“Galactic Howl” aka “Space Wolf”Watercolors are a current favorite of artist Katelee McTaggart, who can whip one up in no time at all.

At home in the mountains and under the sea

Lone Peak High grad creates nature-inspired art

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” Oscar Wilde once wrote. For Big Sky artist Katelee McTaggart, it might be a little of both. 

     Katelee’s creations reflect her distinct lives as a citizen of both the United States and the British Cayman Islands. She was one of the first graduates of Lone Peak High School back in 2010, and since then she’s been to the islands and back, honing her artistic skills along the way.

     Before moving to Big Sky her family would visit their vacation home often. 

     “We’d come here every chance we got, winter summer, whenever we had breaks from school,” Katelee recalled, describing the summer after she graduated from high school in the Caymans. The McTaggert family was back in Big Sky, sitting around the table talking about their wish to just move to Montana. “And then we were like, ‘Why don’t we?’” 

     They had a raise-your-hand style vote as to who wanted to make the leap. Hands were raised, and the deal was sealed. They soon made the move from islands in the Caribbean to the mountains of Montana. Katelee hoped to attend college at Montana State University, but needed a few credits in American government to make the cut. As luck had it, Lone Peak High was in its infancy, so she signed up, graduating in 2010 with classmate Kelly Goode.       

     She tried her hand at MSU, but decided college just wasn’t for her. She stuck around Big Sky for a while before heading back to Cayman (pronounced Kay-man), spending her days diving and working on boats and at a jet ski rental.

     But Big Sky and her family were calling again, and Katelee headed back to the mountains three years ago. 

     “I love that I have both of these places, that are so different, and so incredible and inspiring,” she said during a break from her current job at Trove in the Meadow Village. 

     It’s those two very different yet very beautiful places that inspire her current artwork. It’s a hobby that’s always been a part of her life. She’s been drawing, creating and crafting since she can recall. Her most recent foray? Felting. 

     Katelee learned it from Big Sky School District teacher Megan Buecking while teaching at Camp Moonlight. The kids learned how to make little pads, but Katelee wanted to take it to the next level—little felt animals. 

     During lunch she quickly picked up the craft, which one method called dry felting entails taking a big glob of wool, poking it with a needle over and over until it meshes and hardens into whatever a creative heart desires. 

     Watercolor is also on Katelee’s radar. She was holding onto a recent magpie creation she planned to sell for a friend who had requested it. She also does acrylic painting, but enjoys the ease and quickness of watercolor. Prompted to create something for the camera, she quickly grabbed her colors and whipped up a little blue bird in minutes. She tends to name her subjects. 

     “I will call him… Jeremiah,” she said as she finished up the painting with a few flicks of the brush to add little splashes to the paper.

     At first, art was more of a hobby than a source of income for Katelee. It wasn’t until several years ago, while living in Delray, Fla., that she started seeing her works as something marketable. She met her boyfriend there, and he offered his two cents. 

     “He really pushed me,” Katelee said. “He told me, ‘If you’re going to be an artist, you have to be an artist. If that’s what you want to do with your life, then do it.’ So I sold one of my first paintings, of a manatee, and it was a really good feeling.”

     Mountain landscapes and wildlife themes dominate the pieces she sells and showcases around Big Sky, but the sea still calls. 

     “I’ll do foxes and bears and things like that, and then I have to do something with the ocean,” she explained, pulling up a little turtle print on her phone. “Otherwise, I just don’t feel right. I have to go back and forth, since I haven’t been able to visit Cayman in a while.” 

     Hankering to purchase some local art? Katelee sells some of her Montana-inspired art at Trove, as well as online at www.redbubble.com/people/Kateleemonster—a site that takes art and makes it into useful things like bags, stickers, phone cases and more.

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