Karen Burnette Garner ~ Artist Home About the Artist Contact the Artist Artwork Portfolio
Recent Works
Ellis Creek Afternoon Amber Waves, Low Tide Palmetto Winter Green Palmetto Cool Blue
Palmetto Jazz Lone Palmetto Hunting Island, SC Summer Creek

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Palmetto Jazz

One of a series of palmetto works....this one has some jazzy colors! One of the great gifts of being an artist, a painter in particular, is that you can create a world where Nature doesn't get to call the shots -- if you want a multicolored palmetto, then paint away!  Every season inspires another view of the same subject, as you can see here -- same subject, different approach:

or even this:

Each has beauty, a life of its own.  

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This, Too, Shall Pass

Anyone on Facebook these days is exposed to little quotes and verses meant to make you think (or laugh), and I'm like anyone else.  Some are a bit sappy, or sentimental, and others are deep, philosophical queries.  At any rate, I typically give them a cursory look, and move on.  One caught my eye the other day, a story about an emperor who offered riches to anyone who could make a statement that was true 100% of the time.  Upside - riches, downside - death.  Not many took him up on the offer.  But at last someone came forward with the phrase: "This, too, shall pass".  The emperor deemed it worthy and the person was rewarded.


A simple phrase, but one so true and eternal, that it speaks to the heart and soul of all we are and do.  Nothing stays the same, nothing is so bad or so good that it lasts forever.  Each moment is precious.  It is up to us to make the most of it.  Artists in particular are called to seize that moment in time and capture that thought, that splash of color, or precision of line.  Who knows when that inspiration will come again, or that particular stroke of paint will be re-created, if ever?  


Another side of the saying is that all we do IS transitory, and we are challenged to look around us and embrace the reality that living brings.  Be it pain, or joy, or beauty, or horrible ugliness...all are part of our human experience, and we learn from them.  In light of the recent news of cruelty, insanity and loss, we can take comfort in the fact that this, too, shall pass.  Better moments are coming, better days are coming.  They are there to be claimed.  Artistic experiences are to be explored, clay to be molded, glass to be cut, paint to be applied.  The end results may not last forever, but for a while, they speak to others, bring a smile to a burdened soul, inspire or quiet the turmoil. 


Make each moment your own. Be led to create something positive, or be part of something wonderful.  After all, this, too, shall pass.

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Going Coastal #6

The coast of South Carolina has sand that is heavy, grainy, and has the texture of rough sandpaper.  Unlike the Gulf of Mexico's bleached white sugar sands, the Atlantic heaves a solid, walkable surface to the edge of the ocean.  Tiny crystals of mutilated shell mix with grains of silica to a soft grey.  I would know that sand anywhere.  I've grown up with it between my toes, salted carpets, and coated shoes for over fifty years.  Still, it remains like a magic potion, a strange mixture of tide and time, and speaks to the heart, drawing me back over and over, as the waves reach out to the shore.  This painting is but a glimpse, a memory of a walk over the sand to get one last glimpse of the ocean before heading inland.  Months later, I find I still have bits of the sand in my sneaker, bits of a place I love so much.  May it always draw me back, in foul weather or fair, in good times or bad.  Peace is there to find....if we look.

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The Role of Art in Troubling Times

The role of art during times of social upheaval is especially sensitive today.  While some artists use their skill to challenge, to bring to light injustice, or to plant their creative flag on issues important to them, other artists continue to create works of peace and serenity, comforting images of home or treasured moments.  It raises the question: what does art have to do with the events of our world? Should it be an escape from the problems of mankind or a mirror?


The editor of Carolina Arts, Tom Starland, recently published a review of artist Tyrone Geter's Drawing from the Lifeline exhibit, at City Gallery in Charleston, SC. (http://carolinaarts.com/wordpress)  The work is incredibly complex, thought-provoking, and socially significant.  Mr. Geter is holding up the mirror. 


On the other hand, I find my own work does not have any social implications that I am aware of -- it simply shows the beauty of the natural world.  While war may rage, and injustice abounds, this world continues in its daily ebb and flow.  The sun comes up, painting the sky with flashes of color.  The wind drifts across miles of marsh grass and tidal creeks.  Mountains still stand in majesty and humble gardens still bloom and grow.  

Maybe that IS my social implication...that beauty has a place in troubling times. As artists, we all have a unique and singular voice, and use our skills to bring that voice to life.  Some works invoke change in how we interact, in how we view one another.  Some works calm the spirit and bring peace. Each has its place.

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Being Flexible

"At Dock #2" 5"x7" acrylic on linen panel

Since the 2008 market crash and its resulting effect on the art market, I have moved from creating large works of art to including smaller works in my body of work.  Beginning in 2011, I added 5”x7” paintings to my inventory – a little over 200 works since I began working in this size.  Currently, my main gallery outlet has around 30 pieces.  These small works are created on linen panels stretched over hardboard – durable, easily framed and original.  Reasonably priced, the gallery frames them as table-top works, and they sell pretty well.  They have become my “bread and butter” pieces – reliable sales from month to month. 


