By Marie Green
Karen is living proof that it pays to select your Grandparents well.
At age 8, her family moved to Alaska and her grandparents regularly visited. During one of these annual visits, they went into the Shane Lamb art booth, being drawn by his beautiful and realistic work, and asked whether he gave lessons. He would be the perfect mentor for Karen, whose innate artistic talents were very evident in her sketches. When she turned 12 they purchased several months of lessons with Shane Lamb for Karen and there began a long and wonderful mentorship and friendship. Through that instruction Karen’s confidence and proficiency grew. ‘Creating a work of art is not just a bunch of magic; there is a formula and there are skills and techniques to learn and practice. I was very fortunate that Shane lamb offered me a position at his studio which allowed me to work in the environment that fed my soul and also allowed me to see into the real world that artists inhabit.’
‘I paint what I love – flora and fauna mainly but whatever has warm colours and wonderful lighting so that I can catch forever just one small fleeting moment in the life of my subject. I paint what moves me and if it also makes other people happy well, that is a bonus’.
Almost all of my paintings are sold to collectors but I still think of them as mine. I care about how they are hung and where, how they are lit, how they are cleaned. They are in a sense my children and I stress about their well being’ she says with a little laugh to hide the truth.
‘Creating small paintings gives me great enjoyment as there is an immediacy about them. Though I also love making my large paintings as they have a WOW factor
that appeals to me and those who enjoy my work’. Karen exhibits in Alaska and also in five Hawaiian galleries who constantly seek her originals and the great range of giclee prints she provides. ‘My family has a long history with Hawaii from when they were called the Sandwich Islands and it is very much a second home to my family. After Christmas I am totally ‘over’ winter in Alaska, so my husband, Greg, and I bundle up our children and escape into the warm sunshine of Hawaii for a couple of weeks each year’.
Greg, who is with a marketing agency, has a large part in Karen’s art enterprise as he consults on promotions. His motto is ‘Take the road less travelled to reach the same destination’. That may explain not only the success of Whitworth Gallery but also the ever fresh feel to its marketing strategies. Family is large part of Karen’s life and although her studio is attached to her lovely home in Wasilla, nevertheless the rule is No working in the studio in the evenings.
Like every professional artist, Karen has a Wish List and on the top is ‘To take my family to the Amalfi Coast in Italy where I can paint and paint and paint!’. No one will be surprised when Karen makes this wish come true. She has an incredible strength and integrity both in her art and in her life. ‘I am a Christian and I do believe I must always make ethical decisions. Generally that is not hard to do but when it is, there is always a way to achieve my objective without hurting anyone else.’
The Painted Ladies, a very active group of several Alaskan, one Arizonan, and one Australian, artists, is currently a very demanding part of Karen’s art life. ‘We have created a marvellous art event, The Great Alaskan Plein Air Retreat, for June of this year. Nothing like it has happened before in Alaska and we have received most generous sponsorships and offers – quite overwhelming! Plus it is quickly filling up which is pretty exciting as this is the first of what we plan to be an annual event.’ The work load is heavy when added to her gallery commitments and family life though Karen says ‘The Painted Ladies has been very good for me. It brings a sense of accountability in my profession and with peers’.
Karen is the artist one rarely meets. She is professional and in an enviable position with galleries and collectors acquiring her works. She is a good mother, loving wife.
‘Nana’s Roses’ painted in 2011 for Karen’s Grandmother in Oregon.