Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you make?
“My name is Karen Robinson. I have lived in Australia all my life and mostly in the city of Melbourne. I’m now in my late 50’s which sometimes makes me feel old but now that we are all living longer – perhaps I am now in my infancy when it comes to old age! Over the course of my working life, I have tackled many different avenues of work. Towards the later end of my career I developed into a bridal designer, attracting a number of ‘Australian Gown of the Year’ Finalist Awards. My final career position was with a leading formal wear company as a Business and Product Development Manager in ladies bridal wear. It was a very exciting and demanding role! There came a time in my life where I decided to take some time out – the year November 2007 and it is then that I went back to a childhood love of painting; something that I had wanted to do for many years but between work and family life, it hadn’t been possible until this period of time. My intention at the end of 2008 was to go back to work but at the end of that year, my husband had become ill and in January 2009 was diagnosed with Lymphoma and I became his carer during his chemotherapy and recovery period. Abstract Painting with acrylic paints on canvas and digital photo art painting (as I call it) became a source of art therapy for me. This process became even more important after the death of my 25 year-old son, in a single vehicle crash, November 2009. ‘Art for therapy’ became a survival mechanism for me… My husband is in good health now after 5 years and our family do find joy in every day!”
How did you get started making the type of art you make?
“Abstract Painting: One day I just decided to go out and buy some acrylic paint, canvases and some brushes and just do! So off I went with little to no knowledge, to the local market, purchased cheap, small canvases, paint and brushes. In the home garage – I just put the paint on the brush and started applying it to the canvas, just to see how it felt, looked; to see how it would turn out – which wasn’t very good at first. But over the course of time I learned about canvases/paint/brushes and developed a style of my own which I was happy with! Part of my art process is about telling the painting story which is just as important as the art work in my opinion. It helps people understand and appreciate what the work is about, gives them something more to contemplate when viewing the art work and hopefully increases their understanding of certain issues/topics. This I have found when participating in TAC’s Group Exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia which are for artists whom have somehow been affected by road trauma. These exhibitions were/are about increasing the general public’s understanding of the consequences of road crashes. And it was here, that I came to really appreciate, the importance about communicating the artist intention in a painting story – written by the artist for the viewer.
Abstract Digital Photo Painting: In relation to my abstract digital photo painting work, it came about when I was wanting/needing change in an artist medium. I needed another form of artistic outlet other than just the abstract painting on canvas. I have always been a keen ‘photo taker’ and after having a look through some of my photos, I decided to see what happens when you start digitally manipulating them. To my surprise, I really enjoyed this process and discovered a whole new world of artistic endeavors for me!”
What’s your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from deeply personal family moments that have evoked strong emotions in me; other inspirations may come from current events and/or from photos that I have taken over the course of time.
What is art to you?
“Art to me has been a way of finding a voice, when words could not be found to help express emotions, feelings and thoughts. Art is a window into the sole of an artist. It is a very powerful way of being able to communicate with the viewer, a point of view. Art can make us stop and think. It can change us!”
What does your typical day look like?
“My typical day covers a number of areas. Firstly, I attend to my work that pays the bills, food in the belly, roof over the head, and cloths on one’s back; and this does not consist of artist endeavours but is rewarding, and not just in a momentary sense. I am involved with a not for profit organisation, part of my work is paid work, and part is volunteer work. This work revolves around road trauma and helping the community become more aware of road safety and road trauma. Second priority for me is working on my blog which is about sharing my art therapy journey. Thirdly – I work on my painting projects and/or digital photo painting projects. Fourthly – anything else that needs my attention but if family need me such as my daughter or husband, all else falls in behind the other daily tasks – they take first priority! PS: Have to confess, I spend the early hours of the morning checking emails, checking Facebook, checking my blog…it gets a bit much!”
How have others responded to your work?
“During my group exhibitions with TAC, I have found the response to my art work has been something that I was amazed at! To watch how people stop, look at the painting, read the painting story, and then re-look at the painting, talked amongst themselves with others about the work and then afterwards make the effort to speak with me in person and tell me how moved they were with what I had shared makes me know this is what I want to do. This is where I have learned about how powerful art can be!”
How do you keep motivated?
“I have kept motivated by sharing my work and understanding how it can get people to think, to challenge their beliefs and walk away with a new perspective, a new understanding. Painting I find, is very therapeutic and it adds a calming element into my everyday experience so this is a motivation for me to continue on with my artistic endeavours.”
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
“I hope that by sharing my personal art therapy journey will encourage others to take up art in order to improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Much information is available from an art therapist’s perspective but not much is available from a personal journey of person perspective. I decided to be brave and share my experience.”
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Advice is always given and it can be difficult to weed out what is best for one’s self. I think the best advice given would be what I gave myself – ‘paint and share what I have learned and experienced with honesty’.”
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
“Work out what it is you really what to achieve in your artistic endeavours and once you have reached that goal, everything else is a real bonus!”
What are your thoughts on art school?
“Didn’t go to an art school! I do value education and understand that qualifications can certainly add to one’s ability to gain bigger opportunities in life but I wouldn’t allow the lack of education to hold me back in achieving what I wanted to do in life!”
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
“It would be amazing if sometime in my life, I had a sole exhibition with a major art gallery! Oh and also for my blog to take off …that would be amazing…”
What’s your dream project?
“Preparing for a major solo art exhibition with a major art gallery!”
What art supplies do you use?
“The art supplies I commenced with in 2007 were very cheap and of poor quality but I very quickly started to use much better quality materials. Art supplies that I now use consist of: (1) Columbia Copperplate 700 HB pencils; Faber Castell 7085-20 Vinyl Eraser; Double Hole Metal Sharpener; Matisse Structure Artist Acrylic Paints; Matisse Artist Mediums; Caravaggio Canvas – Style 528 Medium Texture, 100% cotton (white); Canvas Stretches Victorian Ash; Gallery Standard Hanging Fittings; Taklon Brushes Artist Edge Series 2260; Scotch-Blue Painters Tap 3M #2080; Staedtler Permanent Marker; and Picture Varnish.”
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
“The art industry could become a better at helping the viewer of art; understand the art work more fully by including the ‘back story’! To help the viewer understand the artist’s intention better. There needs to be a greater emphasis on getting artists to write their painting stories and including those stories in publications and exhibitions. People want to know and understand more when they stand and gaze on a work of art; they are hungry for more information.”
Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
“Gustav Klimt, his work to me is just so beautiful; I think what attracts me to his work is the patterning, the colour and the use of gold leafing. Vincent van Gogh and his use of rough texture and amazing colour and I also really enjoy MF Husain who has been tilted as the barefoot ‘Picasso of Indian art’