapes became the most prestigious form of visual art as the aesthetic theory of the region placed imagination above all else in importance.

The Western interpretation of landscape painting had new noticeable influences and major contrasts from Asian landscape paintings. Most notably was the low position landscape painting occupied in the Western art world until the 19th century. The natural world was certainly present in the art world previously, however the landscapes and natural elements always acted as secondary focuses for artists who’s primary focus was on the human influence in the landscapes they occupied. From these history focused paintings, landscape painting branched off and became its own valued artistic subject matter in the West. In the United States, the Hudson River School which was prominent in the middle to late 19th century is possibly the best-known native development in landscape art. This mid century art movement depicted American landscapes such as the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills and the Adirondack mountains. Similarly to Eastern Asian landscapes, these paintings were created to evoke an emotional response from the viewer and not to simply serve as a place for man to occupy.

Kay Stratman loves the natural world and is inspired to capture the beauty of some of America’s most wild places. Kay works in watercolor, which can be a notoriously difficult medium for landscape painting. Watercolors are fluid and by nature like to blend and bleed into one another.

This can be tricky for a landscape painting where the artists wants to created defined spaces and objects. Kay also leans heavily on the traditions of Asian landscape painting as she studied the practice of sumi-e Asian brush painting for many years. Kay paints with traditional materials and works on a shikisihi board, a gold or silver covered rice paper. Starting by painting P’o Mo, or splash ink, she starts with spontaneity as the colors are poured and they blend and bleed. Afterwards she goes in with her brush to create defined shapes and spaces. It is through this mastery that Kay connects to the historical past of landscape painting and blends it into a contemporary interpretation in her own paintings


Principals of Art:

Space: Kay creates space in her painting often through demonstrating atmospheric perspective as details and colors fade as the landscape recedes form the viewer. The mountains fade and become less defined and lighter valued as they recede into the background, creating visual space and perspective.

Color: Color plays a large roll in Kay’s landscapes to create a mood and catch the viewer’s eye. It can be hard to get deep and bold pigmentation in watercolors, yet Kay has found ways to capture vivid and strong colors. The colors in her work create a wondrous mood and speak to the pure beauty of nature. In Apres Ski Hour the warm colors of the sunset contrast against the cool landscape brilliantly.  

Shape: The shapes in Kay’s landscapes are organic, yet purposeful as she relates them to each other throughout the composition. Notice how the horizontal flowing shapes repeat in the clouds and the mountains in Apres Ski Hour.

Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. Kay gives her landscapes form through the use fo atmospheric perspective and how the mountains in the foreground are separated from the mountains in the background. This gives the viewer the impression of the dimensions found in the mountains forms.

Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a painting is to help create both dimension and a mood to a painting. Value helps Kay establish atmospheric perspective and depth. In the foreground of Apres Ski Hour the values of the mountains are much deeper than those in the background.

Texture: You can find texture in the beautiful bleeding and blending of colors in Kay’s landscapes. Although there is no physical texture, this natural occurrence creates subtle texture for the eye to notice and enjoy.

Line: The flowing line use in Apres Ski Hour repeats from the clouds into the landscape with horizontal lines that cross the composition in multiple different sections. This creates harmony throughout the different portions of the composition.

the mountains are calling and i must go original mountain landscape painting by artist kay stratman


Principals of Design:

Balance: The balance between the sky and the landscape is at the favorited three to one ratio. In Apres Ski Hour the open sky occupies the upper two thirds of the landscape while the lower third holds the landscape. The two areas counterbalance each other as the sky carries visual weight in proportion and the mountains carry visual weight in their details and depth of color.

Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. The flowing medium of watercolor creates unity as in many places the colors will blend and bleed into each other majestically. It makes the landscape and the composition feel whole and united. 

Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. Kay shows variety in detail in Apres Ski Hour which gives the eye places to get lost in, and also places to wonder through. The variety in color also adds visual interest and beauty.

Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. In Apres Ski Hour, the brilliant colors in the sky capture the eye and act as the painting’s focal point.

Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. The clouds in Apres Ski Hour provide the painting movement as they seem to race across the sky.

Snow Squall on Quandary Peak original painting by artist Kay Stratman
Snow Squall on Quandary Peak
Kay Stratman

Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. There is a pattern in the horizontal lines and shapes in Apres Ski Hour from the clouds in the sky to the mountains below.

Perspective: Perspective is what creates a three dimensional painting vs a two dimensional painting. In Apres Ski Hour the viewer seems to be viewing the sunset from a distant hillside. As the mountains receded into the background, they become less defined and detailed, just as they would in nature.


Kay paints in the ancient Chinese tradition of P’o Mo, or splash ink. She uses traditional materials such as bamboo-handled brushes, ink and watercolor on absorbent rice paper or the gold/silver colored shikisihi board. To achieve the strong vivid colors, Kay pours thickened watercolor onto the surface and allows it to naturally blend and bleed. Once dry, Kay adds details and shapes with her expert brush work. Although it may appear spontaneous, Kay’s chosen medium for her landscapes requires deep mastery from many years of practice.