Artist Story – Katharine Gates of Katharine’s Vault

Inspired by the past and hopeful about the future Katharine Gates took a leap in 2015 to make art her full-time career. Recently, Katharine began creating live paintings at weddings and events. Salt Mystic was lucky enough to have her at our store opening for her very first live painting. From there, her talent and creativity took off. Katharine’s art career is her passion as well as her job. Join us as we tell a beautiful and inspiring artist’s story that will surely have your creative mind flowing and your brushes ready for the canvas.

katharine gate's artist story

I decided to make a full-time career out of art in the spring of 2015. I was playing with the idea of opening my own studio space where I could also sell my own work. I looked up vacancies at the Velvet Mill, took a tour, and moved in the following Monday with all of my supplies–which were previously between my basement and dining room. I moved into the crisp white studio with enormous windows and wooden floors. It was the south facing light that drips from the windows that sold me. I saw potential to make a viable income between retail, a space to teach, and place to grow local clientele. I chose to name this whimsical place “Katharine’s Vault”.

The past inspires me. I often get lost in thought contemplating what was before.

I am drawn to reminders of time gone by which are all around us living in New England; tight streets, old buildings, quaint farms. Most of my landscapes and cityscapes are void of people or anything modern. I leave out power lines and cars. I enjoy painting people, but typically not when I am recording a place I find inspiring. I do not want the viewer to be distracted by their modern context. What also inspires me is people. I find that one constant throughout time is human emotion and it is something that connects us directly to the past. People hundreds of years ago were falling in love, fighting, laughing, and feeling things just as we are now. That is why I enjoy painting live events- I get to record a moment in time filled with human emotion.



Live painting brings me so much joy and I look forward to each one I book. The most common live paintings I do are at weddings. I will paint a first dance, ceremony, or cocktail hour. I start by painting in the overall layout and scene, and then start filling in the people as I see them. I take reference photos of important details which I paint from as well. This process becomes such a draw and point of interest for guests. They get to see the evolution of the painting throughout the night, and the couple gets to take home a piece of art to cherish for years to come.

I never feel intimidated painting on the spot. There is no time I feel more confident in myself than when I have a brush in my hand. It is thrilling to start a live painting, and I love the freedom and looseness that comes with being at an event.



I am always striving to get better and always welcome any advice. I either implement it, or will be more steadfast in why I did something the way I did. Even If the criticism comes from someone walking around the vault I do not get offended. Everyone has their own relationship with art and what they are drawn to, which is shaped by how they respond to color and subject matter.


I think the best advice to an aspiring artist is simply to be open.

You never know what opportunity will come or what will follow a first job or connection. I never knew about live paintings until I was asked if I could do one. The answer is YES. Saying yes to opportunities and maintaining an openness to trying new things  is so important. Additionally, being professional and prompt in responding to inquiries as well as being organized is necessary. Combining a business mentality with your creative spirit pays off.

salt-artist-story01I stay motivated by treating my art like a job and striving to become a better painter. For me, painting is not just a passion but it is a career. That comes with deadlines although it may not sound very artsy and romantic. The more time you put in and set hours for yourself, the more you accomplish, and the better you get. You have to put in studio time to grow as an artist. Also- there is nothing more motivating than taking a trip to the MET. Right when you think you can paint a hand just go look at a Sargent painting– talk about motivation to improve!


I hope my work evolves to better connect my ideas and experiences with a greater technical skill. I strive to accomplish this with studio time, evolving personally, and hoping to get back into a class!

There is nothing like being around other talented people to evolve in your own work.

As this article was written Katharine was pregnant, and now she has a gorgeous baby girl, Bella! When you read this she is probably cozied up in her new home vault studio with her little bundle and canvas.

Keep up with her and Bella on instagram! Photos by Maggie Conley Photography

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