In a mission to support and promote local entrepreneurs (and to beautify our space!) we launched a “Featured Artist of the Month” series this past April. This month, our tasting room is featuring artwork from local Sacramento artist Karen Salee. Her watercolor paintings reveal stunning still lifes full of rich details that stir up feelings of timelessness and nostalgia. We asked Karen to give us some insight into her world as an artist.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your art, and what inspired you to become an artist?
A: I think all kids are artists, and somewhere along the way they are told they are not very good and either stop creating by choice or lack of opportunity. I was blessed to have both opportunity and encouragement. And I have never stopped creating from the time I was a toddler. I am always creating in my mind or with my hands. I can remember noticing the tiniest details in things when I was young, and they became my world. That fascination has never departed. And though my work varies in subject matter, it does not in attention to detail. My inspiration has always been unique textures within a space. A lot of my early work was related to unique architecture, most notably Venice, Italy, because I love the structure of man made things, such as brick, concrete and marble, against the soft fluid look of water. (I also love Italy!) Becoming a professional artist was a completely natural progression for me, rather than a career choice.
Q: What is the main challenge you face when beginning a painting?
A: The main challenge is to make sure that I am interested enough in the subject to see it through until completion. This is why I made a commitment long ago to always paint what inspires me, and not try to paint what I think people will buy. It has to inspire me, either through subject or color, otherwise it becomes laborious and mentally painful to finish.
Q: At what point in the painting process do you feel like the work is almost complete?
A: The painting feels complete when all of the tiny details are represented, like little paintings within the painting. This sounds “artsy,” but there is also a feeling that goes along with knowing a piece is complete. I think most artists are perfectionists by nature and can always spot the imperfections or try to make something even better. However, part of not making one’s self crazy is to pick a point at which to let go and be finished! Sometimes that happens with deadlines – not a bad thing for an artist to have 🙂 I always tell students that only they as the artist will notice what is wrong or missing, but the viewer will not, so finish up and move on!
Q: What is your medium of choice and why do you prefer it?
A: Transparent watercolor is my medium of choice. I like using paper, and also the way the watercolor can be layered, each one revealing a little bit more of the image. Watercolor can be overtly or subtly applied. This is true in acrylic and oil as well, but there is simplicity and ease with watercolor. It can instantly create a beautiful bright color, or that color can be enhanced with additional layers. I also like that the process is somewhat backwards. The white of the paper is the only way white is created, so it has to be left alone, in other words, painted “around.” Layering goes from light to dark. Watercolor pigment literally goes into the paper like a fresco where the paint goes into the plaster. Once a dark color is added, that’s it. It can be made a little lighter again, but most of the pigment has permeated the paper surface. I like thinking about how I will attain a certain look through layers. It is a very analytical process, thus the need for copious amounts of chocolate when painting 🙂
Q: How has creating art influenced your life?
A: Creating art makes one think like an artist; thinking like an artist often makes one create art (like the chicken or the egg, not sure which came first). Art has influenced my life in the way I think about what I see by imagining possibilities. I can liken that to looking at a cloud and seeing it as a whale or a big ship. The ability to think almost automatically outside of the box, has been a great tool for designing curriculum and teaching art from kindergarten to college level. Creating art has given me opportunities to travel internationally and work with wonderful teams of artists. I am often given unique jobs and think wow, it is so fun to be an artist. So yes, creating art has had a big influence on my life.
Q: Is there an artist who has been influential in your life in regards to your artwork?
A: My instructor in college, Gary Pruner, and a huge influence in regard to his use of brilliant colors. I took my first watercolor class from him, and that is when I really discovered how rich the colors in this medium could be. I am also inspired by Van Gogh’s use of color in his later works and find his ability to paint despite and often because of his own fragile mental state absolutely fascinating.
Q: What do you like most about being a Sacramento-based artist?
A: There is so much here to paint. The Sacramento region is my home, I love it here. It is also close to so many beautiful places such as Lake Tahoe, the Monterey Peninsula, the north coast, Mt. Shasta, and secret gems like Clarksburg! We have everything in our backyard! I have long admired California artists Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory Kondos and Pat Dullanty for their unique depictions of the San Joaquin Valley landscape, and hope to someday paint our region as beautifully as they have. Although I’ve been blessed to see many amazing places in the world, to quote Dorothy, “there’s no place like home.”
View Karen’s artwork at the Heringer Estates tasting room all month long. Her paintings are also available for purchase.
For more information on Karen Salee please visit her website http://waterlilyfineart.vpweb.com
To join Heringer Estates on our fun Wine & Paint nights, visit our events page for upcoming dates: https://heringerestates.com/events