Called “Poetry on Canvas”, Karen Fedderson’s contemporary oil paintings, celebrate the beauty of the California coastal landscape. The subjects of her most recent work are the beaches, back roads and trails of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Karen focuses on the landforms, the colors of the water and the plant life that occur in the unique conditions of light near the sea. The paintings show a rare balance of reality and impression. With expert and patient brushwork she captures a level of detail that involves the viewer in her dynamic compositions. Her rich and subtle coloration and deep atmospheric perspective bring out the emotional qualities of her experience at the location.
For more than a decade, Karen has painted a body of work encompassing three areas of the California Coast: the Golden Coast from Ventura to Cambria, the Big Sur to Monterey Peninsula area and the North Coast beyond San Francisco. In her travels, the landscapes of inland areas of California have caught her eye. Her paintings of the gentle rolling hills, lakes and creeks are captured with the same emotionally charged sensitivity as her coastal paintings. Inspired by her deep love of the pacific coast, the paintings magically transcend paint and canvas and become energized events that transport the viewer to the time and place where she first felt the inspiration.
Karen’s process of developing the imagery in her paintings is unique. Karen has studied the effects of sunlight and atmosphere at different times of the day and all seasons in locations throughout California, especially the coast. The Fedderson family has traveled by car, bicycle and on foot to search for new, exciting locations and return to old favorite ones. When the time of year and color of the atmosphere are right for a particular place she might say “the light is right at Butterfly” or “Let’s go to Avila tomorrow morning, I think it will be just right”, and it usually is.
When Karen arrives at a painting location her first thought may be “I love this place”, but that gives way to “What is it about what I am seeing that makes me feel that way?” Then she will walk the area and study the way the light changes the possible compositions. She spends time intensely studying the subject and finally begins sketching. As the place reveals its secrets to her she continues sketching and taking notes. She will direct her husband, William, to photograph certain areas and details for later reference. If the conditions of the day are not just right or the light changes, the initial intent may be lost. It often requires several visits to a location before she can capture the essence of its beauty.
Using the visual elements before her she creates an underlying abstract layout composed of the mass forms, the objects and color values she has observed. This composition is developed on site in her sketches and later in the preliminary layout of the painting on the canvas. By the time she finishes this process of observation and sketching the image is permanently ingrained into her memory, it needs only to be transferred to canvas.
The painting begins with a quick layout of the composition and basic color areas on the canvas. When this first layer or under painting is dry she will begin the many layers that make up the final piece. Each layer is painted with Gamblin oils and copal medium. Most of the layers are allowed to dry before the next is applied to keep the colors rich and vibrant. She will also paint “wet-on-wet”, dry-brush or use glazes to achieve certain effects. In the later stages, Karen will refer to the photos that were taken and bring out some of the interesting details of the original scene. The process continues, often for several weeks, each layer bringing it closer to the original vision. When the painting arrives at that point it is signed and varnished and Karen is off to work on the other several paintings in progress.
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