YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Whether it is a paintbrush, computer mouse or a hammer, local artist Kathy Pasquale is never emptyhanded.
“Because I do work for myself, I really am always working,” she said. “If I’m not teaching class I’m looking for new ideas online, crafting projects for kids, painting techniques—you name it.”
Pasquale runs a business teaching art classes at senior and community centers throughout Westchester. In addition to teaching a senior painting class Monday mornings in the Yorktown Community and Cultural Center, she recently finished up a year-long effort to beautify the hallways of the senior center.
Although she calls it one mural, it is spread out among different spots throughout the center’s downstairs corridors. Because she completed the task on a volunteer basis, the project took almost a year to finish. Some of her other murals can be seen at the Jefferson Valley Mall.
When she isn’t working, she spends time with her three children, Alec, R.J. and Stephanie, and her boyfriend. Otherwise, she chips away at the never-ending to-do list that accompanied the Yorktown home she purchased five years ago when she moved there from Rye.
Because she runs her own business, it is sometimes impossible not to bring her work home with her. Recently, she and her boyfriend constructed 45 easels for one of her painting classes in one day. Not that she’s complaining. She said she loves where her career has ended up and said enjoys doing such projects.
Pasquale said she’s made art as soon as she could hold a paintbrush. However, she was discouraged from making a career of it when she was young because of the “starving artist” stereotype. And although there are times she admittedly considers taking less-than-glamorous work in times of financial stress, Pasquale said, she finds her work to be very rewarding.
In addition to sharing her passion for art with those she teaches, Pasquale said artistic flair runs in her family. While just a few have pursued careers in creative fields, she said, her oldest son is an artist as well. She also enjoys the connection she has through her career to her late grandfather, a painter and professor who, once he was retired, taught art classes to seniors in the basement of his local senior center as well.
“I always laugh because he would get such a kick out of that,” she said.
Pasquale’s journey as a working artist began more than 30 years ago. After she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art from The College of New Rochelle, she worked as an illustrator and layout artist for Knowledge Industry Publications, eventually advancing to manager of the art department.
Wanting a more flexible schedule once she became a mother, she set out on her own in 1989. She painted murals and other commissioned works while her children were young, and when they were older she taught private and group lessons. She has been teaching art classes throughout Westchester for almost two decades, offering programs to senior citizens, preschool-aged children and everyone in between.
In addition to teaching in Yorktown, she teaches at the Rye Recreation Center, Rye Brook Senior Center, Clinton Street Center in Pleasantville, Jefferson Village in Jefferson Valley, and Port Chester Senior Center. She works numerous community events at the Jefferson Valley Mall. She has also taught at My Second Home, a senior day care facility in Mount Kisco.
She also taught pottery classes at Orienta Beach Club Day Camp and Beach Point Day Camp in Mamaroneck. Additionally, she illustrated a line of greeting cards and continues to create commissioned works including pet portraits and murals.
For the last two years, she has offered “paint with me” classes in community centers and private parties, where she demonstrates a step-by-step approach to painting something easy. The events are often accompanied with wine and snacks.
“I do it like a fundraiser,” she said. “Whatever they bring in they get to subsidize some of the senior programming.”
She sometimes does up to three “paint with me” events a week, she said. She credits the event’s no pressure, social quality to its success.
“People who aren’t really sure they have any talent are really happy with what they come out with because you walk them through it,” Pasquale said. “I’ve had people come to me the next day and be like, ‘I didn’t think I liked it until I woke up this morning and thought, ‘Wow, this is really good.’”
Yorktown resident Bob Rohr has been taking Pasquale’s classes at the community center for two years. Rohr is a photographer trying his hand at painting for the first time. While his photography skills are advanced enough that his classmates use his photos as inspiration for their own paintings, he said, he couldn’t paint anything more than a stick figure when he first joined Pasquale’s class.
The challenge, he said, is in creating something from scratch versus framing and taking an existing shot.
“Here, I have to build it from the ground up a piece at a time. This will be my second class here with Kathy. She’s brought me a long way,” he said. “Now I’ve got a couple of trees, I invented some flowers. It’s fun. I love it.”
Pasquale said seniors often face challenges such as health issues or the loss of loved ones. She shared the story of a 90-year-old woman who had recently suffered a stroke. She said the woman lost her fine motor skills in her hands and visited Pasquale’s classroom out of curiosity to see what Pasquale was doing there. Despite the woman’s doubts, Pasquale persuaded her into joining the class.
They spent the first few classes just focused on holding the brush. Pasquale coached the woman to paint a straight line and eventually built from there.
“By the end of the two months, between that and her physical therapy, she started being able to do [more] stuff. Two years later she was doing paintings for her grandkids,” Pasquale said. “She told me she loved the class so much, she said, ‘I’m not just alive anymore, I’m living.’ That’s the whole thing. That’s why I do this with the seniors.”
To see more of Pasquale’s work, to attend a class or book her for a “paint with me” class, call 914-525-4403 or email KJP@onkanvas.com.