We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Offutt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always felt the need to draw and paint. As a child, I would watch my father draw and be amazed at how he could make something look real on a piece of paper. In my formative years, I excelled in art because it was the one thing I knew I was pretty good at and through many years of practice and education, I was able to find my path into the art world. I had many art related jobs, but it was not the direction I wanted to go. In 2002, I got my first shot at being represented by a gallery in Houston, Texas, and from there, my career path was realized. My style of painting is falls into the contemporary realism category. I am more focused on painting people either via portrait and or figure. There is always a personal element or narrative that comes through in my work. Being an artist is something I cannot turn off. I am always thinking about the next painting. And that is very grounding.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a representational artist focusing mainly on figurative and portrait art. Although I expand out here and there with landscapes and such. What I try to convey with my work is a sense of atmosphere, depth and sensitivity within a visual story. I am honored to be amongst a large group of contemporary representational artists of today. I was introduced to a gallery owner of the Jack Meier Gallery, in Houston. I started selling work pretty consistently and from there i would submit to national juried group shows and competitions which ended up being another way I got into other galleries which got me more attention. What I would say as far as challenges is that I over committed myself and in some cases, I didn’t trust my gut when dealing with a few of the galleries. So, that was a hard lesson but necessary one. At a certain point, I had to cut down on too much gallery representation just to keep myself sane. I took some time off to have my kids and that gave me time to reflect and recalibrate how I wanted to paint and what I wanted to say. Art is a visual language and that is my way of connecting to the world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, I live in Austin, Texas so it really depends on the time of year. We have so many events, pre pandemic, throughout the year such as ACL and SxSW as well as the East Austin Studio Tour and the West Austin Studio Tour. Those happen for 2 weekends in a row at every 6 months. I would say in the hot summer time, spend the afternoon at either Deep Eddy Pool or Barton Springs Pool. They are close to downtown and are both spring fed so the water is super cold. And there are some fabulous restaurants here it’s hard to pick just one. Tacos are a must. For that I suggest Taco Deli or Torchy’s Tacos. I know there are hundreds more, I just haven’t made my way around. I personally like to get my drink on at Drink Wells, the Tigress, Garage, Handle Bar has a rooftop bar with some great downtown views. There are so many more I can’t think of them all. For brunch, I personally love Odd Duck. For dinner, there is Barley Swine, Eldorado Cafe, Contigo, Gueros…. too many to count. But for the ultimate experience for hanging out, dining and enjoying a drink till the late night hours, one MUST try Justine’s Brasserie. Fabulous French food along with the kind of atmosphere at a “..level of chic so unattainable by most that it almost feels like performance art.”- from Time Out Magazine. I get inspire every time I’m there. Continental Club is a great place to see live music. It is on the iconic South Congress Avenue where one should spend the afternoon exploring the shops, restaurants and the overall Austin vibe. The list goes on.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people who paved the way for me along this crazy path in the art world. I’d say, first and foremost, Elizabeth Locke, who taught me how to paint in oils. I was essentially reprogrammed to be able to create as an artist where as before I created mass produced work, inspired and designed by companies, in other mediums. I will forever be grateful for her guiding that transition. Quang Ho, who is a master painter, who taught me how to SEE as a painter, as well as introduced me to the first gallery to ever represent me. My mom, even though she is my harshest critic, she supports me 100% My husband for supporting me in the insane career choice and my boys who inspire me everyday. My friend Joanna Sly, who I’ve known since we were 8 years old, whose friendship and inspiration feeds my soul. Jennifer Balkan and Denise Fulton who are not only fellow artists and moms, but have also become wonderful friends and I my business partners as cofounders of our art school, Atelier Dojo Austin. They are just incredible. Really, the list is endless.
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