Finding her stroke


Nationally recognized oil painter Kim Casebeer stands beside her piece ?Nature?s Pageantry,? which she was completing for her one-person show ?From the Ground Up.? The exhibit will open Aug. 22 at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan. The location for the painting is the road from Cotton?wood Falls to Chase County State Fishing Lake. ?It?s a view that I?ve seen many times that I like a lot,? she said.

For some talented artists, the professional world of fine art painters remains illusive and beyond their reach.

But for a few, dogged determination, a single-focus and lots of hard work enable them to support themselves by selling their paintings.

Kim Casebeer of Lenexa is one artist who has attained national recognition and makes her living as a landscape painter.

Casebeer, the daughter of Lloyd and Marlene Voth, grew up on a farm near Goessel.

Recently, Casebeer?s work caught the attention of Brian Stucky, who teaches art in the Goessel schools, when her paintings were exhibited at the Newton Carriage Factory Gallery and were part of ?Homage to the Flint Hills,? a three-year traveling exhibit.

?I thought, ?Boy, she?s really doing some nice work?a real good touch for light and nature,?? said Stucky, who remembered her as a student. ?I recognized that she is probably one of the top up-and-coming artists in the state of Kansas.?

Stucky invited Casebeer to the area to give a presentation at a league art contest about how one makes a living as an artist.

?She did a fantastic job,? Stucky said. ?She?s really doing it the right way. I just think she?s got a great sensitivity for her subject matter, but I also think she understands people.

?I?m just real proud a kid from Goessel has gone that far. It makes you feel good.?

A visit last week to Case?beer?s home studio in Lenexa confirmed Stucky?s assessment. Near the doorway stood her easel with a large painting of a Flint Hills scene, a piece she was finishing for her one-person show, ?From the Ground Up,? opening Aug. 22 at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan.

?I think growing up on the farm definitely led me in the direction of landscapes,? Casebeer said. ?If I had been a city girl, I might not have had that tendency to want to be outside. It?s a very calming feeling for me to be outside and painting. I enjoy that.?

At the upcoming Strecker-Nelson show, Casebeer will exhibit 40 paintings, both small and large.

?All of my bigger pieces have a study,? Casebeer said.

The show, her third at Strecker, will focus on the painting studies she?s done outdoors for the larger ones she has then completed in her studio.

?I use the term ?studies? because they?re not necessarily finished,? she said about the smaller paintings.

The Strecker-Nelson is only one of several galleries that sell Casebeer?s paintings. In July, she was part of a group show at Galleries West Fine Art in Jackson, Wyo., and in December 2007 she exhibited her work at Rive Gauche Art Gallery Show in Scottsdale, Ariz. Other galleries with her pieces are located in Kansas City, Mo., Santa Fe, N.M. and DePoe Bay, Ore.

?I try to make them mostly new pieces,? Casebeer said about her shows at galleries. ?It works best for me and the galleries if I make new pieces because then everybody comes to the show and it?s exciting because they haven?t seen (the landscapes) before.?

Also the paintings sell better, she said, and the galleries can have a of body her work, plus she doesn?t have to transport the paintings back to her studio in Lenexa, where she lives with husband Shannon and their 4-month-old son, Collin Nathaniel.

The size, rather than how long it takes to paint a piece, determines what Casebeer charges for her paintings.

?It?s impossible (to charge) by how long it took you,? she said. ?Plus, I?ve found in many cases that the work that happens quickly and very easily for me is usually the best work. The work that takes twice as long doesn?t necessarily come out twice as good. In many cases it doesn?t come out as good.?

Also, when someone asks artists how long a painting takes, they may say 10 years.

?Because it?s that accumulation of experience that makes it so much easier to paint at the point you?re at,? she said. ?It wouldn?t be that easy 10 years ago.?

Galleries usually take 50 percent of the sale of paintings, which helps cover their rent, employees, liability and other costs, she said, adding she also has to cover her expenses.

At this point in her career, Casebeer said she particularly enjoys ?en plein air? painting.

?It?s a French for painting outdoors,? she said. ?It?s a term that?s been used for ages. The French used to go outside and paint a lot during the Impressionistic Era.?

