It's being able to express that feeling on canvas might be one reason Fortin was named as the Western Maryland Blues Artist for 2012.
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Her "Bluesman on Stage" acrylic painting was chosen as the motif of this year's exhibit and can be seen everywhere associated with this year's festival. According to Mary Anne Burke, executive director of Washington County Arts Council, this year's Blues Fest committee received 45 submissions from 28 artists.
Fortin's "Bluesman on Stage," along with about 50 other paintings, will be on display at the Washington County Arts Council in downtown Hagerstown. A special reception will be from 6 to 9 tonight. The exhibit continues through Tuesday, July 3.
Although her day job is as a medical billing associate, the Frederick, Md.-based artist said she spends every ounce of free time on her painting business, www.katespaint.com.
It was actually a client of hers who forwarded the information about the Blues Fest contest and suggested she enter.
When approaching her "Bluesman" piece, Fortin simply let the blues muse lead her.
"I just started sketching out different ideas," she said. "I wanted something that had a lot of instruments and really brought a blues flavor by using blues colors."
"Bluesman" is washed in a combination of bold colors of reds and some yellows, but the cool blue tones give it that bluesy feel.
"I like working with color because it's exciting to me. I really think it makes things pop out and makes people notice things more," she said.
Art has been an interest of Fortin since she was a child and continued until she graduated Urbana High School in Frederick County, Md.
In 2002, three of her pieces of computer-generated art were selected to be displayed at the Discovery Channel building in Washington, D.C., for a year. In 2004, she won the poster contest for the 2004 Annapolis Film Festival for another computer-generated design.
Fortin continued her studies at Frederick Community College, where she earned her associate degree. While at FCC, she had some of her art displayed at the Mary Condon Hodgson Gallery.
One of her biggest displays was in 2009 when she was involved with the National Arts Program where she placed third for her acrylic portrait of country music legend Willie Nelson. She donated the piece to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where it will be permanently displayed.
"I couldn't have asked for a better spot to put it. I'm really proud that it's there and it's permanent," she said.
Celebrity portraits are one of her favorite subject matters.
"I really like celebrity portraits because everybody recognizes the person," she said. "It's instant gratification."
Fortin said she loves painting portraits of both people and pets. She said she's getting a lot of requests through her business especially to do pet portraits. She understands why, because she's a dog owner herself. Her dog Jackson is a black Pomeranian.
"I love pets. And I love making people happy when they get their pet portrait," she said.
When it comes to her work, Fortin said she prefers to work with acrylic on canvas.
"It dries quickly and I like to work quickly," she said. "It gives me the freedom to go over things. Watercolors aren't forgiving but acrylics definitely are. I don't like oil because it takes so long to dry."
Fortin said she was told in December 2011 that she was the Blues Fest artist and said she was "super excited" that she had won.
This year Fortin will attend some of the concerts at the Blues Fest and is looking forward to listening to the bands. She already had a sample of the event when she attended Cabin Fever in early spring, saying "it was fun."
She said when people see her piece she wants them to think of the music.
"I just want them to feel how blues makes people feel — just overall being comforted by music," she said.
If you go ...
WHAT: Artwork by Blues Fest poster artist Kate Fortin
WHEN: Reception from 6 to 9 tonight; exhibit continues through Tuesday, July 3
WHERE: Washington County Arts Council, 14 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown
CONTACT: Call 301-791-3132 or go to www.washingtoncountyarts.com.