The other day I got an email from the gallery manager stating they were going to phase out the smallest works!  My first reaction was alarm – these were steady to produce and sell, and I had become accustomed to relying on their sales.  What was I going to do?  My second reaction was one of curiosity – what was driving this decision?  Turns out, the source of framing was drying up for the gallery buyer, and becoming less and less cost efficient.  And the smaller pieces did not sell without the frames!  Clients wouldn't sift through stacks of the flat, unframed works.  They went directly to the framed pieces. 


Adding to that, the 8”x10” panel pieces I had been producing – again, on high quality linen on hardboard – were in the same boat.  Framing was available, but clients simply didn’t notice the panels unframed, though they were still interested in unframed stretched canvas pieces. So panels were being phased out. I should note here, that almost all the work in this gallery is stretched canvas.


At first, I went into a bit of a panic.  The panels were easy to ship, and I could paint them with short bits of time I could grab from my intensely busy days.  And added to that, was the fact that I had a LOT of them in supply, ready to be used.  Now what would I do with them?


A few deep breaths later, I got online and ordered 8”x10” stretched canvas – in bulk (they wanted that size, only on stretched canvas).  I realized that even with the elimination of the smallest size, I would still make a good return on the 8”x10”s.  I just had to be flexible in my mindset, and move forward.  My clients loved my work, and they would love the next size up, stretched. 


It might even be that the smallest sizes were HURTING my sales of larger pieces.  I had been spending a lot of my time creating small works, and was neglecting the larger, pricier pieces.  My sales history had shown that the larger works sold well, when they were available.   I had my answer – bend to change my approach to fit the market as it was showing strength, and be flexible.  Get my head around spending more time on pieces that I had been essentially creating studies for!  I was already feeling better about the change.


At some point in the future, I will be able to market the smallest of my works through other venues and outlets, so the panels won’t go to waste.  In fact, they would free me to do some experimental work I have had in mind for awhile.  There are more galleries and shows out there, and as my time evolves to give me opportunity, I will be prepared. 


Thankfully, the relationship I have built with the gallery is one of trust, honesty, and gritty feedback.  I have grown as an artist with those important elements, and I’ve provided strong work that the gallery has profited from.  We are both winners in this equation, and I look forward to many more years of working together.  Thank goodness for being flexible!


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A New Year?

One of my UN-favorite holidays has become New Year’s Day.  The press focus on the wins and losses of the past year, the hopes for the year ahead, and resolutions for change that everyone is expected to make.  I’m all about reflection, professional and personal, and the value of evaluating our actions and emotions.  Something about the pressure of New Year’s self-promises and exceeding expectations makes me want to dig in my heels and say, “NO!” Could it be that I am just getting sensitive to change in a whirlwind of uncertain times? Or is it that I am seeing that there is not as much time ahead as I once banked, and thus the passage becomes more precious?


In my younger, more naïve and hopeful years, I excitedly made plans to conquer the art world, lose 20 pounds, and generally re-invent myself to fit the fads of the day.  I have since learned that we are intrinsically what we are, and that we control our choices, but not our nature.  At the end of the day, we work with what we have. Also, life has a way of presenting situations and challenges that we never see coming, no matter how much we prepare. 


The strength of will it takes to push daily, to strive toward a goal persistently, requires a commitment of the soul beyond the realm of resolutions.  To be fair, I have worked diligently to be comfortable in my living standard, and can now afford the luxury of altering my expectations. Over time, I have seen my goals become more realistic, more satisfying, and more “true” to my nature.  The things that are important to me aren’t “things,” as they were in younger years (possibly because I HAVE the things that seemed so important).  Goals focus on relationships, on personal satisfaction in work well done, and attention to the wonders of life. I’ve become more honest with myself on what I really want in life, and more genuine in what I spend my time doing.   I’ve focused on connection with my children and grandchildren, and there are times I wonder at the capacity for love that my heart has been granted.


For my art journey, I continue to reap the rewards of over thirty years of creating.  I still feel an excitement when I sit down at the easel and pull out the palette. Making something new is still FUN. I remain un-intimidated by artistic challenges.  I love to learn new things and experiment.  Failure is no shadow lurking in the studio - each misstep is a learning opportunity, and accepted as such.  I prepare to expand my work into new markets and take advantage of new situations, as a matter of growth. 


Whether a result of the passage of time, or simply a matter of acceptance of the reality of my life, I can find joy in small, precious moments.  As the singer James Brown proclaimed, “you may not be looking for the Promised Land, but you might find it anyway,” I embrace what lies ahead.  Challenges there may be, and heartache -- courage may be required. With the challenges, come opportunities for enlightenment. Life is what you make of it.  Grasp it with both hands, and wring out of it all the joy, achievement, passion and peace you can.  Time is passing, enjoy the ride!  


