Meet painter Karen Meredith…
It was such a pleasure getting to know you this past October in France for the artists’ retreat. I was so inspired by your dedication to painting and your beautiful work.
First, I’m honored to be included in your “Inspired Artist” series! We had such fun together in France last fall. There were so many sources of inspiration in that experience, weren’t there?
There absolutely were!
Where can people find you and your work?
One can find my work by visiting my website: KarenMeredithArt.com or by private appointment.
During most of my adult life I found myself occupied with family life and a career in Public Health. However, I’ve been interested in art throughout: my dad was a talented painter, I took art classes whenever I had a chance, and I always loved visiting the great galleries.
It wasn’t until after I moved to North Carolina in late 2000 that I began to take up painting as a serious occupation. A year or two after getting settled I enrolled in watercolor classes and workshops. I chose this medium, thinking that it would be an easy medium with which to travel. I then began to realize what someone once told me, that watercolor painting is for beginners and geniuses. I did advance beyond the beginner level but realized that becoming a master would be long in coming. (Although I still love to play with it and every once in awhile there are some happy accidents.)
Meanwhile, a friend suggested we try a plein air oil workshop together. That was in the fall of 2005 and since then my confidence and enthusiasm for painting has flourished. It is so much more freeing to know that I can make changes as I go and not so easily “kill” the painting by doing so…which is easy to happen with watercolor.
What is the experience of plein air painting like for you?
I have found the experience of painting outdoors an almost spiritual one….Regardless how successful the painting is, it somehow becomes infused by the sounds of birdsong, the breezes, and the sense of changing light and shadows. Whenever I return to a canvas I have painted outside, I am immediately transported to that place. This is much more effective a travelogue than a photograph or video!
What inspires you?
One of the many advantages to creating art is that it enhances the brain to notice the visual elements of daily life, e.g., the play of light and shadows, richness of colors, and interesting shapes. These become triggers for my paintings. I am always on the look out for these “delights” and if without my supplies I try to at least capture them with a camera for future painting possibilities. (Recently I experienced the most amazing sunset at one of the Atlantic beaches. It was after a heavy storm and the red light bounced off the western clouds and suffused the entire scene with its glow: the reflections of people walking in tide pools, the breaking waves, and even the clouds in the eastern sky. I was disappointed that I had forgotten my camera but the image is etched in my mind…so perhaps there still will be a painting from that!)
Sounds amazing! Your ability to capture light and color in such a beautiful way is inspiring. Who has inspired you?
I am most drawn to paintings that have mood, color, and loose painterly brush strokes…evoking a sense of poetry. I am inspired by many artists, especially Sargent, Sorolla, Macpherson, Gonksi, Goershner, Kroll-Roberts, Qhang Ho, and Schmid. I enjoy flipping through my library of art books, viewing videos, and creating reference files of works by such talents. I have begun a large 3-ring notebook that holds my favorite images according to subject…and have begun the same in digital format downloaded from the Internet. My current favorite books are the new landscape book by Richard Schmid and Oil Painter’s Solution Book by Elizabeth Tolley.
Are there any other thoughts about living a creative life that you’d like to share?
In what I consider a relatively brief time span I have found myself blessed in the process of creating art. I have studied with some leading artists (albeit briefly); I have met wonderful fellow painting mates; and I have found myself selling many of my paintings, doing commissions, and giving instruction. I have not entered many competitions, however, I have been accepted into four juried shows and won a second place award in one of them.
Since all this has happened so quickly, I must admit that from time to time I ponder the driving forces of creating art. As much as it is validating to sell, be accepted into a show, and be asked to do a commission…how much of that is inhibiting? Might my best art be created without thinking about the viewer? I’m certain this is an age-old question! Then again, my personal experience is that without some goal or feedback my motivation falters. So, as in all things…balance is key.
Another personal challenge is figuring out the right combination in learning and adhering to the established principles and techniques while allowing myself to “let go”….just play and let the creative juices flow. Obviously, I’m on a journey…a lovely one and despite the inherent frustrations…a most rewarding one.
And of course there’s the issue of getting right down to doing art. It is so easy to be side tracked. But once I’ve begun painting I find myself in the “zone”….To the point of forgetting to eat, or even take those much needed breaks to make evaluation. It is a lovely place to be, however.
I know that I have reached the point of needing to express myself through art…It is no longer optional…It has become a part of my DNA. (I finally have come to understand my father when he used to say, “Art is a jealous mistress.”) It is a gift unto itself…And no matter what comes, it is there to occupy my soul.
The most profound experience in all of this has been a kind of answer to a question I had from the beginning of this personal endeavor. That is the “why” of my doing art. It is such a different dynamic than when I was tangibly serving people through my public health work. In comparison it has seemed almost self-indulgent to pick up a paintbrush. The epiphany for me was when I began to see the faces of people who have selected my paintings to be part of their own environment. It seems that my art may actually be imparting pleasure. And how much of a personal blessing is that?
I believe you have just touched every artists’ heart with that last statement. I know you did mine. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing with us.
“Inspiring Artists!” will be an ongoing series. It will run as long as there are inspiring artists out there wanting to share their stories. If you are an artist and would like to participate please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!!
Check back next week to read the inspiring interview with artist & art therapist, Susan LaMantia.