Paintings and Their Stories with Abstract Artist Karen Knutson

July 12, 2018 4 min read

Each painting represents not only a series of ideas to an artist but also a particular moment in time. This week we had the privilege of interviewing abstract artist Karen Knutson (check out the interview here). When she sent us images to go along with the interview, she also shares with us some of those pieces' stories. We wanted to share those with you.


Before the Wine

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

"Before the Wine is the illusionary painting that started my journey into semi-abstraction."


Computer Age

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson


"Computer Age is my most successful painting and exhibits the process that I talked about in question 2.

This painting was actually in lots of trouble midstream, but I realized that I had gotten too busy, so I wiped out the light pathway, and then glazed big areas, using different hues of red.  It’s my favorite painting that I’ve ever done, and to think, I almost gave up on it!  I always tell my students that when they are frustrated with their paintings, keep going, cuz it may be your very best work.  We wouldn’t quit only 2 feet from the top of the mountain climb, right?  Keep going!"


The Journey


interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson


"This is one of my favorite paintings, “The Journey”, which is a portrayal of my artists journey with my husband by my side and all my friends’ support along the way.  This painting went through many “ugly teenage” stages before it came to completion.  It sold before I had the chance to enter it into competitions, but I consider it one of my top paintings that I’ve done. In question 6, I speak of my 3 words of design.  Repetition, Variation, and Dominance.  This painting has repetition of curves throughout.  Different size circles for variation, and the flack and white stripes through the middle section are repeat and varied from the background forces trees.  I also have horizontal stripes to vary the background trees.  The grey tones dominate this picture and the center of interest, (the 2 figures) is in a good place.  There’s a mystery about this painting, making it interesting, whether you view it close up or far away.  These are the reasons that I like it so much. "


Proud in Pink

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

“Proud in Pink” was juried into the American Watercolor Society 2018 International Exhibition!  This painting went through many changes, but my promise to myself was that the pink color would survive.  I had a dream of doing a landscape with a grayed pink barn and holstein cows in the foreground.  Well, the cows never happened, but the pink color was a challenge and I promised myself that I would try my best to be true to my vision.  I was working on this painting at a Paint-in, where 40 artists gather and paint on their own.  A fellow artist came by my table and made a rude remark about the color pink, and why didn’t I change it?  That made me even more determined to keep it!  I have a great satisfaction that I won that argument.  Can’t wait to tell her that it got accepted into AWS!"


Little Abbey

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

Here is an example of a Little Abbey.  It is only 5” x 7” and I call them little abbeys, my nickname for little abstracts.  They start out with a dry brush watercolor technique, then adding collage, and then layering to build depth in the painting.  I love using these for warm-ups.  Gold embellishments are the last step.


Don't Cross Me and Studies

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson


"This landscape (5” x 5”) was done using Tombow water soluble markers and I tried to limit myself to 30 minutes.  In 2010, I did a 30 minute study every single day for one full year! The middle photo is my cover of the 11” x 14” album where I have the collection, with a short sentence or two about each day’s events. “Don’t Cross Me” is  a wire drawing that I also use for warm-ups. I love drawing roosters and chickens for this process. Wire drawing is a nickname I gave to this process. They are done with a permanent marker and the result looks like a wire sculpture. Thus, my name for them."


Sailing Through Life

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

Sailing Through Life is a good example of the light pathway weaving the viewer’s eyes through the painting. I usually tell my students that they should imagine a mouse going through a maze and to make it interesting for him to make it through the painting, using the white tunnel."


Waiting for Mr. Right

interview with abstract artist Karen Knutson

Waiting for Mr. Right is an example of the type of people that I paint.  I like to keep them very basic and make the backgrounds an abstract design that supports the figure. Notice how the light shoulders and face create part of the light pathway."

Read the interview with Karen Knutson here.

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