Sandpoint artist will be leading art hikes this summer.
(The banner picture is a detail from Karen’s watercolor entitled “Scotchman Overlook” The painting at left is entitled “Play Face Grizzly.”)
Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) recently chose Sandpoint painter Karen Robinson as their first artist-in-residence, an expansion of a long-standing relationship between visual arts and FSPW. The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Plein Air Paintout, based in Hope at Kally Thurman’s Outskirts Gallery has been an annual fall event since 2008. The Extreme Plein Air, a multi-day backcountry hike during which artists capture visions of the interior Scotchmans, began in 2009.
“The Artist-in-Residence is a natural extension of what we do,” says Phil Hough, FSPW excutive director. “Much of the wilderness experience is visual, and engaging in art teaches us to see — really see — what’s in front of us. Art also carries the beauty of wild country to places it might otherwise not be seen.”
Robinson, who works for Idaho State Department of Lands, has been making art literally all of her life. “I started drawing about the time I could hold a crayon,” she says. “I was the kid who drew in the corners of all my homework. I got to make a mural in second or third grade for my elementary school cafeteria.”
She doesn’t often use crayons any more, but she is still putting images to paper, including iconic local scenes — Scotchman Peak, for instance, as well as at least one resident of that mountain. Two years ago, she created “Decision Time,” a beautiful depiction of a mountain goat caught in what seems to be a moment of determination. Robinson made — and entitled — the painting partly in response to the growing number of goat-human encounters on Scotchman.
“The observer has a decision to make as well,” Robinson said, “whether to approach or back away. Hopefully, they will back away.”
Robinson grew up and graduated from high school in Kansas City, MO., before leaving the Midwest to study wildlife biology and botany at the University of Montana in Missoula. There, she met her husband Ed, who was studying forestry. Eventually, she got a masters in Adult Education and Organization Leadership, but has no art degree at all.
“In high school,” she says, “I sold some portraits and did a big mural on a nursery wall, and a couple of other little commissions. I thought of getting a degree in some sort of art, but I chickened out of it. I think I was just afraid to put it out there; really laying it out there for others to judge and criticized.”
It is a fear she has overcome. In the 1980s, she began selling pen-and-ink notecards at Priest Lake, and in the 1990s, she began selling watercolors. “The first one I that I thought was worth selling was of Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport, Oregon. It’s the first one I made a giclée prints from so I could sell it.”
Since, she has sold a lot of her work, and also let her art take her in some interesting directions. “I’ve done a lot of local scenes, but right now there’s a show at the Infini Gallery on Cedar that’s sort of a right turn; one of the U of I campus where we go skiing. Light bouncing off water at Cedar Street Bridge through the piers. It’s still sort of organic. Everything is based on nature’s stuff. I’m glad I learned about nature, because it makes my art more authentic.”
Robinson teaches basic watercolor once a month at the Infini gallery. She also teaches drawing, acrylic and plein air painting.
“This summer I will lead some plein air painting sessions on hikes around the Scotchmans. I’m really honored to be the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness artist-in residence. This allows me to tie my passion for the environment in with my art and promote taking care of our planet and our home.”
Robinson’s art can be viewed at Infini Gallery as well as other art outlets around Sandpoint and online at www.karenrobinsonart.com
Karen and Ed were married in 1979. They have two grown children, Ben and Connor. She has been the coordinator of the Idaho State Forestry Contest for 14 years.