When Karen Joy’s boys grew up, she had a ‘niggling feeling’, and joined a watercolour class. But that is a far cry from the acrylic paintings she is so passionate about now. Find out about her journey from printmaking, picture restoration, horses and family to acrylic landscape and abstract painting.
Karen Joy at creativityfound.co.uk
Clubhouse: @clairewaitebrown and Creativity Found Connect club
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa https://ketsa.uk/under Creative Commons License
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
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This time, I'm speaking with acrylic artist Karen joy, who I've known for a number of years and whose paintings I have a number of myself. I asked Karen to tell me about her art and what it is she does. Yes, hello. I'm an impressionistic landscape acrylic painter, basically, now, that's not where I started from. But yes, my work has to be about the landscape. I am trying to work more and more impressionistic, expressionistic, abstract, landscape, because I, I feel as an artist, you have to keep growing. I'm not sure I might revert back. Yeah, but at the moment I'm trying to explore. Thanks to lockdown. Now, I know that you went to college, but not as a painter. What did you study? Well, I did go to do a fine art degree. And when I got there, the amount of experience I'd had at art was very, very minimal. How I got in, I have not really any idea. I mean, I took my portfolio and I was a mature student at 23. And I got there and then it was in the sort of early 70s. And everybody was doing big abstract, that was quite new. And I thought, I don't really know kind of, so I landed up doing printmaking really, because I could incorporate the printmaking process. I I did that and I did all the different I did the silkscreen, the lithograph etching, I did photographic etching. I can remember one particular piece, all those years ago, of doing a photographic etching of our view, still back at the farm, and then doing my abstract version on top of it. Yeah. Which actually, if I had the object I'd quite like to do now. In fact, thinking about it. But I again didn't really know. I think I'd do so much better at college now. Now I'm more mature. Now I've got more to say. Yeah, I know myself better. What happened when you'd finished your studies then? Well, I had met my to-be husband, who was just horsey. And so I went back to doing the picture restoration, which I had done before I went to art college. And I managed to get some galleries who sent me work at home and so forth all the time and back then my boys were growing up. I was either mucking out stables or restoring paintings and making a bit more money. There's no way I could have afforded to paint for myself, nor was I in the right space place in my mind as as well as, well my mind really, just didn't enter until my boys grew up. Then something started niggling. Aand I thought actually, I would quite like to learn watercolour. Like all us middle-aged women do. And I went, luckily, to an amazing teacher and met a few other ladies of similar age or a bit older, actually. And there was a couple of us and we got really quite into the art bit. And then I, I've always been a bit of a bull in a china shop with my painting, and you can't really do that with watercolour, the technique, it's all about technique, and you have to kind of know where you're going. And I don't want to. And I went to an acrylic workshop with an amazing artist called Susan Gray, who was, well, but she was so energetic and so enthusiastic, and she leaped backwards and forwards. And she produced this wondrous piece of art in about half an hour, well, an hour or so. And it was just her vitality. And the way you could apply the acrylic. And I thought, Oh, ah. Did one. I've still got the piece I did. And I was really quite pleased with it. I've played around with it over the years, but I just knew that was absolutely for me. It was the freedom, the excitement, the the kind of a 'Oh God that's wrong, let's plug something else on top of it', but a little bit of that comes through from underneath. People say, acrylic dries too quickly. You can't do it, it's too bright, the colours. And I love the fact that it dries quickly. Because I can just keep working and layer upon layer. Whereas with oil, you have to stop and wait for it to dry for a day or two, by which time I'm a different person when I go back there. But a lot of people also they look at my work and they go it's oils. I mean, you would think so. So if you like, I get the best of both worlds. Thinking about your landscapes, and we'll get on to pastures new later. How did you develop that painting style? And did it come naturally? It did develop naturally, really, I looked at other artists I liked. I mean that one workshop I went to. And I really was and I did actually go, there was another workshop with Ali Cochrin. And again, just a few techniques, what you could do, and basically what it showed me is that there was nothing you couldn't do, there are so many techniques that you can do. And I think maybe my work gets too fussy because of that sometimes. But I just sort of kept working. And I knew it was about the layering. I knew it was about a landscape. And sometimes as you know, it's more realistic than than others. But yes, it just