Newest Work

MOON CHILD

February 2017

I was inspired to do this painting after an artist friend shared how she was designing tarot cards. While I did not want to re-create the Moon card, my interest was piqued by its components. I had just completed two portraits of dogs in my photo-realistic style, so I was looking forward to creating something from my imagination. I’m bringing in challenges for myself with composition, color and texture. My goal is to create an “other-worldly”, kind of scary place that doesn’t exist.

Using the Moon card as a reference, I became even more intrigued when I started my research. It refers to great “sensitivities and imaginative impressionability. All is not what it seems.”

The greatest challenge and most successful portion of this painting to me is the full moon. What started out as being a pencil – drawn circle on a piece of paper became a glowing body of mass. First I painted the blue sky leaving a small, blurry edge of white (paper) around the circle. I used the lightest color of purple I could make and filled in the circle, leaving another pure white edge around the inside of the moon. Many layers of a light blue/purple color was the finishing touch. I’m very happy with this part. When the tree and limbs were added, the moon was pushed back into the distance appearing to glow even more.

Besides loving all things lunar, I’ve been fascinated by werewolves since childhood. The thought of a human being turning into something with animal strength and freedom without responsibilities was very attractive to me as a young child with a disability. Watching stories about werewolves really fed my imagination. And what better painting to incorporate  a werewolf in? I decided to make the werewolf a female. She is trapped in a tree trunk with no means of escape – frozen in place. The position of her body, though, seems to express a sense of surrender. There is no other form of existence for her. The moon card “illuminates our animal nature“, and the wolf in general wants us to break convention and go wild.

The crab is a symbol of hidden psychic power, but for me it represents a tenacity to hang on to life and the daily struggles it offers to me after losing my dearest friend to cancer in 2013. The heart of stone in the painting refers to my sadness. It has a crack in it symbolizing that I will miss my friend every day for the rest of my life.

As for the other pieces of my painting, the rose always pertains to me. The unique thing is I left the eye of my brother’s dog on the paper (from a previous project) because I wanted it to be looking out from the center of the rose. There is also a small, grassy hill with two stones on it. This image is actually a partial face of a parakeet, one stone being the eye and the other being the beak. Little animals bring me so much joy, and I wanted to lighten the mood of the piece just a bit.

I worked very slow with a tiny brush, holding my breath the entire time while painting. My logic was if I worked more precisely, the image I I create will better resemble the one in my head, and it will be more compelling for the viewer if they can “see” a glimpse of my visual intention. The best part about doing this painting is I create it as I go. There are no rules or set guidelines. I just paint, and let the images I see on the paper guide me.

 

RED, WHITE and BELLA

January 31, 2017

This is Bella and she belongs to my sister. Bella’s a feisty little critter and she loves her toys. I believe I captured her playfulness in this small watercolor. One thing I learned was how difficult it is to paint white animals…

After not painting for 3 years, I kind of wanted to jump right into another piece after creating a portrait of my brothers dog. I didn’t have any ideas and I didn’t want to waste any more time, so I decided just to paint my sisters dog. I thought it would be easier this time since I was back in the painting game and Bella is white. It wasn’t easier at all, and this is actually my 2nd attempt at this piece. I’ve always been a little heavy with color – maybe because I can’t move around easily and I tend to concentrate too much attention and pigment into one small area. Also I’m still. having to hold my breath when I work, so I find myself trying to get more color into areas more quickly. That’s the thing about watercolor, though – you can’t just pile color on willy-nilly because it cannot be taken away. Maybe I’m just getting more impatient in my old age.

When I messed up the 1st painting I almost didn’t start another one. I did start again, however, and I’m glad I did. I started out differently this time by purposely using a very tiny brush so I couldn’t use as much paint. All of a sudden I realized I was back in that familiar creative zone where you kind of work instinctively. The brush just does what it’s supposed to do without much thought. It’s like magic… I can barely believe the results myself.

Once again I used an unclear photo of Bella on purpose so I would add in details that I imagined should be there even though I couldn’t see them. I just let my mind make it up. In the photo, the dogs’ eyes dogs the dogs were merely big black circles. I imagined where the highlights should be, reflections, shadows and colors, as well as the pupil.

I solved the “white animal” problem by creating a small well of water and added some blue, dark brown, henna, green and red. I kept it so watery it had hardly any color at all. Using only the tiny brush (a triple 0) to apply the color, I was able to distinguish the fur slowly and precisely without losing the precious white paper that cannot be replaced.

