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Interview with Karen Stastny – Contemporary New Orleans/Asheville Abstract Artist

February 28, 2016
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What do a native of New Orleans and a native of Brooklyn find in common while volunteering at a Food Bank in Asheville? Painting!

Meeting Karen Stastny was like reconnecting with an old friend. While packing bags of rice and pasta, we chatted about this and that and discovered that we had so much in common, including our love of painting and our love of a good belly laugh.

Karen’s spontaneous gestural abstract paintings are full of life and energy. Each painting contains a glorious palette that conveys the pure expression of her creative spirit with a sensitivity to blending color, form and texture. Enjoy the interview.

 

Karen Stastny in front of CHARTING A PATH, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"

Karen Stastny in front of “Charting a Path”, acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 48″

Why did you choose abstract art and what is the most challenging (and best) part of working in your medium?

I chose abstraction because it is the art I respond to most.  At some point it dawned on me when I was looking at realistic work, that the pleasure I derive from it is when I could distill it down into an abstract construction. Overall, I am usually looking for a feeling, an emotion, a why did I paint this painting.

Since acrylic paint dries quickly, I can change my mind. I paint very intuitively.  It also allows me to add different media like charcoal, pencil, oil bars, etc. I can also draw into and on top of the work. It’s just very flexible. I also like that I don’t need to use toxic solvent with the medium.

How does living in Asheville influence your art?

I am certainly closer to nature in Asheville, than in New Orleans, and the weather permits being outside a lot more. I think more nature elements will creep in. I also think the palette will change a bit, as it usually does with me in different seasons.

What does having a physical space to make art mean to your process?  Describe your studio space and how, if at all, it affects your work? How do you make your space work for you?

My physical space definitely impacts my work.  The Asheville studio is very light, and large and spacious.  I feel like I can breathe.  The paintings from here reflect that lightness of being.  The New Orleans studio is great, but snaller.  I feel more closed in there, so the paintings are not as loose and free feeling.

How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

I have been an artist for about 15 years.  I have a degree in Fine Arts.  When I was thinking about quitting my job to paint full time, my husband told me he thought he could support me if I could buy my own paint. I started teaching children’s art classes out of my house in order to pay for my supplies.  Eventually I ended up teaching adult classes at both the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and the Jewish Community Center.  I am not very aggressive.  Each gallery I have ever been associated with, have asked me to join them.  I have been very fortunate, and I have very good working relationships with the galleries I am with.

Describe your working routine.

My work routine varies.  Generally, I like to put in between 3 to 5 hours a day at a minimum of 4 days a week.  I don’t usually paint on the weekends.  I also like to set a goal for myself of painting a painting each week.  I just like having a set goal, other than just putting in time.  However, if I am not painting on a regular basis, I feel very out of sync, just not right.  That studio is everything.

What are the key elements in creating a good painting?

My personal strengths are in color, line and a fluid gesture.  Those are the primary building blocks  in my work. Aesthetically,  I like harmony, with some dissonance.  I want to live in the piece, whatever it is, and I want to keep coming back to it.  Overall,I want to feel something.

Call and Response is an acrylic on paper by Karen Stastny, a New Orleans and Asheville Painter.

CALL AND RESPONSE by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22″ x 22″

What inspires you?

What inspires me – looking at art that I love – it makes me want to get back in the studio and get to work.  Also, working inspires me.  Work comes from work.  I am interested in the process, and one painting usually has a relationship with the former and then the next one.  There is a dialogue there that I don’t like to interrupt.

How has your style changed over the years?

Initially my paintings were abstract, based on the figure.  They are now totally non-objective, although I think there are landscape/water references in some of them.  They are also now much more fluid and loose.  I think that just came with time as I settled into my self.

How do you navigate the art world?

I don’t.  I’m not good at it.  I don’t have a web site, I don’t try to network.  I do have a number of good friends who are also painters.I have two galleries that I have been with for years and I am grateful for that.

DAY DREAM by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22" x 22"

DAY DREAM by Karen Stastny is acrylic on paper and measures 22″ x 22″

What are you currently working on?

I just recently finished painting for a solo show.  Whew!  Right now I am just working on some smaller pieces on paper and enjoying the process of painting and experimenting.

What’s next?

I will  be attending an abstract painting workshop given by Steve Aimone, my mentor, in the spring in NOLA.  I would also now like to develop a body of work with which to approach galleries in the North Carolina area.

What advice would you give to other artists?

Keep working. Be disciplined.  This is your job, and your gift.  Nurture it and be grateful for it.  Be generous – help others.  Support other artists.  We all benefit from it.

What are you currently reading, listening to, and looking at to fuel work?

