It’s no surprise that artist Karen Knutson is a member and signature member of a half dozen watercolor societies. What then is surprising is how she first felt about watercolor.
“I didn’t even like watercolor,” she says when a friend asked her to take a community watercolor class together.
Besides her misgivings of the medium, Karen went ahead with the class. The social part of it seemed fun. But that first class became the beginning of a life change.
“I will always be eternally grateful to my first watercolor instructor, Raghnild Berstol, whose positive comments and free spirited demonstrations headed me in the right direction,” she says on her website. I've been addicted to watercolor ever since.”
Those first experiences taught her that watercolor could be more than she had seen up to that point. Up until then, she’d only seen weak-valued paintings.
So she took another class. And she built her skills slowly.
“I hid my paintings under the couch,” she says of those first attempts. “That’s how bad they were.”
But Karen kept working and building her skills piece by piece. It took her a whole year before she realized you could even rewet watercolor paper and do another pass.
When she took a class from Gerald Bromer on collage that her work really began to become closer to what we know of her style today.
“Collage made my work more exciting,” she says. “It gave me ideas for colors and negative painting.”
Karen believes in the power of good teachers. She’s studied after some of the best including John Salminen, Karlyn Holman, Mary Ann Beckwith, Gerald Brommer, Carole Barnes, Barbara Nechis, and Diane Faxon. She speaks of many of these in her classes. She gives them recognition constantly for the positive role they had in her learning to paint.
Karen still loves watercolor and that love has expanded to watermedia. About twenty years ago she came fully into mixed media, adjusting her style and taking the leap of faith that her audience would come with her.
It worked. Much of her work is abstraction now.
“I get really excited at the challenge of abstracts,” she says. “ I never know exactly how they will turn out and that mystery excites me.”
Today Karen teaches across the country to sold-out workshops. And she continues to love to paint.
“I feel like the luckiest person alive to be able to do something that I love so much.”