Thursday, July 18, 2013

DPW Spotlight Interview: Karen Robinson

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Karen's painting, "Brown Study 1 - Airedale Puppy" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Karen's DPW Gallery page:

I live on the border of Devon and Cornwall, UK with my dog Bilbo Baggins, cat Oscar and flock of hens. I started painting about a year ago but have loved art all my life and for many years made pictures with fabric, thread, collage, embroidery, pencils and ink. Presently, I paint mainly in oils, sometimes pastel. I love all animals and particularly love to paint dogs. To commission me to paint your pet, please e-mail me or visit my website - I would love to hear from you.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

Painting is a very recent discovery for me as up until now I have worked mainly with textiles and stitch. At school, I had a massive thing about Salvador Dali and painted lots of dark and depressing pieces in acrylics involving (wonky) chequered floors and droopy clocks! The next time I put a paintbrush to canvas was last summer when an on-line course I was doing required me to experiment with oils. Despite a disastrous first attempt (or two or three), I was more or less hooked and I have painted in oils every day since.

Brown Study 1 - Airedale Puppy
(click to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Karen's interview

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Mainly stops, to be honest. Discouraged from considering art college when I left school (“there’s no money in it”, I was told by my dear teacher, “and besides they only take people who are actually any good”): life, earning a living and children got in the way. But for many years I experimented with textiles and all forms of fibre art. The move to traditional art media came about because I could no longer achieve the degree of realism and expression in textiles and stitch that I sought. I found myself stitching less and painting on to the fabric more, until one day it dawned on me I might get better results using a more traditional support! As I was very keen to paint animals, I embarked on a pet portrait course and it all took off from there.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

Stitching, weaving, dyeing, mixed media, collage. More recently, I have experimented with graphite, charcoal, gouache, acrylics and pastels. I was for a while very smitten with pastels, but oil challenged pastel for my affections and won.

3 Peppers
(click to see original image)

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

I only started painting in oils last year and they have stuck. I have recently bought some gouache to play with and like it: my attempts at painting en plein air with oils were very messy and unsatisfactory so I might use gouache outside.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Oils. I feel this is to be a lifetime journey of discovery and exploration. I only wish I had started sooner.

Who or what inspires you most?

David Hockney. He started it all, really, when I went to see his exhibition at the Royal Academy in London last March, A Bigger Picture. Wow - those trees! An entire wall of watercolours - a new medium for him!! And an entire gallery of iPad paintings - also a new medium for him!! Such innovation and courage blew me away: he is an established, famous, “name” in art history: yet he wasn’t satisfied with just doing more of the same or, indeed, nothing at all. He did all this in his very late 60s and early 70s.

What I took from this is that it is never too late and my previous excuses (“it’s too late, I’m over 50, should have gone to art school as a kid”) were just that - excuses.

As a Chinese proverb has it: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW.

Greyhounds Snoozing in the Sun
(click to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you?

Something that happened in the past - 30 odd years of feeling that I missed out on art school and thus “it” was never going to happen. Far too busy to procrastinate now: so much to do and so little time.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I have a little file of encouraging quotes on my computer desktop and I read those if I feel any inner resistance to “getting on with it”. For example:

Question: Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left?

Answer: Five. Why? Because deciding and doing are not the same things. Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work (Chuck Close).

Polish Crested
(click to see original image)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

To be honest, it’s not getting the ideas that’s tricky, it’s identifying the ones worth following up: eliminating the tired or cliched, the ideas that might work as a photo but will be rubbish as a painting, ideas that are essentially derivative and thus not worth pursuing. I have a long way to go.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I have found the work of daily painters very helpful - Julian Merrow Smith, Carol Marine and Qiang Huang especially. Also, looking at the work of Richard Schmidt and the Putney Painters. My numerous David Hockney books. Finally, I read James Gurney’s blog every day and hope his vibrancy and engagement will rub off on me by osmosis.

Greyhound 2 - Santa's Little Helper
(click to see original image)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

What ‘my style’ might be; what sort of painter I am or might become. How to achieve some sort of balance between realism and expression. How to become technically good but not go down a photorealism pathway - any ideas on how to achieve any of this gratefully received!

What makes you happiest about your art?

I love it when that moment comes and the painting seems to paint itself, your hand and the brush it holds is somehow mediating the painting into being. This doesn’t happen often and when it does it is fleeting but when it happens it is exhilarating.

Thanks, Karen!

© 2013 Sophie Marine

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