Kathi Peters has a gift. Not only is she able to recognize beauty in many forms, but she is also able to share her unique vision of the world around her with others in several artistic mediums. Whether it is horses, her garden, the Maine landscape, or a combination of all, she can capture a moment, a detail, a vista. We see the world through her eyes, and it’s a beautiful world.

From her statement on her website: From the sanctuary of our small Maine farm to the hotbed of horse country in Lexington, Kentucky, I have found subjects that inspire me to paint them. Light and shadow call out to be put on canvas. I move from realism to abstraction, mixing the two…..I see color, edges, movement and design everywhere I look. I need to paint them. My written word might be limited now, but my visual vocabulary is unlimited.

Kathi Peters has been a horsewoman all her life. She began riding at age 3 and always had a horse in her life except for a brief time when boys captured her interest.

Kathi grew up in Italy ¬– the perfect place to nurture her natural artistic talent. As a child, she began working with tempera and casein ¬– a medium not commonly used today. For her college education, she attended the Academie delle Belle Arti in Rome, Italy, and studied fashion illustration and commercial art.

While in Rome, she met her soon-to-be husband, Les Peters. They met in a Roman nightclub. Les was the attraction singer for a rock band, and Kathi was a stringer for an American newspaper covering the teen night scene in Rome. “Those were the days! Who would have thought then that the long-haired rocker would become the man who today loves driving his horses and introducing folks to the joy of carriage driving.” They married and had a son while living in Italy.

They moved back to Maine and bought a small farm in Pownal and raised their two sons. Les had yet to learn about her other passion – horses. She would go off riding on her horse, leaving Les home alone. So Les started riding, and that led to driving, and Les became hooked on that. They moved to their Cob Cottage in Morrill, Maine, 14 years ago so they could be closer to Acadia and the 57 miles of carriage roads.

Currently Kathi and Les have a pair of chestnut Morgans. They came into their lives at a time when they were thinking of getting out of horses, but fate had another plan. They do not compete, they drive solely for pleasure, and much of that driving is done at Acadia National Park. How wonderful it is to live just 90 minutes away from arguably the most spectacular place to drive in the United States. The Peters realize that they are very “blessed” to have that opportunity.

For several years, Les drove the draft horses that were part of the Wildwood Stables carriage tours, sharing the beauty of Acadia with tourists who would otherwise never see some of the beautiful vistas the Carriage Roads offer.

Before the Morgans, the Kathi was given a pair of Welsh Cobs by Stacy Lloyd’s widow, Lloyd was the original publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine and drove a four-in-hand. Kathi groomed for the Lloyds each summer up at Acadia. Lloyd drove a four-in-hand of Cobs at Acadia and became acquainted with the Peters; upon his death, he left them the pair of Cobs that the Peters enjoyed driving for many years. After Lloyd’s death, Mrs. Lloyd gave the Cob mares to Kathi as she knew that Stacy wanted her to have them.

Kathi works daily when she isn’t driving at Acadia, in her studio on their farm. "Most of the year I paint every day. My mornings are spent doing office work, then barn chores and then the afternoons are spent painting. I usually have two works in the process of being done at one time, and I go back and forth between them." She says she can't go more than a few days without painting. "I have to paint or draw, or else Les tells me I get grumpy.”

She likes working with a paint called ‘casein,' a milk-based paint that is not often used by artists today. “When I started back into painting, after we moved to Maine, I was working in watercolor mostly, then when I found I could actually get casein in the USA, I was happy to get back into the great earth colors that casein is known for and what attracts me to it.” Casein was used by the old masters but was almost forgotten when acrylic paint became available. Kathi likes it because it has a finish that doesn’t deteriorate; casein paintings have been found painted by the ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. “It is a difficult paint medium to work with, but after years of working in it, I am more than comfortable with it.” If she does apply a coat of varnish, the painting achieves the look of an oil painting.

Kathi also works in watercolor, oil on copper substrate and canvas, and mixed media.

