The light-filled oil paintings of well-known Vashon Island artist Karen Fox are inspired by nature, by wildlife or almost any animal, by color, and by the sign, sound, and smell of large bodies of water.
So it's no surprise Karen's favorite subjects are animals and landscapeswhich, she said, includes water and boats. "My paintings all start as moments of beauty that I try to capture. I long to paint the striking beauty of mother nature and the exquisite character of her creatures."
"I grew up in the city and suburbs of Chicago, so the only wildlife I saw were squirrels and birds. Later, in Denver, the picture was similar. It's sad that so much wildlife is gone from our cities, but on Vashon we're blessed with an abundance. I'm glad that abundance stops short of including bears and cougars, but I do wish we could be more tolerant of Vashon's wildlife."
When it comes to sharing her techniques of painting, Karen is quite willing to explain or offer tips. "I chose oils as my medium because I love the way they smell and their buttery softness; I like the way it feels when I spread paint on a canvas and I enjoy the feeling of that stretched canvas as it first gives to the pressure of my hand and then gently springs back as I pull my hand away," she said.
"I now use a palette knife most of the time, however, the first time I used one was an accident. I was participating in a painting workshop in Taos, NM. My instructor suggested using a knife (to mix the paint on the palette.) But I thought he meant to paint the scene. It was so much fun that I kept coming back to it."
"While painting I don't like to slow down to clean or change brushes, so I'd frequently end up with a mass of mud. Using a knife helps me to keep my colors pureyou can clean it with one swipe. However, I learned the hard way to be careful not to slice my hand."
"I'm very moody when I paint," said Karen, "and each painting reflects that mood. For instance, some of my paintings have prominent swirls in their backgroundssimilar to those found in Van Gogh's paintingsand it's my mood that determines whether or not they'll appear. And it's my mood that determines what I'll paint. I'm someone who needs change from painting to painting, so I'll paint trees one day, water the next, and then perhaps an animal."
Karen points to a benefit she has received from painting that she never would have expected. "I've met many truly remarkable people because of my painting. Some are those who buy paintings, and others simply talk with me during the studio tours or Strawberry Festival. When I recall paintings I've sold, I recall just as clearly the people who chose them. They're now permanently linked in my mind. I love it when my paintings go to good homes."
Karen recalls a visitor to her studio during the tour. "That person told me that my paintings felt 'happy.' I was really touched by that. Life is filled with too much of the other stuff, so I want to surround myself with the good, the happy and the beautifuland forget the hurt, the ugly, the mean, and the indifferent."
At Karen's home, a doe regularly brings her twin fawns to eat and sleep in her yard. "I love to watch themand their gentle, loving ways."
Karen started painting in 1997 when she took a "plein air" (translation: paint outside) landscape class from the
Art Students League of Denver. In 2000, Karen moved from Colorado to Washington; she paints en plein air and in her studio on Vashon Island.
Her paintings have found homes with private collectors in Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Washington, and Russia.
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