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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

The Wow Factor

Local artist Karen Budan packs the “pow into the wow” factor of her realistic, brightly colored oil paintings. The images are so realistic that reaching out to touch an object seems natural. The brightly colored canvases illuminate the space with their radiant energy, an aspect that keeps her collectors returning for more. Karen draws her inspiration from unexpected places; she shares, "For me, inspiration might be the bright colors in a grouping of marbles or the beautiful green of a Granny Smith apple nestled in the folds of matching green and white striped material.” Painting still life allows Karen to create arrangements, adjust the light, and set the stage to transform everyday objects into an extraordinarily detailed subject study. She loves the challenge of transferring the complex subtleties of color, texture, and light patterns of the items in front of her onto a two-dimensional surface resulting in an image that looks as real as the setup itself.

Karen has had a lifelong desire to express herself through art. She grew up in Romulus, Michigan, near the Detroit Metro Airport. Her first adventures in the world of painting began when she was young. Learning to paint by numbers provided an introduction to the medium of oils; however, this quickly gave way to creating her compositions and experimenting with the paints to produce bright and translucent colors and far more interesting subject matter. Life's circumstances led Karen to pursue a successful first career in the Michigan education system. She utilized her doctorate in various capacities over 38 years. Karen spent seven years as a classroom teacher before moving into administration at the building and district office levels. During the last four years, she was the superintendent for a small district in Jackson County, Michigan.

Karen retired from the Michigan system in 2001, when she and her husband relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona. Almost immediately, Karen accepted a position with the Glendale Elementary School District as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum. She transitioned again in 2004 when she was recruited as National Director for Professional Development for an educational software company. Karen states, "I worked for four years as a road warrior, working with school districts from the East Coast to Hawaii." She summarizes, "I fully retired in 2008 when I contracted Valley Fever." By 2009 Karen had her art career in complete focus for her second act.

"For me, inspiration might be the bright colors in a grouping of marbles or the beautiful green of a Granny Smith apple nestled in the folds of matching green and white striped material.”

The foundations of the second act can be found when Karen was just out of college, working as an elementary teacher. She reflects, "I was able to take adult education art courses offered by local art facilities; one of those courses introduced me to the medium of pastels and artist Richard McKinley." She goes on, "I was hooked. I took many workshops from Richard and credited him with teaching me the basics of what I do today as a photorealistic painter. My focus is on painting still life." Classic artists Sorolla, Titian, and Sargent also inspired Karen in her quest to achieve realism. Now, with the time to perfect her style, Karen attended numerous workshops at the Scottsdale Artist's School. She states, "My extensive collection of art books and DVDs have provided additional knowledge and, of course, my bag of tools."

Karen works from her home studio in Scottsdale. She continues to be inspired by the effect of light on various objects. She the master in the art of reflections; her favorite is the distortions of objects reflected on glass or metal. Karen loves the challenge of the setups that are incredibly complicated and detailed. No doubt so do her collectors because they keep coming back for more.

Karen is active in many art organizations, allowing her to network with other artists and exhibit her artwork. Initially, she worked solely in the medium of pastels earning numerous awards as well as signature and master circle status in the state, national and international pastel art organizations. Several years ago, Karen focused exclusively on her oil painting work. Unsurprisingly, she has achieved the same level of recognition for her oil creations as she had with pastel work. Karen is a board member and signature member of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters' Society, a signature member of the Oil Painters of America, American Women Artists, and the Pastel Society of America. She is a Juried member of the International Guild of Realism and a Master Circle member of the International Association of Pastel Societies. Artist Karen Budan's work is represented by the Park Gallery in Carmel, California. Today she tends to focus her exhibition efforts on international and national juried art shows, galleries, and museums. Regardless of the venue Karen's realistic style continues to bring the wow to her viewers.


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