Keeping it Fresh

Artist Kathleen Chaney Fritz captures Michigan and its many enchanting moods
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Photos courtesy of John Fritz and Kathleen Chaney Fritz

A couple of cardinals has found an inviting perch in “Snow on the Pumpkin,” a lovely oil painting by artist Kathleen Chaney Fritz.

If you enter Kathleen Chaney Fritz’s studio in Ada on a chilly winter’s day, you’ll find an artist in her element. The period when the quiet solitude of painting is paired with the light sparkling against the snow is her favorite time to create. The artist says color and light are of utmost importance in her work, which includes many realistic landscapes. “It’s easier in the winter to actually tell what your colors are,” she says. Not only that, but the summer, in contrast, is far from quiet — it means an influx of tourists, incoming orders, and attending to the sales side of being an artist.

Fritz has always been a painter, and her dream was to make fine arts a career. She worked in freelance illustration for advertising agencies in Grand Rapids for eight years before taking a risk that really paid off. Along with her husband, John, she turned her breathtaking watercolor, “Charlevoix Waterfront,” into a poster for the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair. It turned out to be a huge hit and they sold more than 500 posters in one day. With a baby, mounting bills, and a desire to turn to fine art full time, Fritz had the courage to try something new — and launched her current career. She says none of it would have been possible without her husband. 

“Silent Night,” created in oils, portrays a quintessential Michigan scene. Artist Fritz is a master at invoking a welcoming feel through her color selections and attention to light.

“I could never have done this, had this career, without him,” Fritz says, explaining that John is the tech guy, printer, and salesman. She says his former career as a recording engineer has been integral in helping her reproduce paintings in her studio using the giclee process, as he’s sensitive to subtleties in a way that has resulted in extremely high-quality reproductions — a favorite of budget-conscious consumers. 

Together, the Fritzes have run a successful fine art business for decades. When asked what her favorite thing is about being an artist, Fritz doesn’t hesitate before answering: “The time alone.” She says she can get lost in a painting for hours, with music in the background and her dog, Chief, by her side. That being said, Fritz doesn’t believe in getting too comfortable and likes to keep things interesting. “I don’t really have a preference in mediums, but I like to switch out because, you know, you can start to get stale.” Using her subject matter as a guide, Fritz likes to play with a variety of mediums. 

“Morning Duet” features a cardinal couple enjoying a berry feast. The watercolor showcases the artist’s keen use of values, from quietly pale to rich and dark.

For 20 years, Fritz painted in watercolors. When she switched to oils, some of her customers were frustrated, but her undeniable talent won them over and they came around within a couple of years. She expanded her style, as well. “I switch styles from realistic to abstract to semi-abstract to whimsical primitive,” says Fritz, who often keeps Michigan at the forefront of her artwork. 

Raised close to the shore of Lake Michigan, Fritz knows the natural beauty of Michigan well. She reflects this in her breathtaking landscapes, which feature some of the state’s most iconic waterfront spots, like Mackinac Island, Grand Haven, and Charlevoix. 

Kathleen Chaney Fritz’s oil painting called “Crossing the Straits” shows her passion for water and one of the state’s most iconic symbols.

Fritz says she likes to be playful in her artwork, as well. Her whimsical primitive paintings like “Nature Plays at Sleeping Bear” highlight this jubilation. Using acrylics for brighter hues, Fritz captures the emotion of a place in a fun and reverential way.

Landmarks anchor you in a sense of place, while the way Fritz plays with scale, color, and form makes you look closer. No matter what the medium or subject matter, she brings unparalleled talent and joyful curiosity to her work, and that has clients eagerly anticipating what she will create next. 

A pretty sky and wondrous Lake Michigan action along the shore envelop a charming lighthouse in “Point Betsie Lighthouse.” Viewers of this watercolor by Fritz can almost feel the spray of the waves against their faces and the little pebbles beneath their feet.
The artist takes a break from painting to cuddle with her beloved dog, Chief.

MORE INFORMATION:

To learn more about Kathleen Chaney Fritz and her paintings, visit chaneyfritz.com.

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