HUNTIN’, FISHIN’ & PAINTIN’
By Marie Green
Karen Mattson is the quintessential Alaskan lady. She shoots the caribou meat for her table, she designs then plants out her ‘Monet’ garden, she lures the trout to her hook and above all she transforms paper with breath taking watercolour images of her Alaskan life.
Whilst her family surrounds her in the Last Frontier, she is a ‘snowbird’ who flew South with her husband, Bruce, for several months this winter. During that time, she was always looking for painting prospects – either mentally painting or taking myriad photos and making sketches. ‘Photographs are my support system for my paintings both on our travels and when painting in my studio. ’ Karen paints with oils though her main medium is watercolour as she loves the control available with that medium.
Our conversation during the interview was sprinkled with references to long time and cherished membership of Paint Pushers, Valley Fine Arts, Painted Ladies, Master Gardener program and several more my skipping pen missed. But as she said ‘I am a groupie in the sense that I like to belong.’ The need to share, give and receive in her pursuits is possibly what makes Karen outstanding in each of her endeavours. ‘I really treasure having keen collectors amongst my friends – though regardless of that, I would continue to paint and expand my repertoire each year as I love to push myself through each comfort zone.’
Although Karen is an elegant woman of a certain age, one can sense the calm strength and no nonsense attitude behind her sparkling eyes and well groomed person. ‘Until I was twelve, my family were farmers in Michigan. I milked cows, collected eggs, skinned animals and shovelled the unmentionable. Always had a little vegetable garden of my own from which I could and sometimes did make a complete meal. I gave being a vegetarian a trial run for a year back in the ‘80s but I do like my meat.’
As with most successful visual artists in today’s world, she is a very accomplished on-line social entrepreneur keeping an active presence and interaction on Facebook and the world wide web (links provided below). ‘Keeping my online sites interesting to me and my followers is important because I enjoy the interaction and I get a great kick out of helping with tid bits of advice from time to time. However, I am also a keen knitter and work up unique patterns which can be challenging. So along with that and painting, the family activities, painting, my outdoor sports, painting, gardening, knitting and crochet, and painting I have no problem filling every day with great activities. I also leave time for the important matter of dreaming. I look out my studio window to our lake and dream my dreams that fill my soul or help me resolve how to accomplish the difficult. ‘
That lead me to ask what her dreams were for the future. ‘I am already very rich with loving family and support systems plus I am a well known artist so Rich and Famous doesn’t hold much for me because I feel I have everything I could wish for in those terms. I have a very strong belief in God and certainly I have a very rewarding life. But yes, I have a dream and it is to attain an art award that so far has been out of my reach. But some day…. ‘ and out breaks that lovely smile!
‘We already have a good percentage of the available spaces booked and paid for with people coming from around the United States. It will be a fun week, as en plein air painting allows everyone to mix and exchange ideas and look to see how another artist interprets the same view.
I started plein air painting many decades ago when my husband was an electrical engineer on the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; I enjoy it to this day. During the Retreat I will be using oils as I find that most convenient as do many other artists.
My hope is that visitors take away images of the magic of Alaska, her incomparable landscapes and the feel of our country and people. Alaska and Alaskans are so different to the lower 48th. I guess basically, I want them to love what I love.’