As you may have noticed, we’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus from Reader Profiles, but recently I decided that I want to bring them back. I really enjoy getting to know the artists who read and participate on RedDot. If you want to know how the process I use for selecting artists to feature, you can read about it here.
I may change up the format of the profiles sometimes moving forward, so if you have any ideas of what you would like to see or know about other artists who read the blog, feel free to include them in the comments along with your thoughts on this artist and her work. For now, let me introduce you to Karen Blanchet.
Karen lives in Edmonton, Canada and creates vibrant, textured, and masterfully abstracted images of nature. Learning about her unique work and artistic background was a great experience, and I’m excited to share what I discovered with you.
Jason: What is your medium?
Karen Blanchet: Mixed media.
J: Describe your style and subject matter.
KB: At the moment my subject matter is nature, landscapes of secret corners. I love the wild and untamed. My style is semi-abstract with heavy texture and lots of random accident.
J: How did you develop your style?
KB: Robert Genn had it right. If we want to develop a style, we need to paint. I decided about seven years ago to do just that. I found the concentrated time (always sporadic because life is like that!) very enlightening as I was able to pursue fleeting thoughts and Ideas. As time went on I became more aggressive with the paint and the various media I was using. Negative space and creating order out of chaos worked together to form my style.
J: What drew you to your subject matter?
KB: Mother Nature always takes my breath away. As a child, my family often went camping in the Rockies before we moved to Australia. The Australian landscape is so different. Finding beauty everywhere, I became partial to water and how it transforms the ordinary into extraordinary. I miss the sea.
J: What do you feel is unique about your work?
KB: Many people have remarked that they have never seen anything like it. In some ways it is tedious to build the layers and find the correct colour and tonal match for each area. For me it is endlessly fascinating. I am less and less constrained by a particular image. I’d rather follow the textures, the drips and the drops, as I niggle out what resembles a landscape. I am not going for accuracy. My aim is to create something that draws the viewer into a sacred space, a divine dance.
J: How did you get your start in art?
KB: Mom always encouraged my brother and me to explore mark making. Mr. Dressup and the Friendly Giant played a part in this.
J: Are there other artists in your family?
J: Did your family encourage your art?
KB: Yes, until I got serious. Dad decided I needed a more reasonable living so I went to university to become a lawyer. Since it was his dream, I did not succeed in that realm.
J: How much art related education do you have?
KB: I have about eighteen months of formal education. Between the ages of 18 and 20 Mom arranged for me to attend the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney Australia. We were living in Sydney at the time. It is an atelier type school so I learned how to draw before I could paint. I learned how to paint in black and white before I could add colour. I was just getting into design with an abstract painter/instructor when Dad and I had an argument. I am so grateful for the foundation. I have been able to apply the knowledge to any medium I have chosen to investigate. I have also taken several workshops from various artists over the years.
J: When did you sell your first artwork?
KB: I sold my first artwork in Australia. I must have been about sixteen or so. It was on one of the many occasions where we were downsizing in order to move and my artwork joined the discard pile. A man noticed them at the auction (we often had an auction before relocating) and offered me five dollars for each of the two oils, scenes of boats along a dock.
J: Are you a full-time artist?
J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?
KB: I belong to several artist groups where I show my work. I use Facebook and other social media, probably not well. I send out email invitations to my shows. I connect with local reporters on upcoming shows.
J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?
KB: Time. I would rather paint. I find the amount of time needed to promote and do a good job of selling my work is just not there. So I do a poor job of promotion.
J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?
KB: I am tenacious. I may be interrupted but I always come back. I may not always have ideal places in which to work, but it does not matter. As far as making money is concerned, I take commissions and I used to teach. I am a good teacher. Again, something has to give. There are just so many hours in a day. Lately my painting “Dawn” was accepted into the “Landscapes” show for the Federation of Canadian Arts. They received 345 submissions from which 84 were selected.
J: What other jobs have you held?
KB: I worked for Drake International after I graduated. I was a receptionist for a company that sold fine fabrics to high-end fashion designers for about a year. After returning to Canada (an adventure requiring a book!) I took a Girl Friday position in a sign shop hoping to get into the design department. Deciding to further my education, I completed an after-degree course in education and taught junior high (art and French) for three and a half years before becoming a full-time mom. Between children and communities I taught art, took on some portrait commissions, and sold at local shows.
J: How much work do you produce per month on average?
KB: One or two pieces. Since January I have painted three paintings measuring 40×30, 36×30 and 60×40. I am presently finishing the edges on three more, 30×24, and two 40x30s. I also completed two 5×7” portraits and a 15×11” watercolour commission which required combining two photos of one chalet from two different angles.
J: How much time do you spend in the studio during an average week?
KB: Around eighteen hours painting. The afternoons are for paperwork.
J: Do you have a daily routine?
KB: Yes. I like to arrive in my studio at 8:30am and leave at 12:30pm.
J: Who is your favorite artist from art history (and why), and which of their works is your favorite (and why)?
KB: I fell in love with Frans Hals years ago. I loved the energy and what seemed like carefree paint strokes. I also liked the fact that he painted ordinary people. I could not locate the painting I remember so I do not know its name. It was a woman at a bar holding a glass looking over her shoulder. More recently Tom Thomson caught my attention. His rendering of negative spaces creates vibrant excitement in his landscapes. I like “Afternoon, Algonquin Park” and “The Tent”. Robert Genn is especially good at simplification. Do I have to pick a favorite?
J: What are your interests outside of your art?
KB: I love writing. I write poetry for every painting and include it in the image. I am ghost writing my daughter’s novels. She has wonderful ideas but dyslexia has curtailed her language skills. I swim and exercise with my other daughter and we three get together every other week to watch a film. Presently we are into Hitchcock. My husband and I love to travel and are selling our rental investments to create more free time. We spend time with our three grandchildren and we go extended family camping once during the summer. Our other son phones us from Montreal about once per week. I support my husband in his various interests (social justice, winemaking).
J: Thank you, Karen! To learn more about Karen and see more of her work, visit www.karenblanchet.ca. I would love to hear your thoughts on this interview and any suggestions for new reader profile formats.