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Along The Trail

After watching the John Wayne movie marathon, I was in the mood to do something with a Western theme.  I don't often foray east of the Mississippi when it comes to subject matter, but I've always wanted to travel in the Duke's footsteps, and enjoy what the West has to offer.  The quiet, the solitude, and the oneness with nature are quite the temptation.  Of course, back in the day, life required much effort to provide for daily needs, without our luxuries.  Still, it was a big, wild, country not that long ago, and there are still places that hold onto that wilderness nature.  If I can't be there myself, at least I can go in my paintings...what a luxury THAT is! Enjoy!

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Beaufort Afternoon

The afternoon sun is slipping away, the colors of the marsh are growing richer, and the breeze has just a hint of coolness for the night ahead.  Autumn in the lowcountry is a time of slowing down, taking the beauty of the moment and making it your own.  Winter will come, and with it, grey days and muted scenes, but for now, the enveloping stillness rules. Sit back and soak it in!

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Trying Something New

Inspiration piece and Commission in process

Several months ago, a friend sent me an email, telling me about an art opportunity.  Now, we all see these "call for artists", and as many as you might apply for, few really do pan out to be much of an opportunity.  The call was for artwork that would be appropriate for a local hospital under construction.  A company in another state was coordinating the purchase of art, with preference given to artists who lived in the area of the site.  


I paint mostly peaceful, relaxing landscapes and art that I believed would be appropriate for a healthcare setting.  I researched some of the previous projects of the company, then put together images, pricing information and  artist statement/bio, and submitted them to the company.  The deadline for submissions passed, as did the initial "we will respond by..."  Being the patient kind, I waited a bit longer before reaching out to check on the status of my submission.  It wasn't long before another response came stating new decision times.  No problem.  When that date came and went, I politely followed up.  Polite response that decisions were imminent.  


Then the response came....sorry, but we've chosen others.  Okay, at least I tried, and I was courteous enough to thank them for the opportunity.  I thought that was the end of it. But no.


Several months passed, and I got a phone call.  The art design firm was looking for a large piece in the hospital's adjacent medical office building, and had selected one of my submitted images.  Could I produce it to certain specifics? And what about the price?  What about a quick delivery?  Sure, I could accommodate them on all their requests. A purchase agreement was sent and signed. Then the purchase order. Signed and sealed.  The studio work began, and the painting was completed. The initial down payment was received.  The company asked for an image of the artwork. Image sent.  The art director wanted a slight adjustment. Adjustment done.  Finally the art was delivered to the local company who was coordinating the framing and installation of the art.  


In about three weeks, the artwork should be hung and displayed and the final check will arrive.   My work will be in a very visible location, and add beauty and peace to a medical office building.  I've learned a lot from this process.


Was the effort worth the time and attention?  I think so. This specific type of business works with its own rules.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through, because there are many approval points along the way, within the company and from THEIR client.  But an attitude of patience, understanding, and confidence in one's work make the process possible.  A good working relationship with an art focused company is a valuable commodity.


One thing leads to another.  My work has been seen by people who procure art on a large scale for healthcare facilities. Who knows? They may need my type of art again.  I've proved to be easy to work with and true to my agreements.  I'm receiving payment that I think is fair and reasonable, doing something I love to do.  I will be looking for more of these opportunities, and have a better understanding of how this type of art is selected. Patience and attention to detail is important, too.


I'm looking forward to seeing my vision in its new home! And for those of you who are thinking of giving this type of work a try, I hope my experience is helpful. Paint on!

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Making Decisions

Human beings are decisive creatures.  With every day, for every person, decisions loom.  Some decisions are made for oneself, but sometimes choices are made for us. Each decision an effect, large or small. Artists have their decisions to make too.  Some are easier than others, but all direct efforts to create and express. 


Here are a few areas of choice:

1) Subject matter: do  you create something familiar and comfortable? Do you stretch your visions to confront, to provoke the viewer? To record reality or share a dream?


2) Media: is your vision better conveyed in paint and canvas, drawing, carved stone or wood? Glass or ink? Fabric or steel? Music or dance? or both?


3)  Purpose:  are you creating to lead to cash, feed your family or your ego? Share your heart? Get your point across? Reflect a social conscience? Personal enjoyment? Creating a legacy?


4) Getting it seen:  Only for you, or for others? Who do call? (Not Ghostbusters, hopefully) Gallery, online, art shows or fairs? Co-op? Door to door?  eBay? Advertise?


Whether the choice is conscious or impulse, we are guided daily by the decisions we make.  Make the conscious ones in honesty, with your heart, and with positive intention.  It's yours to choose.



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