Artist Spotlight: Karen Scharer

Jan 25, 2015 | Artist Spotlight | 2 comments


How would you describe your art? My paintings explore the power of color, design, mark-making, and non-objective imagery to communicate at an intuitive level.

Who or what influences you/your work? Where do you draw your inspiration? My work is intuitive, fed by my perception of and reaction to people, places, and events around me. I observe and absorb, then look within to create a visual response. The work is at times contemplative, at times animated, but it’s always a reflection of my view of what is, and what has come before.

Describe the process of creating your art? How do you begin? How long does it typically take to complete a piece? How do you know when something is done? I begin each piece with a very loose, unstructured underpainting of three to five colors. The underpainting will generally include some kind of dark structure to help create a “framework” to hang the rest of the painting on. In most cases, the overwhelming majority of the underpainting will be covered up by the time the piece is finished, but the underlying color and structure continue to “inform” the painting.

Once the underpainting is largely dry, I begin the next phase. I tend to mix colors on my palette (a 2’ x 6’ piece of colorless glass) in advance, so that as I work I can “just paint.” I paint intuitively and spontaneously, reacting to what I see on the canvas. I work primarily with knives and color shapers, although brushes play an important role in the underpainting process. I waste a lot of paint, and I work pretty quickly during this part of the process. The time required to get through this phase depends on a lot of factors, but generally, the pieces will be 90% finished within just a couple of sessions.

It is the third phase that really takes the time. This is where I examine and tweak and look for opportunities to simplify, enhance, and bring out the power and depth of the painting. Anyone who might try to watch me through this part of my process would probably be bored to tears. I might look at the painting for 30 minutes before making a single mark….and then go back to looking again.

Which of your pieces are you exceptionally happy with/proud of? Why? My “favorite” pieces tend to change over time, and my reasons for choosing them change also. Right now one of my favorites is “Carry On,” (pictured above) a piece I created in early 2014. I enjoy the energy and complexity of the mark-making, and the intensity of the gold and blue palette.

What are your goals for this year? The next 5 years? My creative goals for this year are the same as every year: to reach for a level of expression that is beyond what I have previously accomplished, and to create profoundly beautiful paintings. From a business perspective, I want to establish successful and enjoyable relationships with galleries in new areas of the country.

What is your favorite part of being an artist? Least favorite? I think I can honestly say I love everything about what I do. There are some activities (like framing) that I don’t enjoy as much as painting, but it’s all part of the package, and I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. Some days are certainly more challenging than others, but there is no better feeling than overcoming a block or successfully completing a difficult painting. It is also extremely gratifying to see the work create an emotional connection with a viewer. I am truly grateful to be able to work at what I love.

Fill in the blank: I wouldn’t be caught dead putting ____ on my walls? Anything I don’t love. I have very eclectic taste…..I own very traditional work and some pretty challenging contemporary work. It is all tied together by the fact that I love all of it….it speaks to me.

Which contemporary artists to you admire? I am a huge fan of Joan Mitchell’s work, as well as Richard Diebenkorn’s. I could go on, but that’s a good start.

What are some of your other interests/hobbies? I live in the mountains because I enjoy being surrounded by the changing natural environment. I try to get out and enjoy it whenever I can. As a part of that, I enjoy fly fishing in both fresh and salt water, and have been an alpine skier since the age of 8. I am also a complete sucker for big, fluffy dogs.

In a fantasy world where ALL of the world’s art was available and price was no issue, what piece would you like to own? This one’s easy…..”George Went Swimming at Barnes Hole, but It Got Too Cold”……a stunningly beautiful painting by Joan Mitchell.

Karen Scharer

Images via Karen Scharer.




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