March 16th FEATURED SPEAKER
Painting the Essence of the Sea
Karen Blackwood’s visual understanding of water allows her to create both realistic and dramatic ocean scenes, featuring crashing waves and abating tide. While she still paints the occasional portrait, landscape or still life, painting the sea is an unshakeable passion. Blackwood, a Signature Member of the American Society of Marine Artists, is tapping into a market of mesmerized ocean-lovers; her paintings have been featured in national and international publications and toured nationwide in both museum and juried gallery exhibitions. An award-winning artist, she recently won back-to-back prizes: First Place in The Oil Painters of America 2019 Spring Online Showcase and The Award of Excellence in the 2019 Oil Painters of America National Exhibition.
Blackwood’s career began in a Manhattan advertising agency, but fine art was ingrained in her and called her back. As a child, she was the typical young artist, smeared with messy paints. Blackwood instantly loved the freedom of painting — by third grade, she had the reputation as the classroom artist and the end result was a way to overcome shyness.
The need to remain surrounded by canvases and brushes stayed with her throughout her education. Studying fine art at the University of New Hampshire, she developed an appreciation for the serious study of art, and approached the work with an intent to communicate something beyond surface beauty. While primarily a studio painter, she feels she couldn’t get the “alive” factor in her work without getting out and doing plein air studies. Walks along the shore get stored in her memory and are used to express her feelings about the essence of the sea. Though those feelings are personal, the personal can be communal: Blackwood is expressing the love all New England Coastal dwellers have for their rugged coastline.
After recently returning to the East Coast after years in Southern California, she and her family have found a small coastal community along the north shore of Boston. She takes frequent walks on her local beach and drives along the coast, through Rye and back again, beaten forward and back by the swell of the sea.
“Seeing waves crash along the rocks and shore excites me more than fireworks on the fourth of July,” Blackwood said. “There is a life force and an energy that makes me feel like a young child seeing the ocean for the first time. Literally. I was at Hampton jumping on the jetty as ten foot waves came in. My excitement must have been visible, because a local asked if this was my first time seeing the ocean.”
Blackwood’s work engages with both a love and fear of the ocean: its power, the potential it holds for destruction and rebirth. It is this duality that leaves her walking up and down the same shoreline, waiting for a wave to break.
She is represented by Todd Bonita Gallery in Portsmouth, NH, Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, CT, and the Marine Arts Gallery in Bonita Springs, FL. Her work is in the collections of fine homes across the country and she is invited to teach workshops across the country.