Arts and Entertainment

Kathe Fraga blossoms with the help of social media

Kathe Fraga is surrounded by her artwork — on canvas, greeting cards, and now silk pillows. - Connie Mears / Staff Photo
Kathe Fraga is surrounded by her artwork — on canvas, greeting cards, and now silk pillows.
— image credit: Connie Mears / Staff Photo

When the blue bird tweets, good things happen. That may sound like an ancient oriental saying, but it actually describes Bainbridge artist Kathe Fraga’s success with social marketing. She tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, muses on her blog, and links them all to her website, www.kathefraga.com.

Her brand – a distinct, romantic-yet-modern Chinoiserie style of painting – evokes the walls of a grand old Parisian mansion. She’s expanding the look to a line of greeting cards, silk pillows, and possibly housewares in the future. A French design company, Graphique de France, discovered her work via Pinterest and transformed it into a wedding card. The original can be seen at Roby King Gallery on Winslow Way, where she’ll be part of a group show in April. She shows work at Museo on Whidbey Island, and her new gallery, Kaller Fine Arts in Washington, D.C., and New York City, will give her a chance to meet up in real life with many of her Twitter meet-up buddies. Her Seattle gallery, Pucini Lubel, is moving to Palm Springs, so – oh, bummer – Fraga will have to fly to the desert for future openings.

“Vitamin D, baby,” she said laughing.

A friend called in February to say he’d seen her work on the set of a primetime television show. All those “blings” sound more like “ka-ching.”

Fraga began the series about seven years ago, inspired, in part, by renovation work she did on the Gazzam house, the historical Bainbridge home she shares with her husband Jeff, two dogs, a cat and three birds.

“I love old things, the beautiful decay of items,” she said.

She stole the spring palette right out of her cottage garden, and many of the prints are influenced by her love of birds and kimonos.

Her paintings, with layered blocks of color and patterns, reveal glimpses of underpainting. The look resembles patches of old wallpaper or former paint colors found in old homes.

“When you move a cabinet or a refrigerator and find wonderful little surprises,” she said in the dining room of the 100-year-old house.

Fraga has always been creative, she said, but her current body of work began after the Winslow Way gallery the Fragas owned closed.

Her canvases range from 12-inch squares to 36-inch by 48-inch paintings, with multiple layers of paint, hidden objects, French phrases, indentations, markings, hints of glitter, drops of wax — all sealed under a coat of lacquer.

“One thing I hope is that my painting is not just what you see at first glance,” she said, her laptop chiming in the kitchen.

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