The real work began when the day job stopped, recalls Kathleen Wildermuth.
In 2001, the artist retired from teaching art for more than 30 years at the private Lakeside School in Seattle. In 2003, she and her husband, John Jamison, came to stay in Walla Walla.
Here, Wildermuth has allowed her native style to flourish in a natural fashion, she said. "I paint for the same reason other people do puzzles - it's a way of making my brain work, of thinking about things."
Her creativity is rooted in her childhood, the artist suspects. "In my family, the phrase, ‘Let's make something,' was often said. My mother said it the most and always had a project going on the dining room table.
"Making something was a way of being a member of my family."
Wildermuth treats her art with the same intimate and comfortable affection now, it appears.
The artist statement on her Web site lacks the ethereal vanity of many online galleries. She declines to dress up her art in emotional verbiage and simply shows her work to other people without trying to define or compare it, she said.
"People who buy my art like the colors and also what they are able to see; the fruits, the vegetables, the birds, the flowers. It's easy to like those subjects; people find them attractive."
First glance at a Wildermuth watercolor piece tends to give the viewer a sense of structure and geometry. Subjects are framed with any number and variety of rectangles that, on closer examination, sharpen into windowpanes or branches or garden rows. All within a mix of vivid and subtle hues.
"Looking for subject matter led me to my travels and the cultural and natural aspects of my destinations. I have spent time in both New and old Mexico, Spain, Guatemala and most recently Costa Rica," Wildermuth said.
"The warm climate, bright color and striking customs of these places make me want to paint."
Several components of the life and culture of Latin America and the American Southwest pique her interest, including the religious iconography of the Mexicos - the devotional charms called "milagros" in the form of arms, legs, animals, servants and houses that are sold outside the churches especially at festival times. She is also inspired by tropical and desert vegetation and birds of the tropics and other regions "with their flashy colors," Wildermuth said.
Just as attractive to her eye are the intense colors of the folk arts and crafts of those localities, she added. "I find pattern and geometry equally compelling."
Using those allows a way to structure and organize her compositions. In addition she said, "I hope that both humor and a bit of the unexpected find their way into my work."
Some viewers do search for symbolism inside her gardens of birds and plants, but Wildermuth has no big message to send, she said. "It's the pleasure of making paint move over paper and filling space, seeing subject matter become first a line drawing and then an area of colors … it's really a matter of pattern and color for me."
An exhibit of Wildermuth's work, titled "Sense of Place: Near and Far," is scheduled to open in April 2 at Willow's loft gallery, 2 E. Rose St. It will run through May and a reception for the artist is planned for 5-8 p.m. April 2.
For more information visit studiorios.com.