- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Being a full-time artist isn’t the easiest job, but being present and jumping at every opportunity has helped Katy Ann Fox navigate the creative path she’s chosen.

Fox had no idea what she wanted to study in college, which is why she earned a degree in business economics at the University of Idaho in Moscow.

“I was decent at math and liked people, so I decided I’ll go into business,” she said.

But it didn’t take long before Fox realized she wasn’t meant for the business world. She signed up for an art minor and started taking classes.

“I sat down for my drawing class, and we went around and introduced ourselves and said our name and our major,” she said. Her major of business economics raised some eyebrows, and the professor said, “That’s all right, we welcome visitors, too.”

But the instructor got a surprise, because Fox could outdraw the art majors and most of the students in her class. She finished her bachelor’s degree and, with a letter of recommendation from the presumptuous drawing instructor, quickly headed to the art hub of San Francisco to pursue a Master of Fine Art at the Academy of Art University.

The 28-year-old has lived in Jackson for three years but is hard at work making a name for herself in the Jackson art scene. In 2015 she was named the Art Association of Jackson Hole’s Artist of the Year and won the Art Association Salon Show’s People’s Choice award. She was also selected to be the label artist for Jackson Hole Still Works Highwater Vodka.

Most days Fox can be found in her studio at Teton Artlab on South Jackson Street painting peaceful landscapes or sipping tea out of her hand-spun mugs.

While painting is her career and main focus, pottery is a major hobby. Mugs and bowls line the shelves of her studio and are sold at the Mud Pots sale every year.

“I love painting, but it’s fun to tinker and not be an expert,” Fox said of the clay work.

Small paw prints were painted on the floor by her pal Arnie, a 13-pound dachshund who has been by her side for eight years and, as she claims, is the real artist.

“I’m pretty convinced he could survive in the wild, but no one else believes me,” Fox said of the tiny dog.

But he’s actually really helpful for the well-being of an artist, she said. He reminds her to eat and go outside when she’s deep into a project and would forget otherwise to be a “real person.”

Fox’s partnership with Jackson Hole Still Works came about because of the Art Association, and she created the artwork that adorns the distillery’s newest vodka, Highwater. The libation has hit liquor store shelves, and she said it’s still a little bit of shell shock seeing her work in everyday situations.

“The vodka is out now, and it’s crazy to walk into stores and I’m like, ‘That’s my painting!’” Fox said. “I just want to tell people, ‘I got to paint that.’”

But the mass production of her work is still a new concept to Fox, who doesn’t normally make prints of her art.

“I won’t even pick a painting for my business card, it’s just so hard,” she said.

She is planning for her next show of original canvases at Daly Projects in July. She hopes to make her landscape paintings feel more alive with figures. And make them bigger, which is intimidating but something she’s working hard on excelling at, she said.

She explores the West in the summer, traveling to plein air events, where artists sit outside and paint in the moment. From the desert in Escalante, Utah, to Teton Valley, Idaho, the change in subject matter can be pretty drastic.

“The desert and mountains are two completely different color palettes, and it’s been a total challenge,” she said.

But being outside comes naturally to Fox, who grew up in Grangeville, Idaho, a farm town in the north-central part of the state. She had horses as a child and was even a rodeo queen one year.

So biking around town, hiking up Snow King and skiing Jackson Hole Mountain Resort have become some of her favorite things to do in the valley, besides creating art.

But it’s where she finds some of the inspiration for her work.

She said a lot of her paintings come from really great and memorable moments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were the big-ticket events, like graduation. Driving down a dirt road or just taking a walk with someone special can be enough.

“You just look around and you feel so good, and you’re just like, ‘Why?’” Fox says, “and you look around and you’re like, ‘This is why.’”

Fox works with pARTners, an organization that brings artists into Teton County schools to help ignite creative thinking and self-expression in students. Last year she worked on a sewing project in the eighth-grade science classrooms and this year in a sixth-grade classroom with a drawing project.

“I don’t know if I’m any good in the classroom, but it’s really fun and an awesome challenge,” she said.

But the year hasn’t always been filled with highs, she said.

With a jam-packed summer calendar, she tried to sign up for everything and say yes to everything. But there was no downtime, and “as soon as you finish one thing you were late to the next.”

In the end she was able to show up with pieces and pull it off, but she still couldn’t quite pay her rent.

“I questioned myself: ‘Why would you ever choose this path, Katy?’ What’re you doing? How do you make this better?’ I didn’t know.

“And then it was like, ‘Oh, I can do this and I am doing this, and I can make my life as an artist. I’m just going to go through these ebbs and flows.’”


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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