Interview with Karen Musick, Surrealist Painter

Artist to Artist by © Rocío Heredia

Please tell us about yourself and how you began to recognize your talents. When did you get interested in Visual Art?
I was born in 1961 during an Oklahoma thunderstorm. My nickname in the nursery was "Little Miss Bright Eyes". These same eyes that now see beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary. I first discovered a talent for painting when I was quite young. A relative gave me a set of acrylic paints for Christmas one year. I believe I was about 9 or 10. I began by copying the only painting my Mother ever did. A landscape with a river and fall foliage.
I continued experimenting and taking art classes in high school. I loved the mountains, even though I lived in a part of America that was as flat as the desktop my computer rests upon. I painted my passion while playing John Denver songs on my guitar. It seemed a perfect match until my art teacher said I was NOT an artist! We could not agree on the definition of art, and she felt that a painter that only copied what was already there was not an artist. This devastated my view of myself and ended any thinking of a career in the arts on any level. I put my paintbrushes down and concentrated on music and marriage.
I couldn't suppress the urge to create visually though, and managed to create a few paintings during my marriage. All of these were given away as Christmas gifts. I have only a couple of canvases left from this period of artistic development. My first love continued to be music.
After nine years of marriage, my life fell apart. I left my husband and the safe cocoon that had been my life up until that time. I moved to the artsy part of town, into a wonderful brownstone built in the late '20's. This was the early 90's and was a time of great internal reflection and growth. I was determined to understand myself and why I road a roller coaster of emotions. I entered into therapy and spent six frustrating months with my therapist trying to open the door of who I was.
During a super bowl game in January 1993, I began doodling out of pure boredom. Later I colored in the pen and ink drawing and created something I instinctively knew was important. I took this picture to my therapist and we discovered the key to the door that, up until that time, had remained tightly locked. In an instant the therapist saw me. We accomplished more in the next few sessions than we had in the previous six months. Instead of a journal, she encouraged me to draw my emotions. A task I did not take up for several more months. It was the beginning spark into the power of emotionalism in art.

All of us build our life from personal experiences. At BTDesign Art Gallery we have featured artists who experienced sickness and found art as an escape from physical sufferance. I personally work in spite of a visual deficit and am wondering how your particular health problems have affected or altered your creativity. Can you talk about your own journey and how your experience in 1993 affected your work? Would it be appropriate to talk about it?
I would like to talk about this. I believe by sharing our experiences, both positive and negative, we enrich the world and give hope and light to others. I see my life broken into two distinct periods, pre and post Musickscapes.
My health began to be a problem for me soon after the birth of my second child in 1987. In 1988 I had what was supposed to have been a complete hysterectomy. Where the uterus and ovaries are removed. I woke up from that surgery a different person, and not because I was going through menopause at age 27, but because I could not eat. I was completely nauseous and had absolutely no appetite. I did not have menopausal symptoms, which seemed strange to me and the doctors but they assumed I was just "wired differently". No explanation could be found.
About six weeks post surgery, I noticed that when I slept on my stomach, I could feel hip bones. This was new to me, especially after two children as my weight was a bit on the heavy side. I got on the scale and was amazed to see the number. I had not seen my weight so low since before adolescence sent my body into those drastic hormonal changes. The doctors had no explanation for why I was loosing weight, why the pain the surgery was designed to eradicate was still there, and why I had developed a severe case of what we now know is fibromyalgia.
I spent the next six years in this state of bizarre emotions, trying to eat with no appetite. I had used exercise to put myself into a remission of sorts but in spite of these efforts the pain and inability to eat caught up with me Memorial Day Weekend 1993. I had already used up all my sick days and vacation days fighting weakness and flu-like symptoms during the previous five months.
I spent the entire three-day weekend that May on the couch unable to eat anything, unable to drink even water. By the end of that weekend, I was put directly into the hospital, where they spent another week doing test after test after test. All coming up negative. I had no idea what or why I was going through this.
At the same time, the guy I was dating pulled a disappearing act. My being ill was just too much and he wasn't man enough to tell me face to face. I felt so betrayed and alone. A specialist was finally brought in and the decision to do exploratory surgery was made. The doctor found an odd "tumor" that he supposed was the culprit for the pain. It was removed and sent to the lab for testing.
A week later I went in for the post-op check-up. I was a new person. I felt clear headed and pain free in spite undergoing surgery. I was amazed to be sure when I was told that the "tumor" was in fact a fully functioning perfectly healthy ovary! WHAT?!?!
I was beyond words and emotions. I was dumbfounded. I remembered complaining to the women at work that if I didn't know any better I would swear that I still had my ovaries....I DID!
The only reason I'd had the hysterectomy was because there were no functioning ovaries found during the original surgery. Without any ovaries, the doctor didn't see any reason to keep the uterus. He never gave me a good explanation for what happened to that elusive left ovary. Well, now we knew. It had migrated and built itself a new blood supply by attaching itself to my intestine.
To add fuel to that fire was the knowledge that the original surgeon had not done the correct incision for the surgery. We will never know what the outcome would have been if he had. Would he have seen this healthy tissue and been able to place it back where it belonged, thus saving my ability to bear children?
I had no more gotten home from the doctor's office carrying the heavy weight of the news, than the elusive "boyfriend" decided to call and tell me why he had flown the coup. Turns out he wanted children after all, and I couldn't give him any. It was like being hit with a baseball bat on both sides of my head at the same time. There were no words, no way of dealing with the overwhelming sense of loss and betrayal.
The birth of Musickscapes was indeed a painful one. I still had a couple of weeks recuperation time. I was now alone back in my own apartment and the words of my therapist came to mind. Draw your journal. So, again I picked up a pen and some rag board and just began to draw. I threw out all I had learned about composition and color. No rules was the only rule. Thus was born "Ovarian Nightmare". A graphic and powerful drawing depicting the full range of my emotions at that moment in time.
Once the dam was broken, there was no stopping the out pouring of ideas and images. This was the birth of Musickscapes. The name came from the drastic shift from painting only landscapes, to painting the landscapes of my mind. My last name provided the perfect marriage to the suffix "scapes".

