Next Sketch Outing

Sept. 22: Columbia City

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Remembering Kate Barber

Kate Barber's husband John informed us she had died on May 10th, in her sleep and surrounded in love by John and their dogs.  She had been ill for some months.  

Kate Barber, on left.  This was from our outing to the new Burke Museum and it just seems to be an example of her attitude.  She and John traveled widely. 

Kate was a constant sketcher.  She posted most on Facebook and Instagram.  Her sketches were so  lively, colorful and loose.  She loved her dogs and often posted sketches of them to her personal accounts.  During this outing in her neighborhood, she brought one with her. 

She embraced technology and often sketched on her tablet, using a variety of sketching apps. She was always learning and experimenting.  She invited me to her home once to give me a tutorial.  

 ---remembered by Kate Buike

John and Kate Barber in Delft, the Netherlands, after attending the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam in 2019.

The following sketches (shared on Facebook) were made by Kate during the last year of her life. Although I knew Kate from sketch outings, I got to know her and John much better when we all attended the 2019 Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam. Whether traveling or walking in her own neighborhood, she always embraced the spirit of urban sketching with full enthusiasm. I will miss her very much. - Tina Koyama

Kate made and shared many delightful self-portraits. Posted in February, this was her last. 

Kate was a wonderful presence -- warm, Intelligent, and most of all - fun. I sensed a wealth of experience and rich talent when I was with her. I will miss sketching with her and learning new tricks of the trade. I'll miss seeing the posts of her delightful sketches and the inspiration she gave to the urban sketching community and, especially, the twinkle in her eyes as she shared her latest sketching discovery. I will remember her well. - Jane Wingfield

Her obituary, as posted online by John:

Katherine Keleher “Kate” Barber passed away in her sleep on May 10 at home with her husband, John, and rescued dogs, Oscar and Jax, beside her.

She was life-partner to John since their wedding on April 29, 1967, dog-mother to many lovely pets, watercolor painter, urban sketcher, gardener, traveler, spinner and knitter, bicycle commuter, Electric Slider, information retrieval specialist/librarian, and inspiration to many friends.

Kate was born on August 26, 1940, in Norfolk, Virginia. The family soon moved to the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Morgan Park High School, Knox College, and the University of Chicago.

After finishing her masters degree in library science in Chicago, she worked as a librarian for the American Library Association, and the American Medical Association. In Seattle, she was librarian for the King County Medical Society for 35 years.

As a watercolor painter, her works were shown in exhibitions of the Northwest Watercolor Association, the National Watercolor Association, and the American Watercolor Association. In her later years, she took to heart urban sketching, keeping many journals and attending international conferences. Samples of her paintings and sketches are in several textbooks, and also seen on her FaceBook page.

She is survived by her husband John, her sister Margaret Wagner, brother-in-law Craig Wagner of Seattle, her brother Hugh Ten Eyck Keleher of Corning, New York, sister-in-law Marcia Bond of Salt Lake City, UT, and nieces and nephews, Kera, Noah, Christopher, Alexander, and Claire.

A memorial service will be announced later.
Donations in her honor are encouraged to Old Dog Haven, P.O. Box 1409, Oak Harbor, WA 98277-1409.  [If you receive the AARP magazine, they were featured in an article in the most recent edition]


  1. I met Kate at Daniel Smith when she was one of the painters at the North West Watercolor society event. Her bold line work and beautiful colors enchanted me. There were other artist that were working on yupo paper and in sumi, but I just kept coming back to Kate. I asked her a million questions about her supplies. She inspired me to finally join up with Urban Sketchers. I am still a huge fan of her work and so sad she has passed. Such a lovely artist and person.

  2. I never got to meet Kate in person, but came to love and respect her through her amazing art. My favorites are her lovely house in the hood drawings and, of course, her wonderful dog portraits. Seeing Old Dog Haven suggested for donations in her honor is perfect and had me tearing up; they bring so much hope and love into many lives, as did Kate.I have volunteered for ODH for 7 years now, and today will donate in her name, and in tribute to her I'm heading out now to sketch my neighborhood and try to give it a bit of "Kate love".

  3. I have a whole folder in my Photos of Kate’s wonderful sketches. She totally inspired me, especially in the area of iPad art. She generously gave me pointers on how to use many of the iPad apps, and if it weren’t for her, I might never have gotten so immersed in digital art. Her dogs! Her birds! Her flowers! Her faces! All unique, lyrical, and totally Kate.