From looking at the work she posts on Facebook and her website, one would imagine her to be a very prolific painter. "I am a slow painter. I'm not an artist who can whip out a painting in a few hours. I have produced a lot of small works in the past and fewer large ones. I might produce 30-40 works in a year. That is work I let the world see! There might be many that I scrap or paint over."

Paper-cutting is another art form that she loved and developed a remarkable talent for. She was inspired by the work of Ugo Mochi when she was in Italy. "I was drawn to his work which showed such movement and depth when only done in one color; all cut from black paper…. For a time I enjoyed figuring out how I would approach a three-dimensional scene when using only one color paper. Figuring out the depth and how to portray it.”

Movement and design are what inspire Kathi. “Light and shadow create movement. Design is everywhere: the body of a horse, a sedentary person, a running dog, a flower blowing in the breeze, the ocean pounding on Maine’s rocky coast. Everywhere I look I see design and it all inspires me.” Horses have always been a big part of her life and provide her main subject matter.

When asked what style of artist she would call herself, her thoughtful answer is “a contemporary impressionist.” She has always had a leaning toward Impressionism, and some have called her work contemporary realism. “All I know is that I am driven to paint, moving from one medium to the next, with the need to create.”

“I get an idea or see something in life or in a photo that I have taken that tells me “Paint Me!” I always do studies or sketches first and then transfer that to the substrate that I want to paint on – canvas, paper, copper panel.”

Kathi has been doing a lot of drawing recently and has been selling her charcoal or pencil sketches and drawings. "I guess I would tell any aspiring artist to draw, draw, draw. Painting is fine, but drawing hones your skill and your ability to capture your image – to be able actually to see. And drawing, working in grays and whites helps you develop an eye for values, capturing light and shadow. Until you understand that, you can't really work in paint correctly."

“I haven’t found a horse who wants to stand still long enough for me to paint them,” she says when asked if she paints from photographs or live subjects, so she does work from photographs. “But I love painting my flowers in my garden as they stand – plein-aire.”

In 2006 Kathi suffered an ischemic stroke. For many, this would be the end of a flourishing career, but strokes affect people in different ways. Back on the farm, she managed to go to the barn every day, using the pitchfork to help keep her balance. One of her physical therapists had her doing “silly” exercises, but Kathi knew she could get more exercise in the barn. A stroke of good luck came with her occupational therapist who was also an equestrian.

“She told me ‘Get your cane we’re going down to the barn.’ I couldn’t walk very well yet.” They put one of the horses on the cross-ties. “She wanted me to brush the horses, breathe into their nostrils. ‘Put your hands all over them ¬– this is going to be your healing.” And it was.

Kathi says after the stroke, she was driven to create. “I had to prove to myself – and the world – that I still could paint and would continue to paint." It's been ten years since the stroke, almost to the day of the writing of this article. "I think now that I am finally getting my life back. I can do everything I used to do, except enjoy writing. The stroke left me with aphasia. It is a mild aphasia, but speaking is tiring for me and writing is hard."

The stroke damaged a large part of the left side of her brain, affecting the right side of her body. "But I am painting now with the right side of my brain. I see colors more vividly, and my work is looser than it used to before the stroke."

“It is amazing how the brain can recuperate." She lost some of her speech, but not the ability to read. Interestingly, she can read numbers but can’t get them to come out correctly when she tries to speak them.

Her favorite artists are “ones who show their soul with each brush stroke.” She loves Sir Alfred James Munnings who really knew the horse. “Lucy Kemp-Welch, another masterful painter of horses….I was mesmerized by her work in the story of Black Beauty when I was a child. Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s work influenced my sense of design and composition. All the Wyeths inspire me.”

Kathi is a member of many art academies and societies. Her work is hanging in collections throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. It has been displayed in exhibits such as the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, The Wildlife Experience Museum in Parker, Colorado, and the Salmagundi Club in New York, New York. She has also had several one-person shows in the galleries where her work is represented.

She does accept some commission work but is trying to use her time in her studio to create a strong body of original work.

“I paint what I love, and hope that others will connect with it.”

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Driving Digest Magazine
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