How did you enhance your strengths and get re-inspired after these events? In your own experience, how would you define art's importance as therapy?
I took "Ovarian Nightmare" to my office. I worked as Marketing Coordinator and Administrative Assistant for an environmental engineering and consulting firm. It was this mix of engineers and geologists that gave me my first critiques. Not artists or art critics. It was through this sharing that I gained healing and strength. First thing that struck me was the powerful impact this drawing had on others. Their interpretations and insights into what I had created opened dialogues and discussions that were like food to me. This exchange of thoughts and feelings led to more ideas and inspirations which led to more pieces of artwork which led to more exchanges.
The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" was proved true to me over and over again. For me, it's importance as a therapeutic tool is invaluable. I have always had difficulty putting my feelings into words. Emotions for me are so powerful and overwhelming at times that I had learned early on to hide myself behind a wall. My second musickscape, "Breakout" shows my hand breaking out of a dark black box. The fingers punching holes in the blackness allowing small beams of light and hope to enter. This is what art represented for me. A breaking out of the box that I had stuffed myself into.
As I didn't look ill and because of my naturally cheerful disposition in public I had a difficult time convincing anyone that I was in pain, emotional or physical. Having a tool that allowed(s) me to safely express the darker side of me, the side I had denied for so long, I believe has been the difference in my continuing on in spite of the obstacles that may of caused me to give up on life all together.

I can see your artwork has a stream that you express in your paintings. From what do you draw your intense power or focus?
What, to the world is intense, to me is normal. I believe that the very process that is attacking my body is the source of my power. I suffer from an overly sensitized central nervous system. It is long and complicated degenerative process that has left me in intractable nervous system pain. Even the touch of clothing is torture. It is a pain syndrome different from normal pain. Making it difficult to describe to anyone not suffering from it's devastation. It has also lead to amazing sensitivities in other areas. This includes being tapped into things unseen. It is this ability to connect with the electricities that run each and every one of us that enables me to "see" beyond the real world and impart what I feel to the canvas.
It is also extremely overwhelming. It has necessitated a certain level of solitude, aloneness, as to keep from becoming overloaded with information "normal" folks are unaware they are imparting. It is taking this, and the hyperactive nervous system information and placing it on the canvas that is my power, my focus. "Save it for the painting" is my favorite mantra when my emotions become so overwhelming I think I'm going to explode.


I'm tempted to ask about the recurrence of symbolism as the core of your work.
Symbolism: "the revelation or suggestion of intangible conditions or truths by artistic invention." symbol: "A material object used to represent something invisible."
In order for me to take that which I have not been able to express verbally to family, friends, doctors, and therapists; I invent symbols that speak for me. By using shapes and colors to convey thoughts, feelings and emotions, I have "invented" a new language for myself. To this end, symbolism has become my first language.

