Hello, from Northern California! California has not always been my home. Michigan is
my home state, but, seriously we have landed in a wonderful spot. We are halfway
between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe and very near to Napa. We have a small cabin
on Donner Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where I have a small painting corner
so that I can work in the mountains as well as here in my larger studio. So much
My name is Karen Burns. I am a representational painter working from direct
observation most often painting everyday objects. I especially enjoy showcasing vintage
pieces that have been worn by time and made weary from use. Still Life is what I enjoy
most ~ from setting up a composition and choosing the objects all the way through to
the final brush strokes and then varnish. The process is very calming for me.
I have not always been a still life painter ~ I was a professional still life photographer for
many years. It was rare to see me without a camera in hand, but over time it was
replaced with a paintbrush. It was calling to me to do something more with the
compositions that were created in the studio. So began the journey of working in oils. It
is amazing! Pushing and pulling the paint around until it takes on a life of it’s own,
bringing it all together with brushes and palette knives.
Building a good foundation was important to me so I sought out the best classes I could
find. I found mentors to work with and asked them for feedback. For the past few years I
have been studying with academically trained, award winning artist, Kelli Folsom. I have
attended workshops with her at the Scottsdale Artists School, attended immersion
workshops in Kelli’s studio in Denver, Colorado, and continue instruction with her on an
on-going basis. I have also worked with award winning artist Philippe Gandiol in his
studio in Davis, California. I am fortunate to find wonderful mentors. It has been
invaluable to have the support of other artists as well.
I paint wet into wet because I love the feeling of the paint. I begin with a toned canvas
and then immediately add a few gestures to set the boundaries of the still life I wish to
paint. Slowly the painting builds by continuing to add more wet paint on top of wet paint
~ I know, it kind of sounds like spreading peanut butter on jelly, but blending directly on
the canvas is quite thrilling. I try to paint every day. It does not always happen, but it is
always on my mind. My goal has been to get in as much brush mileage as possible by
painting as often as possible. It has really helped to see improvement much more
quickly. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the paints, paint quality, brush
handling, even varnishing. The whole process holds my attention.
When I had a camera in hand I often just watched the light travel across the sky or
study how the light traveled across an object. It is the same while setting up a
composition to paint. Watching the light, setting the stage, and coming up with a
pleasing design. Making this shift has been good ~ I still watch the light.
Medium: Oil Painting