sort of grew. And I mean, I've only been painting seriously, well, I suppose it's quite seriously now for about 10 years, I suppose. And you kind of go in fits and starts. Sounds terribly dramatic, but it's more and more about the soul, about the heart. I kind of if you like I think I can do nice landscapes. Although the one you've got it's probably one of the my best paintings. I think for me, it is still one of the better paintings. I'd love see it again to see how I've moved on. But when you couldn't debate between you which one to have and you just got so just got the right one. You know, and that's what it's got to be about. It's got to be I suppose, you could people say less about your feeling of the landscape. I've sort of know where I have wanted to go, I suppose, without knowing that I wanted to in a way. I asked Karen about her experiments with abstract painting and what her impetus was to try something new. Well, I went, going into lockdown, t wo things. All exhibitions I was supposed to be doing Bucks Open Studios, Oxford Open Studios, of course they went virtual but it wasn't my thing. Everything was cancelled from March. So I didn't know how long it was going to go on for but I decided, great, that was my time. I didn't have to prepare for exhibitions, I didn't have the stress of having to prepare, make nice paintings for exhibitions, I was going to go on the journey I wanted to go on. I found this online course. And it was great fun. And that's what it was called the Joy of Painting. And I have the joy of painting. And I'd had that so I wasn't stuck. But I wanted to be allowed to move on. To to push to go further. And I went a lot more abstract. And a lot of mark making, which is what we're supposed to do. Great fun. But looking back at some of the earlier stuff, actually now I'm thinking I did learn. But again, that was doing abstract marks, right at the end, it was learning about composition and tonal, which things I know about. If I do a painting of a scene and a tree is stuck in the wrong place, I don't paint it. Because compositionally, it doesn't work. Now I feel that I don't work it out. My painting is all instinct. It is always been about feeling. And the abstract to me. It's, it's it's about design. And I don't want my work to be about design. Maybe I've got it wrong. But that's how I see it. Being terribly dramatic here, but I do want people to stand there and just go 'Ohhh'. Not 'well, that's nice'. That kind of, it's got to be more about it than just the painting. Yes, And I kind of don't quite know how to do it yet. But I have done four pieces, which I am so excited about, because, and they came out of playing. And I did just play. And there's no direct landscape. There's a mix of all the landscapes I know, I suppose. But you can sort of see their landscape. But that's about it. Now. I'm just so excited about them. And I haven't quite been able to do it again since quite. But I did one this morning that I have done about four paintings on this piece of board and they were all kind of getting realistic. And so I put the photographs away. Can't do it from a photograph. It's got to come from the mind. Also. sort of fun. What's the point if it's not hard work. I have got to try and work quite hard at it emotionally. But I feel I can probably do what I want to do technically now. Right? I think I know how to manipulate the paint. There are so many different ways you could do it. I mean, it's great fun in so many ways, which I've learned more with this course. And I am a bit inclined to try all of it on one painting. Which is the problem. I think it just gets too busy. I wouldn't like to be in that position. Control. But it's learning something new. Not a technique, but a feeling. And knowing when to stop. And painting a feeling is I think very good. And some people can do it easier. But I'm finding that what does that mean by feeling of the landscape, but it? Well, it's not there to be described. Is that not in words? You've mentioned about exhibiting and selling your work. Has that helped boost your confidence? Yes, it has to, obviously, if somebody gets you, and they want to take a piece of you home, it is the most wondrous feeling it really, really and I'm getting choked up about it now. It's what is interesting is when I do exhibitions, and as usually I've got two or three pieces that I know they're the one I like they're the ones I like them and nine times out of 10 they're the ones that sell first or that sell. So, which is told me something stopped producing quite so much. Just put what you know is right. I've learned that these last few weeks. But yes, it boosts your confidence tremendously. But but it's difficult when I can sell them if they're like this. Do I paint what I know I can sell? But then if you paint, as I've discovered, what you think you know you can sell, but your heart is no longer in it? I don't know, I don't know whether they don't look as good or whether I don't think they look as good. And again, this lady who I've been doing the course with, she was the same, she started off very, very representational, and people liked her work. And she's now gone on very abstract landscape, very abstract. And she's saying you will leave an awful lot of people behind you. But you will find people that do like, your, work. I mean, I'm lucky I don't have to