How surrealism fits into your artistic style?
Surrealism to me is more of a label that allows other people to place me into a definition. It seems to me that we are more comfortable being able to categorize things by putting them in boxes with labels.
When I first began to create a presence for myself on the world wide web, it became necessary to pick an artistic label that best described where "I belong". Personally, I would define my work more as emotionalism than surrealism. The surrealistic movement in the early to mid twentieth century explored the realm of the subconscious, and to this end, my work can be classified as "surrealistic". But, I consider my work to explore more than just the dream-state, or sub consciousness. It looks into emotions and their powerful influence and effect upon our lives, it explores abstract ideas that, to me, are begging for a definition that is beyond our vocabulary.
The painting "Fear" for example, looks into the complex relationship we have with fear. It explores what happens to us when we hold on to our fears. It allows myself, and the viewer, if he/she is willing, to further explore the long term effects fear will have on a life. Do you think surrealism as a symbolic language can tell us more about an artists' inner belief than other artistic styles?
Yes and no.
Yes. As it takes items, objects, symbols, and colors that are familiar to us and creates a rare and innovative look into the indefinable - our twisted and colorful minds. The participant does not need a lengthy dissertation to understand the meaning the artist is trying to convey. Which seems to be the challenge of so much of what is considered art today. With surREALism, the components of reality enable the viewer to connect with the familiar. This allows anyone with an adventurous spirit to partake in the feast the artist has provided without the need for a masters degree in the visual arts. A rare look into the artists' most personal, even frightening ideas and attitudes.
No. Because anyone can identify with things that are familiar, even when placed in new and unfamiliar arrangements This allows the viewer to re-assemble the ideas these symbols represent for them personally and develop their own interpretations of the events being presented. So that the interpretation of a surreal painting becomes different and unique for each participant based upon their own life experiences. This can create a false sense that the partaker "knows" or understands the creator. Are there particular colors and symbols you use in your paintings that can be identified as the expression of pain?
Yes, the color red always, for me, represents pain. The red dress in "Self Portrait I - Facing My Reality" represents the weight and overall involvement of my entire body in the pain process. Yellow represents the highly charged and electrical components that my diseased body struggles against. Shapes as well are very important. Sharp points bring about a universal idea of pain, even torture, where as rounded curves tend to create a feeling of calm and spirituality. The shape of lightening, trees, roots, blood vessels, nerves, all share a certain mathematical sameness that makes this an important recurrent symbol in my work. For me, it represents many different facets of pain from the electrical component down to the nervous system itself.

What are some of your directed obsessions?
I'm not sure if I totally understand this question, but I would have to say detail! I love detail. Painting for me is pretty boring until I get down to those tiny, tiny brushes. I love painting the detail. How the paint feels on the brush, how a 3-d illusion can be created on this two dimensional surface. Detail. I love the detail!

Which challenges do you confront in your career?
I suppose the most obvious is the pain. Central nervous system pain, or Central Pain, is known as THE monster of all pains. It closely resembles the fiery hell that can be heard described from some pulpits. It is constant, always there, unrelenting, and totally encompassing. It is a complete breakdown of the way the central nervous system sends and processes signals. To sum up a long and complicated medical explanation down to a simple sentence I would say that Central Pain is like having the entire central nervous system turned into one large pain nerve ending. So the once pleasant sensation of being touched is now computed in my brain as pain, which creates the fight or flight syndrome. This becomes a twisted and never ending cycle. It robs my mind of many of its resources as it constantly looks for the cause of the problem. For example, when a person cuts their finger with a knife. The mind tells the hand to get that knife away from the injured finger, it puts you on alert so that you wont continue cutting your finger off. Only in my case, there is no knife to discard, there is no satisfactory answer for the brain. It is very distracting, and I must use discipline in order to maintain enough resources to be able to paint. So, the number of hours I can paint a day are extremely restricted. Only four hours on a good day. So creating one painting for me, with all the attention to detail, may take me up to ten times longer than if I weren't ill.
I am also quite limited on how much infraction with people I can handle before becoming completely overloaded. As any artist knows, it is the leg work, going to art shows, meeting the "right" people, that can mean the difference between a successful career and a not-so successful career. I have not been able to attend an art opening in over a year, and have not been able to properly take advantage of living in the United States' third or forth (it keeps changing) largest city.
But, on the positive side, the world wide web has become my legs. It enables me to communicate, talk with, and become known to an entire world of people. It is such a powerful tool, and for me a complete necessity. Instead of being known to a few folks that are lucky enough to live in the same city as I do, I'm known to people all over the world. It also makes me available to people who may not ever set foot into an art gallery, to people who may need help in relating their pain to their loved ones. It has allowed me to share my gift in spite of my disabilities.


