BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
March 4, 2014
Kay Parsons didn’t wait for me to find my way to her front door.
At the sound of my car pulling in, she charged up the walk and met me at her garden gate, a shy smile on her face. “Oh, the garden looks awful in the winter,” she said, as I commented on its beauty. “It’s really a high summer garden.” But the bones were all there, full of promise.
“Come on inside,” she said. “Can I get you some tea? Oh, and by the way, I’m not a housekeeper.”
Cup in hand, Parsons led me upstairs to her studio, a light-filled, cozy loft. She explained that her art was really about her garden—about growing things.
I asked if she was a landscape designer and she demurred, “I have landscape enthusiasm!” Her work reflects that. Her sumptuous watercolors of peonies, dahlias and, most recently, cabbages are enormous, colorful, textured and lush.
“This one’s not quite done,” she said, as I gazed, rapt, at a peony blossom the size of a large beach ball. “It’s got a ways to go yet.”
Then she took the covering off her latest creation—a huge ornamental cabbage. “I really like the texture on the paper,” she said, as we both bent down for a closer look. “See that?” The intricate colors danced, ready to push off the paper.
Parsons has always been growing things. She was born in South Korea and was adopted, as a young child, to parents who lived in the South. She spent her childhood in Georgia and Alabama.
“I grew up around farmers, people working the land,” she said. “I would grow things in my grandma’s garden. She was into compost way before it was the thing.”
“My grandma had gardened through the depression and knew how to plant by the moon,” she added. “I don’t pay enough attention to do that, but gardening is in my bones.”
Parsons does sketches and takes photos of her subjects—flowers, foliage or the wayward moth. She then retreats to her studio to paint. “I only paint in my studio,” she said. “I am completely comfortable saying that I do not paint plein air.”
She is a guiding force of the Whidbey Working Artists Studio Tour and is very excited about this weekend’s spring event, Friday-Sunday, March 7-9.
“It really gives people an opportunity to understand artists as a whole when you can see them in their work space,” she said. “Having the experience of being there creates energy and adds value to the art. It puts the work in context.”
Parsons will be participating in WWA’s tour from the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville. “I wait until the Summer Tour to open up the studio,” she said.
“When the garden is beautiful.”
Kay’s paintings are featured in our Virtual Gallery show this month.
Visit the website for Whidbey Working Artists Studio Tour to get a Tour brochure.
(photo at the top: Kay, in front of her home and garden/photo by Penny Webb)
Penny Webb is a writer, mother, gardener and musician. She is currently working on getting her kids to bed.
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