Art has given Karen Martin’s life purpose and filled her with a sense of belonging. Born to an artistic mother, Karen has been creating for as long as she can remember. She shaped her own learning process, teaching herself many of the skills she knows today.
“I can’t remember a time that I did not draw or paint. It is a gift passed down from my mother who always encouraged me to learn and grow in my paintings. I am self taught, taking workshops or classes here and there to hone my passion in painting and sculpture.”
Societies Of Support
In March of 1979, Karen’s mother was one of 12 artists who started the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. Growing up in this community inspired Karen to begin teaching herself watercolor painting. Today Karen is an associate member of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, as well as a signature member of the Ohio Watercolor Society and associate member of the American Watercolor Society.
Dedicating her life to supporting other artists helps Karen feel she is giving back to the community that built her into the creative she is today. “I started heavily focusing on watercolor painting when I was about 16 years old thanks to my mother and the members at her society,” Karen said. “Since then I have been mostly self taught, taking workshops here and there to help push my boundaries. I was also blessed to have the support of three amazing art teachers at my high school!”
Pushing her boundaries and growing her skill set has led Karen on a journey of becoming a sculptor in her spare time. After losing her beloved Irish Wolfhound, Karen wanted a way to remember her furry friend. “I’ve found inspiration for my work comes in all forms,” she said. “I would have never started sculpting if it weren’t for my dog. I wanted a bronze sculpture of her that I could store her ashes in. It started me on a path of creating sculpted bronze pet urns. It truly is a work of love and passion.”
A Witness In Watercolor
When it comes to her paintings, Karen describes her inspiration as one of two things: a commission or a spiritual revelation. With her commissions, Karen takes the time to study her subject and let the image she was given speak to her. “I love to tell a story, create a mood or just make people ‘feel’ when they look at my work,” she said. “Portraits are one of my favorite things to paint—every face tells a story. I want to share my gift and in some way capture a moment or image for eternity.”
If she isn’t fulfilling a portrait commission or illustrating a children’s’ book, Karen lets her inspiration speak to her. Whatever she feels drawn to paint, Karen listens to the inspiration and lets her skills work as a tool to create the finished piece. “At times I feel like a messenger,” she said. “I don’t always know what the end result of a piece might be, but I know the direction I am going in. And with watercolor, it feels like the inspiration truly flows from me, to the brush, and onto the canvas.”
Working with watercolor is not always an easy task. It takes a skilled hand to carefully layer every muted shade into vibrancy, control the flow of the paint, and keep such a fluid medium in place. “Watercolor is truly an amazing medium because of the flow and granulation you can achieve that no other paints can quite do,” Karen said. “I have also learned that painting on wood panels allows me to add watercolor pencil in a scribble technique—which adds a new dimension to the piece and I can work on a very large format.”
For Karen, the most rewarding part of being a creator is getting to witness someone who is touched by her work. The sincere, raw emotion some experience from her work reaffirms to her this is her calling in life. “I have done bronze pet sculptures that brought tears to the receiver,” she recalls. “I have been told stories from people who relived a tender childhood memory from an image I was inspired to make. To touch someone like that is priceless.”
Karen also feels she wouldn’t be where she is today as an artist if she didn’t have her faith. She pulls much of her inspiration from her spiritual background, letting it guide her in her work and be a witness of her beliefs. She is currently working on a sculpted bust of Christ to honor the faith she holds near to her heart.
Lifted By Helping Hands
Running her business, K Wright Studio, comes with its fair share of challenges. Karen finds it hard to wear the hat of a business owner and an artist simultaneously. “I wish I could say I have overcome challenges in my business easily, but I do not,” she admits. “I have worked with others to help market my work and commissioned someone to build my website. But to be honest, the business part is and always will be a challenge. I am fortunate to have a lot of support from my darling husband.”
The same sense of community that supported Karen in becoming an artist is how she helps run her business. Her friends and family step in when she has questions or needs an extra hand. It’s even how she heard about ACT Insurance.
“Making this a profitable career takes work and energy,” Karen said. “Family and friend support is a huge asset. Thankfully there are still people out there that love and support the arts, like ACT. It is very important in today’s world to have insurance because of the many liabilities there are. It gives peace of mind that you have the coverage for any circumstances. ACT has been very user friendly and very supportive of the arts.”
Defined By Art
Throughout every aspect of her life, art is the silver lining for Karen. It connects her to everything around her. It defines her. “Art means everything to me—it IS me,” Karen said.
“When life gets in the way and I am not creating, I find myself very unhappy and discontented. I feel it has been a fire to me, and by not creating I am not fulfilling my gift.”
You can see more of Karen’s work and her creative process by following her on Instagram and Facebook!