Our third “Under the Leaf” discovery session will be with artist Karen Sewell. Karen is a Floyd native and one of the founding members of the Floyd Artists Association LLC, now A New Leaf Gallery. She works in various mediums and genres and has developed a special love of portraiture as well as intimate landscapes.
I’ve often heard that a fine work of art should stand alone without the stories behind it. However, in doing this interview with Karen, you might agree with me that a peek into Karen’s artistic life and her background reveals an added, rich dimension to the pieces she has created. Let’s see if you agree!
Cielo: Karen, do you have a favorite among your many paintings?
Karen: Actually, I do not have a favorite. I see things I may be happy with in each one, but I am really critical of my work and that is what pushes me to look for ways to challenge and improve my paintings. That does not mean I go back to correct old paintings…just move on with more knowledge for the next one and hope it works.
But if I have to choose, I would pick two off the top of my head:
The first, A TENTATIVE BRUMAL LIGHT, Encaustics, was a new medium when I painted this and I feel that is one reason I like it. It went well and caught the mood of the moment. I was painting during a snowstorm that cleared late evening leaving that filtered weak sunlight that so often is the case. The experimental layering technique that I was using created a push and pull effect. I’d splashed acrylic ink over the panel before applying the wax. The ink resisted the wax but also left the painting with a feeling of mystery and translucency. I think that experimentation and stretching to see what each medium will do sparks a fire in the creative muse. You never know if it will fail or be the next option in your toolbox.
Cielo: I love that! Karen you’re willing to stretch your boundaries and get outside of your comfort zone, to experiment. I think that’s courageous.
Karen: It’s part of the fun and part of the draw. No pun intended!
(I laughed out loud! Perfect pun!)
Karen: The other painting that comes to mind is "GRANDPA AND GRANDMA, 1959," Acrylic Ink on Yupo, 16x20, NFS. This was also a fairly new medium at the time and, of course, I had to jump in to do a couple of portraits to see how it would go. I had tried to do this painting several times over the years and didn’t feel it measured up, but this one felt like my memories of them…tough, hard working.
Cielo: You certainly have captured the tough, hardworking memory you have of your Grandparents! How would you characterize your relationship with your Grandma and Grandpa? Did you think of one or both of them as role models for your life, and if so, what were their specific traits?
Karen: I didn’t have a real relationship with any of my grandparents. I was too young when they passed away. Both of my parents were born on the tail end of about a dozen kids. That’s back when they had to have big families to survive - each side had tons of grandkids. I do remember their work-worn hands and visiting their simple homes. I still feel the kinship when I walk over the homeplace where these two lived. I grew up there on that land where my parents built our home and helped care for them. I guess everyone I’ve ever known in my family have been hard working folks.
The Family Homeplace
Cielo: From what I know about you, you fall right in line with that hard-working, tough ethic of your Floyd County family linage, Karen! In thinking about your response to my questions, I now have a deeper appreciation for you, your creative choices and the fertile ground from which they grew. It has me loving your Art even more, with new eyes and a new appreciation!
You have experimented quite successfully with a number of mediums over the years. In the two paintings that you’ve chosen, you’ve used Encaustic and Acrylic Ink on Yupo paper. You are also an oil painter. Is there one medium that you favor, and why?
Karen: Not really. Each medium has specific characteristics and a certain look and feel that contributes to the mood of a piece of work. Each medium evokes a certain feeling in a finished piece just by virtue of its individual qualities and in the way I tend to apply the paint. I match the medium I use to the idea I want to put forward.
Cielo: What is it about the Acrylic Ink medium on Yupo paper that helped you to convey the “tough and hardworking” mood you were seeking?
Karen: The ink on the slick Yupo paper doesn’t always leave a super realistic, finished look. That unpredictability that I sometime have when colors mix and run adds to that rough textured mood.
Cielo: I see why you chose the acrylic ink on Yupo paper for this moving portrait. The unpolished unpredictability of acrylic ink on slippery Yupo paper does what it chooses. The elements of the medium much like the elements of a hard mountain life…have their own say, their own way!
Karen, I want to thank you for this interview. We will be back for another round if you’ll allow. Your statement earlier about acrylic inks being a fairly new medium and having to jump in to do a couple of portraits intrigued me. I’d like to really delve into your love of portraits.
But for now, you’ve given us a deeper understanding of the creator and creative motivation in this interview!
Here is another of Karen’s encaustic creations and one of artist Selena McColley's favorites. Please follow the links to see more! Enjoy!
FLASH SALE!! Karen currently has several FINE ART REPRODUCTION pieces available at incredible prices! Follow this link to see them!
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Artist, A New Leaf Gallery