make a living from it. And the idea is, it's about painting. It's about finding your joy. It's not about selling. I don't want to be a commercial artist. I suppose what it's saying. I don't want to just churn out paintings, because some people just paint the same fears. Because they can sell it. So you're not painting it to sell it to? Which is why if somebody wants one, it's oh wow they get me. And it's, it's, um, yeah, it's very, it's very exciting. And it's, it does help. But as I say, I don't want to get stuck in a rut. And having now these exhibitions coming up. I'm trying to do put both in. Which whether it'll confuse people? And I don't know if that's the right thing to do. But it's nice to have been asked to exhibit. So that was you know, and that's another little pat on the back to actually being sort of approached. Calleries are closing down, obviously, is getting more more difficult, which is why it goes online. Which, I mean, I love to be there. That's why I like the open studios, because I like to talk to people about my work. And I think people like to talk to you. And I think that's why the open studios are great. Because you get people that are actually interested in art. They're not actually coming necessarily to buy something to hang on, to fill that space, they see something and they think I've got to have that. In light of 2020s changes and upheaval, I was keen to know about Karen's plans for the future. There is a gallery I want to approach. And I have now for about three or four years. And Derek keeps saying, 'Go on then'. And with this new move, I'm not ready. I can't paint consistently for a gallery, just at the moment, of a style because they will want I think they want a style. I need to put my work online, I suppose. Which doesn't fill you with joy. It doesn't fill me with joy, as you know, either the actual putting it online and taking all the photographs and, you know, all that? What a waste of time I could be painting. I find it so frustrating. And as I say, I don't think you're getting the real painting from a photograph. I just keep painting and producing more and more and more and more. What am I gonna do with them? You have to go with the flow. I suppose. You know, going online. I mean, this friend, you know, she says she is totally different to me. But she sells quite a lot online, but I can imagine hers are much more two dimensional. I mean, I see people on Instagram, Instagram, that I love and follow. But I feel also partly because I am a painter, I kind of probably know a bit more what it looks like. It's a bit and some of the stuff I really like, is also very two-dimensional, very abstract, and I think it's wonderful. But I could never work like that because it is about composition. It's a different way of working. Yeah. So some pieces and some methods of working come across better. I think so online, your stuff is very textural Yes. I find you're going to have to do it or not do it and that's, you know, and get brave or, huh. But I'm just using the excuse that I'm still on my journey. I think that's perfect excuse. I don't delve myself to find people. There are two I listen to occasionally one is Ask an Artist, which is Peter Keegan, who is mainly a portrait artist and landscape. And Laura Boswell, who's a printmaker who's does beautiful Chinese woodcuts. And they're very generous and speak about their experience. And it's really about whether you want to be professional. They they talk about all sorts of different things, but they're not too long. And especially knowing Peter, I know he's a very, very generous man. And the other one is Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan, and There's is art juice. And they talk about all sorts of things. But I don't I'd rather listen to music while I'm painting. And through this course, I have picked up a few people like Lewis Noble, and he does quite a lot on YouTube sort of videos and things. I suppose I'm bad. At learning. lazy. Maybe. I also, I don't actually want anybody to interfere with my art at the moment. I don't want you know, I've gone on a few courses over the last few years and come back devastated. And not wanting to pick up a paintbrush again. And that knocks your confidence for six. And I kind of just think I need to make this journey. Well, ideally, I would like them to email me. Okay, I'm actually and they can always come to the studio. But I put a certain amount on Facebook, and Instagram. I haven't lately, because of this transition. I'm wanting to sort out a little bit what up but I have put a bit on on my Facebook page. And I have just done a Facebook page Karen joy artist purely for the art so they don't have to scroll through my grandchildren. But I also do have a website. Karen Joy art.weebly.com. I have a website yet I'm not really doing it properly. So I know but you would you would have initially have had a season of Brill and odd Artweeks and Yes, exactly. All the other stuff where everyone and normally I have to say I normally I sell reasonably well at these live shows. So I haven't felt I've needed a website. Because although I've got plenty of paintings. There are usually places to hang them and show them. Yes, yes. So you know, I've got I'm gonna have to move with the time. That's fabulous. Karen, thank you very much for talking to me. Thank you very much for my therapy.