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Pursue your deepest passion daily.

Stephanie Szakalo

Karen, paints in her hall because of the natural light from above, and in spite of the pram...

Karen, paints in her hall because of the natural light from above, and in spite of the pram...

Artist Interview: Karen Mortimore - inspired by Rodin, getting paid, and the West Coast of Scotland - and not put off by the pram in her hallway - one of our artists reveals more of herself and her work.

How long have you been drawing & painting for?

Of course all my life, but professionally since the gallery I managed was sold and I took the leap of self employment; so nearly ten years now… wow, it doesn’t feel that long!

How do you work?

I paint in my hallway as the light is great – daylight from above – and just enough room to keep standing back and looking from a distance. My drawing and pastel work I do on the good old kitchen table. Many success stories have started there, especially creative businesses.

What’s your background?

‘Get a proper degree’ my parents said, so I did, mostly because I really enjoyed studying (English Literature and Sociology), but since graduating in 1998 I’ve always found work in the visual arts – editorial work for a fine art magazine, artist studio manager, gallery manager, graphic recorder and book illustration… I do like using all my different skills and working for myself. Doing graphic recording all over the worldhas introduced me to some very interesting clients and challenging projects.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

To get it out of your self and into the world… to do the work.

What art do you most identify with?

Paintings which capture interesting light and atmosphere. Really great oil paintings of people, in which they feel alive, breathing and looking back at you, for example, John Singer Sargent’s brilliant ability with a few strokes of paint.

What work do you most enjoying doing?

Sketching from life and oil painting.

What themes do you pursue?

What my clients want! This is tricky for me to answer as it varies so much… but I do like my ‘themes’ to have an aesthetically pleasing result, as well as impact (hopefully).

What’s your favourite art work?

Impossible for me to answer… unless I can say my own child, as she’s my best work!

Having a child can come in handy when photographing your work, providing an idea of scale and, in this case, family resemblance! 

Having a child can come in handy when photographing your work, providing an idea of scale and, in this case, family resemblance! 


Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

Being at Rodin’s museum in Paris, probably 15 years ago. I found it incredibly moving to see these living beings emerging from solid masses – the emotion and feeling he could convey (for example in ‘The Kiss’) is just ridiculous! One of my great artist pals, Jonathan Taylor (look him up, brilliant painter) once said that as artists we have the capacity to make ordinary (sometimes rubbish) life a bit better for people; to improve it. This happened to me at the Musée Rodin

Why art?

Because I have to.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Quite a few people have cried (with happiness) on Christmas day! I also remember years ago feeling devastated by a gallery owner’s comments about my portfolio, but to be honest he was spot on – it’s just hard to hear when you’re only 20 and being an artist is your main passion in life.

What do you dislike about the art world?

Male dominance – society needs a fairer and more equal distribution of work and home life to facilitate more female artists… and to improve everyone’s quality of life in general I think. One of my artist friends told me once that he genuinely thought woman weren’t as good painters… which for a clever chap was a very short-sighted thing to say… having a fair chance would have been a start!

What do you like about your work?

The process of doing it, and when people admire my talent and are genuinely moved by what I’ve created.

What research to you do?

Plenty – I’m always ripping articles out of painting magazines, looking at online videos, going on short courses and re-reading my ‘how to’ books. Especially with oil painting, there is so much to learn.

What is your dream project?

Ha! One that would make me financially secure for the rest of my life!

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

That is interesting… I’m not sure I’m that bothered about being compared to anyone really. I’d like to be as ‘good’ as a few people, technically and aesthetically, and certainly as well-renowned as some successful oil painters, but style-wise I can’t pin that down, sorry!

Favourite or most inspirational place?

Definitely the West Coast of Scotland – I’m half Scottish and I love anything a bit rugged, romantic and tartan!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It sounds a bit nuts but I was encouraged years ago to practise saying ‘I am an artist’ out loud, over and over, until I could say it with conviction. When I first said it, I didn’t believe it… after a while it became truer and now I say it as a natural extension of myself – and it says it on my tax return! Try it with your hidden, inner passion… watch the results.

Professionally, what’s your goal?

To earn enough money as an artist to keep being an artist. I might sound mercenary but that’s not what I mean. I’m fiercely independent and self-reliant; what I earn supports me and my child, and I’m determined to pursue my deepest passion daily.

To see our collection of Karen's work click here or any of the following links: