Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Feature: Karen Stakelum

Hi Everyone,
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
TGIF:))  Today I have the fabulous and talented Karen Stakelum.  I met Karen through the Louisiana Watercolor Society not only is she talented she is also generous with her knowledge and time.

To see more of Karen's work check out her website.

How did you get your start?  

Drawing comes naturally for me and I am self-taught.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw and paint and always wanted to be an artist, even as a child.  In the 1980s, I became part of a troupe called “The United Theatre Artists” and for ten years I was part of a group that designed and executed stage sets for local theater.  It was a fun time, a learning experience and sharpened my trompe l’oeil skills.  When I hit middle age, I became tired of painting on a ladder.  After experimenting with acrylics and oils, I eventually chose to do watercolor paintings exclusively since the vivid colors lend themselves to my particular paintings …and they are easy to clean up!

What’s your artist journey so far?

Becoming an artist opened doors for me through the years that ordinarily I wouldn’t have had to opportunity to enter.  After my children graduated from school, I joined the Louisiana Watercolor Society.  This afforded me the opportunity to become friends and compete with the best artists in the state.  Also, being involved with the yearly LWS International Exhibition has allowed me to see and examine the best watercolors of nationally-known artists up close, which is a great teaching tool.  Through the years, I do something to advance my artwork each day – whether it’s taking new reference photos, drawing out new paintings or actually painting.  I’ve been a professional watercolor artist for about twenty-five years.  Locally, I have a few loyal collectors and once a year I have a solo show.
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
Where were you born?

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

My first choice would be to have two houses – one in California and one in Alabama…the places where my two children live.   But I’m happy to live in the middle at my home in Covington, LA.
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
  What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

I do love to paint kitschy things from the 1950s and 1960s and buildings from that era, especially concentrating on places in New Orleans that were once local fixtures…but now are gone.  And I have a fun, ongoing series of paintings that involves me placing my old Beatle albums in a still-life setting with other objects from the 1960s. 

Could you talk about your painting techniques?  

My compositions usually start in the lens of my camera because I work from photographs.  I draw directly on my paper using a 6H pencil.  I use Arches paper exclusively – usually Elephant Size or Half Elephant, 260 lbs., Cold-Press.  For paints, I use Daniel Smith, Winsor+Newton, Holbein and Schmincke professional-grade watercolors.  My technique is simple:  When the drawing is complete, I float clean water in the spaces I want to paint & then with another brush, drop in the watercolors.  I rarely mix paint on the palette, preferring to let the paint mix itself once it hits the damp paper.  This gives vibrancy to the end result.  Since I live in the most humid of climates, I dry the paper with a heat gun.  It takes about three days to complete a small painting and about a week to ten days to complete a large one.
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
How did you arrive at your current style?

Trial and error! 

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Johannes Vermeer and Jan Van Eyck are two of my favorite ‘Old Master’ artists.  And as for the present, all one has to do is to observe the completed paintings of Paul Jackson and John Salminen to understand how a good, solid watercolor is put together.  I also must say that I draw inspiration from my friends in LWS.  I’m amazed at the level of talent we have in this organization and the artists are top-notch. 
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?   

Aside from the obvious (paint, paper, water & brushes), I need to have air conditioning and my TV.  My comfort-zone is important!   Another thing that is essential is natural light.  I cannot paint at night.  The paint looks different under artificial light sources and actually can fool the artist.

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Essential colors on my palette are Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue, Nickel Azo Yellow, Transparent Brown Oxide, Quinacridone Pink and Sap Green.  Holbein Opera and Jaune Brilliant   are also favorites of mine.  I use many other colors but these always find their way into my paintings.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:) 

 Completing a new series of paintings is a goal of mine.  And I am hoping that the economy recovers so that those in our field can sell their work more easily.  I would also like to become diligent about entering competitions so that I can earn my NWS and AWS signature status. 

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Choose subject matter that you love.  You will not get a good painting if you aren’t interested – usually passionately – in your subject matter.  And always use the best art supplies you can afford.  Two or three tubes of the best watercolors will make a better painting than a whole palette of cheap paint! 
original watercolor by Karen Stakelum
What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

Always paint from your own photos and/or life experiences.   There is a certain ‘magic’ that happens in the painting if you have actually been to the place that you are trying to depict. 

Chocolate or vanilla?

Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat?

Book or movie?
Love books.  Love movies.  Don’t make me choose!

Favorite author?
Mark Steyn, Stephen King, Jane Austen

Favorite movie?
National Lampoon’s Animal House and
any movie directed by Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese.

Romance or comedy?  Comedy and suspense.

Favorite ice cream flavor?   Vanilla.

Night owl or morning person?   Night owl.

Cake or Cupcakes?  Cookies!

Thank you so much Karen:)

Have a great weekend, everyone!



  1. Je me suis agréablement plongée dans les réponses de votre invitée... Je m'en vais laisser un petit mot sur son blog.
    Je vous fais un gros bisous ma chère Carrie.
    Cela m'a fait du bien de venir vous visiter après une longue et difficile journée. J'ai cuisiné toute la journée pour le baptême de mon petit-fils qui aura lieu demain...

  2. Wonderful interview, Carrie!! Karen's work is very impressive. Lots of color and details..

  3. Dynamic painting, within which humour and wit abound - Love the four horsemen! The no nonsense 'trial and error' comment says it all, Karen just gets on with it. Loved it.

    Thank you, Karen ... thank you, Carrie

  4. Karen's work is unique and you can see both her personali and her talent. I have not seen Paul in many years but was at his wedding in Pensacola... His work is amazing and I first fell in love with his rocks and his glass psi tins. I remember an early painting of crayons thinkings that this cannot be watercolors!

    Wonderful interview, Carrie