For the month of July, the main gallery at the Kenai Fine Arts center is filled with 31 pieces of vibrant, acrylic covered canvases. The collection is the culmination of Kaitlin Vadla’s three-year affair with the malleable art form.
From flowing glaciers, to salmon runs and the underbelly of an octopus, regional wildlife and landscapes fill the borders of the paintings.
“I really fell in love with pushing color around,” Vadla said. “I love pushing paint around a canvas.”
It all began with an art class at Kenai Peninsula College three years ago, Vadla said. After an knee-injury limited her mobility, she said she needed an activity to keep her upbeat.
Vadla said her style has evolved over the years. Her paint strokes have gone from meticulous to simple. She gave up using brushes and now only uses a palette knife, which she likens to a construction worker spreading concrete.
Up close her paintings look like a mess, but far away is still portrays the reality of the subject, Vadla said.
Many pieces in the collection were painted completely differently. In the square piece titled “Invisible,” which features a massive octopus, she applied cooking oil and salt to the surface of the stretched canvas. In the long, narrow, vertical painting called “Glazed Still-life,” she piled hundreds of thin, almost see-through layers of paint to create the rich hued final image of gourds and glass bottles.
Currently the fine arts center is looking to provide showcase space for younger artists, who’ve had little exposure, Vadla said. After receiving encouragement from friends in the local art community she applied for the spot.
The display includes artwork that took anywhere from two hours to two years to complete, Vadla said. In the far left corner from the doorway is a light-blue toned vertically oriented piece with a large sale boat in the middle right.
Vadla said it started as something completely different, and she decided to finish it for the exhibition. Sometimes having a deadline is a good push to finish pieces, she said.
It is the third time her work has been displayed publically on the Central Kenai Peninsula. Previously it has been hung at Veronicas Coffee House and Kaladi Brothers Coffee, she said.
On Thursday, Vadla volunteered at the fine arts center, something she does about once a month. That morning she said she almost left the house in her fishing gear, but her mother, Penny Vadla stopped her and made her change into a brown floral dress, she said.
“I almost made it,” Vadla said. “My mother is so supportive, she’s amazing.”
Vadla said her entire family helped put together the showcase. She said it was something she couldn’t have pulled off.
Vadla said there is a small barrier to entry with art. Materials can vary in price range, and certainly taking classes will help with learning perspective, lighting and proportions.
“It teaches you a complete different way of looking at the world,” Vadla said. “When you look at a cloud instead of thinking that’s white, you realize it has purples and grays in it too.”