I‘m Karen Paul and I’m originally from New Zealand. I am a full time Artist and Art Instructor at my online art school, Karen Paul Studio. My career in the arts began when my parents brought us from New Zealand to the U.S. when I was young. Soon after we moved here, my Mom and Dad began a fashion design business.
I sold my first painting in my Mom’s shop in San Francisco when I was just a teen. It never crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to be successful – no “Starving Artist” for me! I credit my parents for raising us to be hard workers and encouraging us to pursue successful careers in the arts.
My childhood dream was to attend art school. After winning a scholarship from the Academy of Art in San Francisco while in high school, I enrolled to attend there. Later, after earning my Bachelor of Art in Illustration, I discovered teaching art while volunteering at a local school.
This experience of sharing my skills, and encouraging others was very rewarding for me. I discovered that I enjoyed teaching as much as creating my own art. Eventually, I went back to school to complete my Master of Fine Art in Painting to refine my skills to a level of mastery. This additional education gave me the confidence to develop curriculum and open my School of Fine Art offering the finest instruction.
One of the ways I find my inspiration comes from being in nature. I really enjoy plein air painting in beautiful Northern California and love to visit some of the most beautiful gardens here. Filoli Estate Gardens in Woodside, California is one of my favorites. It’s fun to take my daughter, Lily, as we explore the garden together through a child’s eyes. I always get so inspired with the colors and experiences I draw from being in nature.
I take tons of reference photos for future paintings and for my students. Although I do use reference photos to paint from, I prefer to work from life as much as possible. Often, I will work from a still life set up in my studio with beautiful objects and the most extravagant flowers – my florist bill is quite exorbitant as you might imagine. This gives me the opportunity to paint from life using perfect lighting.
Teaching also inspires me, as I always like to design the very best themes and lessons for my students. It’s a joyful process to see how inspired they get and to listen to them share their ideas and insights as they develop their own unique artistic eye. I am a big believer in having an artistic community of fellow artists who can help encourage and inspire each other. In the early stages of learning, it can be easy to get artist block and I’ve noticed that being surround by a community of artists can help to keep this from occurring.
One of my favorite ways to work is to paint large format paintings; at least 22” x 30” on cold press watercolor paper. I love to use the 300-pound paper because it’s great for accepting many paint layers and washes. I start with a light initial layer of paint and lots and lots of water using a large size 16 brush and I allow the paint to flow on the paper.
This is just the first layer, so I can afford to get spontaneous with where the paint flows, knowing the darker layers I put over the top after it dries will cover up those lighter areas. After the first layer dries, I will re-wet sections of the painting adding more detail by switching to smaller brushes in subsequent layers. I save all the detail for the end and often work wet onto dry in the last stages.
I use professional artist grade watercolors exclusively, Sennelier Watercolors are one of my favorite brands. I use a limited palette of about twenty or so colors and depending on the composition, I’ll use a separate palette for extra colors that I like to experiment with.
I use mostly transparent colors because they are the best for layering color. The watercolor medium is a lot like stained glass so transparent is better than semi-transparent or opaque. I do have a few opaque’s in my palette, so I am not a complete purest when it comes to color. I don’t think that is necessary and is just a question of individual preference.
Contemporary Realism is the style that best describes my work – a perfect marriage of both the old and modern styles of painting. I am a strong believer in a solid foundation in value, color theory, drawing and composition. I prefer to use a variety of techniques in my work as this is essential to creating paintings that have life to them as well as create the character and feeling of the subject I am portraying.
My work is ever changing and evolving, so I enjoy the process of exploring new materials and techniques to incorporate in my own personal work as well as introduce them to my students.
For those who are interested in solid instruction in mastering watercolor, I offer an online painting mentorship course as wells as several self-study online workshops. Details on these can be found on my website. Also, I’m always posting great tips and information on my Facebook page, Karen Paul Studio.
Above all else, never, never, never give up when it comes to painting. I believe in you!
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!