The beauty of our valley is the reason many have chosen to call it home. For artist Karen Vance, this especially rings true. Karen’s award winning fine art graces the walls of homes, museums, galleries, the governor’s mansion and even one of the last privately held castles in Ireland. Most of the subject of her artwork can be found within minutes of Winter Park.
Originally from the Chicago area, Karen is sixth generation of a family of artists. “My whole background is art. I was painting from an early age,” she said. “My parents would take myself and my two sisters, who are both professional artists as well, out to places like the zoo and the museum. We always had sketchbooks and pencils with us wherever we went. We were always painting and drawing. It was a family thing. I was surprised to learn that other families didn’t do it. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
From the age of 15 through college, Karen worked for her father at his advertising agency. “He was my first boss, my best boss and my hardest boss. He gave me a work ethic that you can’t buy.”
After college, Karen went to work in Public Relations for the Oil & Gas industry in Denver. As the boom dissolved in the early 80s, she left that position and moved to the mountains. “I came up here and I fell in love with this place. I thought ‘wow, I could paint here!’”
Karen worked as the town clerk when she first moved here 34 years ago. “My parents were disgusted because I was doing other things and only painting on the side. They wanted me in my element, using my talent that was given to me.”
A year before her father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 64, he made Karen promise that she would commit to pursuing her art. “He told me, ‘Karen, you’ve got to get back to your art. You are so talented. You have got to stop what you’re doing and go full time’, and I promised him that I would. So, about a year later to the day after he passed, I gave my notice and went full time and I haven’t looked back.”
“There was never a time where I wasn’t doing art: drawings, printmaking, sculpture, painting watercolor and oil. Oil is what has given me acclaim with awards and museum shows. It never stops – I will always be evolving until the day that I die. I always say an artist can’t stop painting. We are constantly growing and doing more things.”
Karen was recently invited to become a signature member of the American Tonalist’s Society by the Historic Salmagundi Club of NYC. “It’s by invitation only, based on your body of work and what you have contributed to the art world,” she said. “I was blown away. I am very honored.”
Painting from the heart is what she believes makes her art so special. “What’s on my canvas comes right from my heart. Being in this amazing place, there’s so much beauty. There are so many places to paint on my bucket list just here in this area. Every time I go for a walk, there’s something new and special I see that I want to paint.”
“I have found that you can paint anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In nature, there isn’t perfection. There is sort of a natural chaos and an order of things that are so beautiful.”
Karen’s willingness to share her craft with the community is remarkable. Local nonprofits have benefited from Karen’s generosity, as her donated artwork has raised over $1.5 million.
She also offers watercolor and oil painting classes to the public, and her next series begins in the new year.
The watercolor classes are held every Tuesday, starting January 7th through the end of April. “The classes fill up pretty fast, since I only take ten students each week. It’s an all day class that starts at 9 am and goes to 3:30-4 pm. Everybody stays after and we get to talk about art. I am a gentle teacher,” says Vance. The classes include lunch and art supplies.
The oil painting class begins on Thursday, January 16. The seven-week course is for more advanced artists. “I keep it kind of small. You have to be a level that I can teach you. I guarantee their paintings will come up to a higher level. That’s my goal for them and myself. I get so happy when the lightbulb turns on for a student.”
“You paint until you die when you’re an artist. Art is alchemy – it feeds the soul. It’s a gift. It not only feeds other people, but it feeds your soul.”
To register for upcoming classes, call (970) 726-5837 or (970) 531-8722. KarenVanceArt.com