Looking Down the Road (Ojai) – 2006

“Looking Down the Road (near Ojai) – 5 x 7 study – oil on canvasboard

The end of a year is a time for taking a look at the road one has traveled, as well as the road ahead.
Today, a look back.

At the beginning of this year, I posted A list of resolutions which included a resolve to paint daily, to paint larger, to participate in activities of our local art association and to take a figure drawing class. The local studio that features figure drawing lost its lease, so that goal will be pushed into 2007.

Some highlights of my year …

I started with a period of intense sketchbook painting at Descanso Gardens. I must have returned to the Japanese gardens dozens of times to observe it in different seasons and lights.

Although I continued to draw, I pushed painting to the forefront, painted daily and read every book I could get my hands on – books by Frank Webb, Edgar Whitney, Kate Johnson, Charles Reid, Jan Kunz and others. I immersed myself in watercolors by JS Sargent, Homer, Turner, Constable and Delacroix.

I went on numerous sketchcrawls and discovered the fun of trying to do a painting – albeit a sketchbook painting – quickly and loosely. The experience helped me learn to look at color and value in the environment.

About that time I started doing some digital oil paintings in Corel Painter and Photoshop. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was starting to entertain the idea of painting in ‘real’ oils again – something I hadn’t done since I was a newlywed – a very long time ago. Probably I was toying with the notion before investing in the supplies!

Around June, I got out of my Aquabee sketchbook and started using 140 # watercolor paper, as I had some 20 years ago, and began to think more about composition. I was invited to join a plein air painting group, whose company I’ve enjoyed on a weekly basis.

In the second half of the year, I experimented with a variety of media: watercolor, pastel, acrylic and finally, in September, oil.
In watercolor I began painting on larger sheets, and although I haven’t tackled a 22 x 15 inch sheet yet, I’m feeling just fine with 11 x 15 and smaller. The experience of trying out these different media was liberating. In a way it was like being in college again, with the whole course catalog to choose from. I’m still very much in that experimental phase, and perhaps I always will be. I find it tremendously exciting to look at a subject and then to think about which medium I want to use to express it. Sometimes, this past year, I’ve done the same subject in different media, just to learn from the experience.

And I guess I’d have to say that’s the theme of the year for me: intensive learning.

Around October I decided to enter a juried competition with our local art association, and was pleased to have three things juried into the show, and to get a prize. Fortified by this happy experience, I entered another peer reviewed contest and was rewarded again.
With the constant encouragement of friends and family, I also decided to offer a few artworks for sale – and that has also been a very pleasant experience. (Thank you, everyone!)

In November-December I attended watercolor demo workshops every weekend, put on by Watercolor West and the National Watercolor Society. Seeing outstanding watercolorists at work is both inspiring and energizing. I can hardly wait until next year’s demo series.

In November I joined the cadre of Daily Painters at dailypainters.com and made the commitment to do a watercolor, oil or pastel painting daily (well, mostly, except for some of the holidays.) I plan to continue that indefinitely.

This year has brought new friends, new experiences, new challenges and new opportunities – almost all through the shared love of art. I couldn’t ask for more but to continue learning and growing as much as I can for as long as I can.

I thank my artistic boon companions – every single one of you – for accompanying me on this Creative Journey for this, and previous years. Especially , I’d like to thank my dear husband for his constant support of this rediscovered passion of mine. He shares my journey to new places to sketch or paint – a trail in the mountains, or a scroungy junkyard. He takes me to museums and brings his cameraman’s eye for composition and lighting, which enhances my experience through our lively conversation. And he’s the first one to suggest and implement ingenious solutions – whether it’s turning a paintbox and a tripod into a portable easel or rigging excellent lighting from pro movie lights for painting indoors. I am a very blessed woman, and I know it!

This is getting pretty long, so I’m going to break this into a few parts. Tomorrow I’ll probably post some of my favorite paintings of the year and what they represented to my Creative Journey at the time. And the day after that, I’ll talk about where I want to go from here. Subject to change without notice, of course!


  1. Detlef
    December 31, 2006

    Karen. congratulations to you on such a fantastic effort in doing a painting a day and the rest of your creative pursuits. I am just unable to fathom how you (and some of the other EDMers etc) find the time to do this. You should be exceedingly proud that the output has not only been for outputs sake, but there has been real growth and development in your work. I look forward with eager anticipation to this year’s instalments.

  2. Pamela
    December 31, 2006

    it was a fantastic year for you.

    What a wonder. Yup, it’s a wide-eyed wonder full year.

  3. Deborah
    January 1, 2007

    Congrats to you for a great year. You’re an inspiration.

    Cheers and Happy New Year!

  4. Felicity
    January 1, 2007

    It’s been amazing watching your very real creative journey this year and seeing the change and progress – congratulations on your wonderful year, I’m looking forward to the next!

  5. Katherine
    January 1, 2007

    Karen – just to let you know you that on the basis of the work done and progress made this year you were a VERY strong contender for one of my Making A Mark awards and only just missed out. That’s a back-handed compliment for you – I’m sorry it wasn’t more! I for one very much endorse your emphasis on learning and have that as my number one priority in my own plan for 2007 – which I need to get back to finishing!

  6. Tom G
    January 1, 2007

    Great image to start the new year. Sounds like 2006 was a big (and successful) year for you. I hope 2007 is even better!

  7. lin
    January 1, 2007

    WOW, Karen — what a year!! Congratulations on your milestones — and BRAVA for all your learning!! May 2007 be an even greater creative year for you! And thank YOU for your constinued support and encouragement — and advice!!! BIG HUGS to you!!!

  8. Lindsay
    January 1, 2007

    What an amazing year this has been for you. Your paintings just keep getting better and better. Though I don’t comment everyday,
    I visit here and you give me inspiration and comragship on the art journey. Looking forward to going on in 2007 together.
    Can’t wait to see your goals and favs.

  9. Laura
    January 1, 2007

    As you know, I’m thrilled for you as you’ve created one beautiful painting after another this year! I’ve never seen anyone experience such a period of sustained and repeated breakthroughs as you have these past months. Congratulations, dear Karen.

  10. NelVanL
    January 1, 2007

    Kudos, Karen! Youv’e done some amazing and beautiful work. Your progress stirs all of us to push forward. It’s been so inspiring to see your paintings here, and I for one, appreciate how articulate you are about it all. I also want to mention how well you finesse the leadership of the EDM group, always with a gentle and encouraging comment to newbies and answering questions right and left. Thanks for all of that. I look forward to checking in here very often this coming year. You go, girl!

  11. melissa w
    January 1, 2007

    Congratulations on a wonderful journey. You’re an inspiration to many!

  12. Annie
    January 1, 2007

    Though I don’t always comment, I visit yoiu daily, and your work continues to inspire and amaze me. A wonderful year for you and here’s to an exciting 2007–Happy New Year, Karen.

  13. andrea
    January 1, 2007

    Great post Karen. You’ve achieved so much. It’s journeys such as yours that inspire me on my own. Thank you. Look forward to the sequel. Happy New Year I hope you achieve everything you set out o and more, with love Andrea.

  14. TeriC
    January 1, 2007

    Karen, your progress this year has been nothing short of amazing!! You are such a wonderful inspiration!!! Thank you and happy new year.

  15. Linda
    January 1, 2007

    Karen — congratulations on a wonderful year filled with accomplishments! You are an inspiration! :-)

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