I am very happy with the results of this piece, and that I successfully met the challenge I gave myself.

 

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ZOE ISLAND

October 2016

This painting is pivotal to my career as an artist. I had not painted in nearly 3 years due to severe depression, and I knew if I didn’t pick it up again soon I might not be able to paint ever again. A year ago my brother had asked me if I would do a painting of his beloved dog Zoey, and I really wanted to do it. I could barely hold on to my pencil while drawing it out and it was extremely taxing  physically, but I never realized how much harder it was going to be when I started painting the eyes. I couldn’t hold on to the paintbrush unless I held my breath. I would work for 5 minutes and feel totally exhausted. I struggled so much I ruined three attempted portraits of Zoey. I became very discouraged as I destroyed every eye I painted. Creating art is one of the few things I could do by myself without assistance, and the thought of losing this ability was very depressing to me. I felt if I couldn’t paint anymore, I was no longer an artist.

I kept trying, though, and I could work about 10 minutes before I would have to rest. Soon it became 20 minutes at a time, and finally the longest time I could work was approximately 90 minutes. The more I did, the easier it became. I am so glad I pursued painting again because now I know I’m still an artist, and even more so a productive human being. I can do something not everyone can do.

I had several  references for Zoey, and  I chose a 3/4 side view of her head. It’s an interesting pose compositionally, but I really enjoy the effects of foreshortening when animals are photographed a certain way. As the head and nose come closer to the camera and become larger I can really see and create a personality. To me, the expression emits a sort of happiness, loyalty and joy. She looks ready to do whatever my brother wants and she is waiting for his command.

There were no plans as to what else would be included in the painting other than the dog. In the early years I would not put backgrounds in my pieces because I thought emphasis would be taken away from the main subject. In this case, I thought by using contrasting colors I could make the image pop more than if I left the background white. I started painting a cool blue sky to complement the dark brown/black fur of the dog. Knowing my brother loves islands and diving, I decided the bottom half of the painting would be a beach. Not only does the warm color of the sand compliment the sky, it really works with the cool blue colors in the white fur. I believe because of my strong use of contrasting colors, this is one of the most dynamic images I have created in recent years.

I do love working with textures – and it looks great for the dog and the sand, but I didn’t like the textured sky. I was very disappointed in it, but it seemed like there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I have never been able to work large areas and keep the paint transparent like traditional watercolor is supposed to be. I had to develop my own style many years ago, and that is using thousands of tiny brush strokes until they blend together and cover the bigger areas. It takes a long time and lots of layering of colors. It bothered me because I felt like the sky looked furry like the dog. The texture made it look heavy, but I did find a solution to take some emphasis away. I decided to add three palm trees in the distant background, and it worked. The trees were painted very spontaneous. I literally painted them in without drawing them first. They ended up being the perfect distraction – the attention went right back to Zoey.

I am so happy when I look at it and it makes me smile. It represents the happiness of living well and making the most out of each day. The words “hope realized” also comes to my mind – hope that I could still paint and turn out something acceptable. I can, and I did.

 

PEACE PUZZLE

2015

Peace Puzzle 20154wheeler (5)ANIMAL PEACE by Karen Wheeler

April 20, 2015

Animals inspire me beyond words. My definition of Peace is expressed by showing how two animals of different size and species can lay down together and sleep. I have chosen a domestic house cat and a parakeet lying in peaceful slumber even though the cat is a natural predator to the bird. The larger cat is happy to be the protector of the smaller bird in this instance. There is no fear here because the two are friends and love each other so much that their only desire is to remain close to one another in peace. Maria Arango Diener skillfully carved my detailed drawing on the puzzle piece I received just so I could participate in the “1000 Woodcuts Peace Puzzle” project. To learn more about this project, please check out http://1000woodcuts.blogspot.com. Above is the completed puzzle – can you spot my piece of the puzzle?

 

HEARTS AND FLOWERS – Artists Notes

November 2014

Hearts and Flowers 75

 

The idea behind this piece is that one time while I was under hypnosis I had a vision of painting a red heart surrounded by green leaves also shaped like hearts. Later on when I consciously thought about it, I decided that I would actually never paint a plain heart. Since the heart was on a stem like a flower with leaves, I thought I would instead create a rosebud shaped like a heart. If the viewer squints their eyes while looking at the painting they will see that the rosebud is actually a heart.

