Community brought artist Kathleen Pahl to Bowling Green and then back to Bowling Green State University. It’s a feeling that she is hoping to bring to her students during the pandemic.
“I wanted to be part of an artists’ community again. That was probably the key point in coming back to school, being a part of the community again. I wanted to learn. I love learning and I have this endless curiosity about things,” Pahl said.
Many people around town became familiar with her, and the art she creates, through the 2019 Black Swamp Arts Festival poster, with its green abstract background.
“I like the fact that (abstract) is not representational, and I like the fact that it has meaning for me while I’m doing it, but people can make it their own by looking at it. They can find their own meaning and their own journey with the piece. With the creation of art, there’s a state called flow and making abstract allows you to just lose yourself.”
She graduated from BGSU in December 2007. She specialized in 2-Dimensional art studies: painting, drawing and photography. She then worked as a portrait photographer for 10 years. She returned to school last year for her Master’s in Fine Arts.
“I worked as a photographer for about 10 years, doing portraiture, weddings and so forth. Then I was hanging out with a friend and complaining that I wanted to paint again. She recommended that I do watercolors. I laughed and said ‘Isn’t that what 5-year-olds do?’ But you know it’s really great.”
When she had been painting in oil she was always afraid of the toxic paints being around her infant children.
“I fell in love with it.,” she said of the watercolors. “I could travel with it. It was quick and easy. I could clean it up. I worked with watercolors for maybe four years and then I started getting more into abstract. I originally started with portraits and getting more and more abstract. After two years of working in watercolors, specifically in this style of abstract, I had all these paintings and I didn’t know what to do with them at that point. I wanted to sell my work and I wasn’t exactly sure of that process.”
She found shows at the Art Supply Depo in Bowling Green and at the Toledo School for the Arts.
“One of my paintings won the Porter’s Choice Award, then there was the Black Swamp Arts Festival and then another show in Indianapolis,” Pahl said.
While the sales aspect of being an artist is not a formal part of her degree, she did choose her master’s committee instructors based around their backgrounds in selling their works in galleries.
She’s also teaching for the first time, to freshmen undergraduates. The class is Drawing as Inquiry. She was required to take a similar class for her degree.
She teaches a hybrid course. That means only half the students are physically in class at a time, because of social distancing. The other half are watching, but through their computers.
“I think I have a good group of students, but I had a couple of them drop out at the beginning of the semester, like just drop out of school. It is really hard. That is an over three-hour class, and I was sitting in front of the computer. It’s just rough. I always give my students a break,” Pahl said.
She has 20 students, and they are split with 10 face-to-face and 10 virtual.
“I’m teaching to a computer and also teaching to my students, and I’m teaching them drawing techniques. So it that’s been challenging. I know I’m not the only one. The great thing about being part of a community again is that you can bounce ideas off each other, and the faculty in this school are just so amazing. They have just been so helpful,” Pahl said.
Originally from Upper Sandusky, Pahl has lived in Bowling Green since 1999.
She and her husband, Corey Beard, have two children, Kieran, 8, and Huxley, 11.
“There’s just a lot of great people that live in Bowling Green, and places, like Grounds for Thought, and the Black Swamp Arts Fest is just amazing. Bowling Green has just always had a great music scene. I think it’s just a vibrant community,” she said.