Her recent trip to Colorado was a plein air event in which 40 invited artists worked on outside paintings. At the end of the week, artists the picked four of their works to exhibit.

?I don?t usually finish things outside,? she said, having worked on 14 paintings at that event. ?I don?t feel the need to finish outside. I feel like I?ve got to get information and take it back. I take photos and take them back to my studio.?

Casebeer said she never titles a painting before it?s completed.

?Very often the title has something to do with where it is or what time day,? she said. ?A lot of times I title something that coincides with light because that?s what I look at. Even more important than where it is, I look at light?evening light, morning light or something like that.?


Casebeer has been self-employed for six years, although she worked part-time in painting while holding full-time marketing and design jobs in Wichita, Manhattan and Topeka. She graduated in 1992 from Kansas State University with a degree in graphic design.

?Most kids need to get a degree that they can go right out of college and make some money,? she said.

Artists can find jobs as an art teacher or a graphic designer or illustrator who works for a company.

?It?s a very, very rare thing to get out of college and make your living as a fine artist on your own,? she added. ?That takes awhile to happen.?

Early on, Casebeer knew she wanted to be a painter. She intentionally worked for smaller agencies, so she could devote time to her art.

?I knew I didn?t want to spend all of my time in design because I knew I wanted to get home (and paint),? she said. ?That?s pretty much how I approached it for years.?

In 1995, Casebeer joined the local Topeka Art Guild Gallery.

?That?s when I got serious,? she said. ?The reason I did it was because I thought this would give me some timelines and deadlines. You could show work there every two months.?

It was also where she learned about some of the local galleries, framers and local and regional juried shows that she was encouraged to enter.

?That?s one way to get your name out there?to start entering contests,? she said. ?That?s one thing I would tell young artists is important. It depends on what kind of art you do by what art you do.?

At the Topeka guild, she met other artists with whom she has done some regional and national shows, such as Oil Painters of America. Along with Casebeer, two of her professional artist friends, Cally Krallman and Brian Slawson, had pieces accepted in to the western regional show for Oil Painters of America beginning Sept. 12 in Idaho.

Big break

Casebeer said her first big break came when she started showing at Leopold Gallery, which promotes regional artists, in Kansas City, Mo.

?I?ve been showing with them since 2001,? she said.

Casebeer started painting in oil pastels.

?I call it painting because I don?t use the edge as a drawing tool,? she said. ?I chop them up and use the side of them. To me it feels more like you?re using a brush. I?m using broad strokes and impressionistic more. Drawing is detail and line work. I never use my pastels for line work.?

Mother Marilyn Voth remembers her daughter?s early interest in art.

?She loved to draw. That was her thing when she was little,? said Voth. ?She wanted to be an artist. I used to always tell her, ?You?re going to have to marry a rich man.? She didn?t do that?she?s just worked hard and she?s made it.?

As a 4-Her, Casebeer submitted her paintings to the Marion County Fair, along with her horticulture projects, Voth said.

She has childhood memories of copying her father?s drawings on the church bulletin.

?I remember looking at the tractors and buses that he drew and trying to copy them,? said Casebeer, the eldest of three daughters.

Casebeer has conducted workshops, including one during the winter at Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton. She has also taught a plein air weekend workshop with several of her artist friends at the Camp Wood YMCA by Elmdale in the Flinthills. She also maintains her Web site at

Among her accomplishments are signature membership with the Pastel Society of America, the American Women Artists and the Mid America Pastel Society.

As a signature member, Casebeer is recognized as an artist ?whose work is of professional quality,? and who has exhibited in ?galleries, museum shows or professional divisions of open juried exhibition,? according to the American Women Artists Web site.

She has also placed in numerous national competitions, including ones held in Colorado, Arizona and New York City. Beside the national recognition, Casebeer said improving her skill sets ranks high among her accomplishments.

Casebeer?s long-term goals include breaking into even bigger artist markets.

?It?s not just the money either,? she said. ?I think most artists, like myself, just want to become better at what we paint. Your big masterpiece is always the next one, not something you?ve done in the past. It?s always what?s happening the future.

?I don?t think we?d be very good artists if we weren?t always thinking of the future. And if then you get better, that just goes without saying that you?ll develop a better reputation.?

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