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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Science to Art...a talented transition

by Robin Waters

It’s funny the turns life makes. Kathy Keane began hiking in her early twenties and became curious about the wonders of nature she saw along the trail. She took a class in bird identification and signed up for botany walks. Those left her wondering, as she gazed out the window of the medical office where she worked, whether she could get a job outdoors. She wrote to a wildlife biologist she had read about in National Wildlife magazine, and the author replied with some good advice. Kathy volunteered for the Forest Service and a local nature center and began her college education at age 25. She’d done well in high school biology but hadn’t taken much chemistry or math, so it was ten years before she earned her Master’s degree.

In 1995, she started her own biological consulting business. She works with about 15 other biologists as subcontractors; they do surveys for utility and transportation projects, monitor protected nesting areas for endangered species, and oversee construction projects near wildlife habitat to ensure that the species aren’t harmed.


The artist’s right brain wasn’t well developed as a child, and she was never encouraged or inspired to any art or music. She was a nerdy and shy kid, probably a precursor to the scientist she would become, she claims.

For over 20 years, in her leisure time, she organized and guided educational nature excursions into the southern California mountains, deserts, and coastal areas, and still participates in an annual Nature Knowledge Workshop.

On her 50th birthday, she found and fell in love with San Felipe. There she learned how to sit and enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature; she was no longer compelled to identify and analyze every plant or creature around her. It was then, at San Felipe’s El Nido Restaurant, that she met Ruth Olivar-Millan, who paints incredible scenes and people of traditional Mexico. She showered Kathy with compliments about her work and encouraged her to join the San Felipe Fine Arts Association.

Kathy says, “sometimes I’m lucky to be at the right place at just the right time, but generally I have to plan and wait for the perfect light, the precise pose of an animal, the ideal moment; still, I maybe use one out of 200 photos to enlarge and frame for an art show.” Before she switched to a digital camera, she explains, she would sit over the wastebasket when reviewing a box of 36 developed slides and was happy if there two were “keepers.” Digital photography allows her to see what she has captured on a screen, so it’s easier to correct mistakes right away and take another shot.

Where to find Kathy Keane’s work: The San Felipe Title Company will have her calendars and cards this fall. Kathy will again be at the SFFAA Art Show on Thanksgiving weekend at Playa de Oro in San Felipe. Email:kmkbaja@yahoo.com Web site: www.MagicInNature.com