I decided to work very small and make an art card, which is usually 3″ x 4″. It was much harder than I thought it would be, because even though it was tiny it still took me about a month to complete. Mostly my eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I would rather work a little larger since I’m so keen on crazy detail.

 

 

GIANT BUNNY SALE – Artists Notes

December 25, 2013

Giant Bunny Sale

Giant Bunny Sale

This idea came to me while I was traveling home from California and reading signs along the road. One sign that caught my eye said “Giant Used Car Sale!”, and all I could think about was “We have giants? And they use up cars and sell them to us little people?”. I was being silly because I was tired, but I started thinking about what other types of giant sales there could be, and for some reason I thought of rabbits. Rabbits are seen as adorable, furry little nonviolent animals – but what if they were giant and ominous? What if their cute little black eyes were huge and terrifying? The pictures in my head amused me, and since I hadn’t painted for seven months after losing my dad and my dear friend David, I was really happy and quite proud of myself for even thinking of something to paint. I love painting animals, especially if they can be seen in an unusual or unexpected way. I was also thinking of David because when we were a couple at one point I used to call him “Bunny” (short for honey bunny). I am looking forward to this because it makes me feel happy.

I am totally changing my palette and paints. I have decided to use some pan watercolors from Daler Rowney. This will force me to use new color and mix them in different ways. I am enjoying this challenge, and as always I am using Arches watercolor paper. I can’t go wrong –

I really wanted to keep the rabbit in the foreground black-and-white, but unfortunately I used up too much of the white area. It was an easy decision just to make it black, and it still stands out like I wanted. I’m glad it is finally finished – July 17, 2014.

 

RED GERBIL – Artists Notes

December 2013

Red Gerbil

Red Gerbil

The painting Red Gerbil is a commissioned piece which will be a surprise for my collector. She wanted me to paint something for her, and for many months her nickname in the social media (Red Gerbera) has reminded me of “red gerbil”. I can only hope she will like it.

I decided to put a gerbil standing next to a pink rose. I wanted the background to be loose and nondescript with cool colors so I could bring warm colors into the gerbil and the rose. The background is a washy blue with some brown near the bottom/foreground. I almost work too slow to do the wet on wet technique, but I found if I work on a 3 x 3″ sections, I can control the bleeding of the pigment by keeping such a small area damp. I use lots of water to prevent hard edges from forming, and I like working back to front and nondescript to detail. The background will take a total of three days as I can only work on it in sections without getting tired. First I completed the right side and then the left side. The foreground will be done last and I am trying to keep it very toned-down with interesting shapes. It shows up a lot right now because there is so much white paper showing, but once I get the subjects in place and start putting in detail, the background will not be prominent at all and should fade into the distance. I am happy to work on it.

Red Gerbil is finished! This is Wednesday, February 26, 2014. I am delighted with the way it came out, and I was especially nervous about painting the gerbils whiskers! But they came out perfect. The rose came out a little darker than I expected, but I still think it’s interesting to look at. I feel like I am finally starting to maintain some transparency instead of painting so heavy all the time. I enjoyed working on this piece so much and watching it grow. I’m so happy that I have not lost my skill!

 

Comments

  1. You’re work is thoughtful and inspiring thank you for sharing your incredible talent and story. As the mother of a beautiful little girl struggling with autism, you give me hope that, like you, her beautiful talent will surface and she, too, will bring joy to others; she already fills my life with it!!

    Thank you,
    Catherine lane (ucalane on Instagram)

    • Thank you so much Catherine! Art is the perfect form of expression, so your daughter is sure to teach and inspire others…..
      Always, Karen

  2. Red Gerbera says:

    It must be some kind of serendipity that made me come to your website today. Why? Because I see that it’s the first anniversary since you painted Red Gerbil. Thank you again for accepting my request for a Karen Wheeler original. It makes my heart sing every time I see it….and that’s not a usual reaction when one sees a rodent in their home :-)

    Love it and love you!

  3. Mona Lisa Buck says:

    Hi Karen, How much would the pictures of the pink, purple roses? MLb

    • Hi Mona! The prints are all different prices – just click on the painting you like and you will be directed to all the options available to you. Thanks so much for checking out my website!

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