Kaetlyn Able



Some Things That Fly There Be
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting on claybord, 20″ x 16″, 2018


Our Share of Night to Bear, Our Share of Morning (soldier #3)
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 20″ x 16″, 2018


Birds-Hours-the Bumblebee (soldier #1)
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 14″ x 11″, 2018


Here a Star and There a Star (soldier #2)
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 14″ x 11″, 2018


Hope is the Thing with Feathers
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 11″ x 14″, 2018


With Only Butterflies to Brood
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 12″ x 12″, 2018


When Sappho was a Living Girl #1
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 12″ x 6″, 2018


When Sappho was a Living Girl #2
, scratchboard drawing and mixed acrylic painting media on claybord, 12″ x 6″, 2018

Artist Statement

I create dreamy portraits based on found historical photographs. Using tattoo needles and an x-acto blade, I etch into thin layers of black ink that I have painted onto white clay panels. Traditionally, this drawing technique is known as scratchboard, or scraperboard, but I don’t love those clinical-sounding names. They don’t do the process, which feels utterly, completely, and perfectly magical, any justice at all! As more and more of the white clay is revealed, forms begin to slowly take shape. With every drawing there comes this incredible moment when, all of a sudden, a character and a story seem to emerge out of the black. It’s a surprise every time. I most often layer these black-and-white drawings with pops of colorful elements that I paint in acrylic and acrylic gouache, creating additional texture, dimension, and emotional resonance.

My images, and the stories that they tell, are derived intuitively. They seem to pop into my head, usually a bit hazy at first, until I begin to sketch them out and develop them on paper. For source material, I look to old photographs from the 1800s to early 1900s, and to my collected wildlife images. Once I have a sketch that resonates deeply and viscerally with me, I transfer it to a panel and begin to bring it to life in a final scratchboard drawing. As I work, the concepts behind the image reveal themselves. Themes of life, death, memory, and love come up again and again. Other ideas that surface repeatedly in my work include references to American and European folk tales, the history and mythology of the American West, and human connections to nature.

About the Artist

Kaetlyn (Wilcox) Able was born in 1978 in the suburbs outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She has loved making things, especially drawings, for as long as she can remember. A major in studio art at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts (class of 2001), Kaetlyn Able earned her master’s degree in fine art in 2004 from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Tufts University, Medford.

In 2011, Kaetlyn Able moved from Massachusetts to Montana with her husband and their then-infant son. In the following years, she continued making new work and honing her craft while also caring full-time for her family. In 2012, she had another baby and, in 2015-2016, survived breast cancer. Kaetlyn Able’s experiences as a mother and as a cancer survivor have shaped her most recent work tremendously, as she contemplates themes of life and death, love and memory.

Kaetlyn Able has exhibited her work widely in solo and group shows across the United Sates. In 2018, her work was included in the 9th issue of Create! Magazine and on Danielle Krysa’s well-known and much-beloved blog, The Jealous Curator.

Kaetlyn Able is represented by Altitude Gallery in Bozeman and also is affiliated with Radius Gallery in Missoula. The latter included her newest body of work in the February 2019 group show “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.” In November and December of 2019, Kaetlyn Able’s work can be seen in two large group holiday shows, one at Radius Gallery and the other at The Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Today, Kaetlyn Able works full-time on her art from her home studio in Bozeman, Montana.

Kaetlyn Able Website

Kaetlyn Able on Instagram

Kaetlyn Able on Etsy (Online Shop)

Altitude Gallery

Radius Gallery

The Art Spirit Gallery

The Jealous Curator

Create! Magazine