Born in London in 1978, Karen spent many of her school years in Geneva, before returning to the UK to attend Hampstead Fine Arts College in London. In 2014 she moved to Eye, where she has a home studio.
A figure and portrait artist, her paintings mostly feature women and are a commentary on the weight of expectations placed on the female sex. With a particular focus on the physical body and the scrutiny to which it is commonly subjected, she works in oils and seeks to highlight pigments in the skin that can often go unnoticed, emphasising and exaggerating them to accentuate their extraordinariness.
In 2020 Karen’s work was selected for the Portraits for NHS Heroes exhibition and the accompanying Bloomsbury book, and in May 2021 she was awarded the President’s Prize at the Institute of East Anglian Artists Open Exhibition. In June she was selected as a finalist in the Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize. Her work has been collected in the UK, Europe and United States.
What is one thing you’d like our readers to know about you?
That I only properly picked up a paintbrush in the Spring of this year, after over 20 years away from the easel. What that proves is that it’s never too late to return to your practice – or to start it – and that if you put in every effort, you can achieve all manner of things. With dedication and commitment, the quality of your work will improve immeasurably, and if you fully believe in yourself the world could be your oyster.
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
I’m endlessly inspired by the people I paint. The focus of my work is the physical body and the scrutiny to which it’s commonly subjected, and the subjects of my paintings are helping to challenge the conventions of body image in such an inspiring way. It’s more than just body positivity (which encourages us to love our bodies no matter what they look like), it’s fat liberation, which is much more powerful and goes beyond messages about how we feel about ourselves and instead looks to actively combat the discrimination of fat people.
Why do you create and how has your art practice affected your life?
I’m not really sure why I create, other than that once I’d returned to it I couldn’t stop. I’m often contacted by people who tell me that my paintings have changed the way they see themselves, and hearing that just makes me want to paint more. I also get lots of offers from people offering to sit for me, so now I can’t possibly stop until I’ve painted them all!
The biggest change to my life has been how much my world has grown thanks to all the new people I’ve encountered, mostly via Instagram. I now have conversations with people all over the world, and that’s been particularly valuable during lockdown. Now that things are slowly opening up again, I’m looking forward to meeting as many of them as possible in the real world!