I am reading “Keeping an Eye Open / Essays on Art” by Julian Barnes.  I also use Pinterest and Instagram to look at other painters work.  When I see work I like, it always makes me want to get busy painting.

Anything else to add?

Barbara, just thank you for this opportunity.

Barbara: It’s my pleasure and thank you for taking the time to share your art and your process. To see more of Karen’s work please visit Cole Pratt Gallery on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

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The Art of the Monoprint – The Process

April 22, 2015
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In the Studio-close up of monoprint process

In the Studio – close up of monoprints in process.

A monoprint is a single print created by transferring an image that has been painted onto a plate and transferred to paper. I love the process of monoprinting. It is a spontaneous technique that lends itself to experimenting with a wide variety of materials, papers, transfer techniques and plates.

The plate is the surface you paint on. Traditionally, plates include metal, wood, glass and plexi, to name a few. Up until I discovered gelatin plates (or Gelli Arts® plates which is the manufactured gelatin plate) I used a piece of plexi for my plate. Please note that permission was received to use the Gelli® or Gelli Arts® trademark, which is owned by Gelli Arts® LLC).

Photo of gelli plate and monoprints in process

In the Studio – close up-working with gelli plate (on left of photo) to create monoprints.

My process involves rolling ink onto the plate with a brayer. Or, applying paint to the plate and building layers through multiple transfers. The transfer of the image from the plate to the paper is done by hand, or with a press. By layering stencils, creating textures from everyday objects and masking out areas of the plate, the image quickly takes shape. To complete the monoprint I often incorporate pastels, paint or glue on torn papers and materials to the print. Continuing to develop it with free and spontaneous methods until I feel that the print is done.

In the Studio. Photo of working process and finished print

In the Studio-close up of monoprints in process with sketchbook and finished print on right.

Here are four new monoprints, inspired by recent visits to gardens at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Now available in the shop.

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SNOW DAY – CELEBRATING THE BEAUTY OF SNOW

January 3, 2014
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Blizzard Hercules hit the East Coast last night and today with howling winds and bitter cold. 

I have to admit that I love snow, at least while it is falling and covering everything in a blanket of white.  It muffles the traffic and transforms the city into a beautiful and romantic wonderland.

To celebrate the first snow storm of 2014, here are snow inspired paintings, from Peter Brueghel to Camille Pissarro. Do you have a favorite?  

As 2014 unfolds, follow along. Join my mailing list for the latest artwork, projects and special promotions (enter your email in the space to the right of this column). Cheers!

“The Hunters in the Snow”, Peter Brueghel the Elder, 1565 Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Due to severe weather conditions, the N.A.W.A. Office and the N.A.W.A. Gallery will be closed on January 3rd, 2014. To all  N.A.W.A. members affected by the storm: Be safe and be inspired!  American woman artist Andrée Ruellan (1905–2006), found inspiration in the snow. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Winter Cardinals” Andrée Ruellan (1905-2006)
        “Road to Versailles at Louveciennes” (Snow Effect) Camille Pissarro,1869
“Night Snow at Kamara”, Utagawa Hiroshige, 1833  

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WILD FLOWERS IN FIELD

September 15, 2013
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WILD FLOWERS IN FIELD © Barbara J Hart – 12″ x 9″ – oil on canvas
Close up of WILD FLOWERS IN FIELD©Barbara J Hart

Longing for open spaces, broad horizons and colorful wild flowers.  For now I am content to be in my studio and to paint the serene vistas from my photographs.

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Three Cups

June 12, 2011
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Three Cups, oil on board, 24″ x 30″ – © Barbara J. Hart

I’m back in the studio and it feels good!  I’ve been attempting to grab more time in the studio whether it is at 6:00 AM or at 10:30 PM.  I’m finding that even a half hour here and there is better than nothing.  I work a full-time job that takes a whole lot of energy, and many times by the end of the week I’m not really sure what Art is anymore! I’m exhausted and feel disconnected from my creative self. And, I’m not alone, so many of my artist friends struggle with the same issues. 

This past year I’ve been working to create schedules for myself.  I have a schedule for studio time, a schedule for marketing my work and last but not least (although the toughest for me), a schedule to post to my blog. In addition to my little snippets of time during the week I save the serious time (4-5 hours) for Saturday and Sunday.  Let’s see how it works!

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Painting of Water Tower and Collage

April 20, 2009
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“Water Tower and Collage”, 12″ x 12″ (c) Barbara J. Hart

Here’s another painting in the Water Tower Series. The water tower, collage images and shell come together by association. The images coexist through abstraction. Each image serves as a symbol of an idea, an object in time. In the painting process, images emerge and disappear. Stencils are added and erased. Sometimes an image gets wiped away or sanded out to reveal underlying layers. Each object affects the other as elements shift within the picture plane. The working of the surface represents the passage of time.

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