What is your favorite medium and how does it influence your creativity?
Oil paints are by far my favorite medium. I began "musickscapes" using pen and ink and colored pencils. I soon phased out the pen and ink, just using colored pencils. Some people mistook my early drawings for oil paintings. I soon found the physical demands of colored pencil work to be too much for my failing health and longed for a more expressive and freer medium. I turned to watercolors, but still felt a certain dissatisfaction and limitation. I then picked up acrylics, which I had not used since my early days of landscape painting. But still felt as if something just wasn't there.
It took a trip to New York City in 1999 and a visit to the Guggenheim Museum for me to "know" what my next direction would be. Oils! I looked into those paintings done by Dali, Kahlo, and others and just "knew" how they did it. I came home and directly purchased a set of oils and felt as though I had discovered my true voice! It was amazing. I felt as if I was about to open a powerful door into my soul. It has taken me several years to become comfortable with this medium, and this year I am beginning to see the pay off. I now have the confidence to create just about anything my mind imagines. This is very empowering, and I feel that I've only just begun. So...., as we say here in the south "watch out, 'cause ya ain't seen nothin' yet"!

hat do you enjoy most about working in this medium?
The freedom to express anything my mind can conjure up. The slow drying time suites the time it takes to complete a painting. And the way the layers of paint seem to fuse together giving my work a depth I was unable to create using acrylics.

What inspires your paintings and where do you draw ideas from?
Good question. Two things: The need to communicate with others my situation in a way that they will believe me. I don't look ill. I try not to act ill. These things work against me in my interactions with others as they either don't believe I'm as sick as I really am, or they think I'm no longer in as much pain, or that I'm getting better because they don't hear me complain. So some paintings are to "scream out" and say...this is real....; The other is a need to explore an emotion that I don't understand. I don't always see the ideas, I feel them. The paintings help me to identify what it is that I'm feeling. Therapy.
I draw my ideas from everything, and anything. It could be a line in a television show that hits me a certain way. It could be to expand a scene that certain emotions conjure up in my mind. It might be the special effects in a music video, or the way the light dapples when the sun is shining through the trees. Or just the need to explore an emotion, like in "Fear".
I see things. I often joke with folks that I don't hear voices, I see them. I see faces everywhere. I can look outside my window right now and see all sorts of people in the shapes of the leaves and bark on the trees. They are just everywhere. My mind puts patterns together in the form of facial features. Almost like seeing ghosts.
I try to leave enough unfinished room in my ideas and inspirations to let the magic happen, to allow the stuff of imagination come through uninhibited. This is when I sit back and really begin to understand myself.

Have you worked with any other visual art techniques?
I love the computer. We have a sort of symbiotic relationship. I just "know" what the computer is thinking. I amaze people with my ability to use a complicated graphics program like a pro, the first time exposed to it. It is very intuitive for me to work with this medium. I love creating all types of computer graphics, from digital photography to simply playing with my CorelPhotoPaint10, which is very powerful and allows an infinite number of creative possibilities.
I also enjoy creating brochures, business cards, portfolios on cd's for other artists (although my physical limitations have curbed many of these projects.)
I enjoy making personal cards for birthdays, anniversaries, or for no reason other than to let someone know I'm thinking about them.

Has your admiration for any other Artist influenced your work?
Yes. As I mentioned before, seeing live Dali paintings, and live Kahlo paintings forever changed my life. When I looked as those paintings, I wasn't standing back away taking it all in, I was right up there, looking at brush strokes, where they applied their highlights, how they created their three-dimensional illusions. And I "knew" how they did it. I knew I could do it as well.
During the painting "Self Portrait - Facing my Reality" I was reading a biography about Frida Kahlo, and it was the honesty in her work that inspired me to change my central figure from a made up person (as I always did up to that point in time) to a self portrait. I was also inspired to make the painting more honest by using the actual view from my window. Her willingness not to hide gave me the courage to be more honest in my work.

Which of your paintings have given you the best gratification in your career? Do you have a favorite piece and why?
To date I would have to say the painting that has given me the most gratification so far has been "Molting II - Dreams Lost". This painting, created from a sketch I did on the plane returning home from my first trip to NYC, depicts the frustration I felt from my physical limitations. I realized on that trip what "might have been" had I understood earlier on that all that "magic" that came out of New York City was nothing more than people, like me, expressing their ideas. I was a person. I could express ideas, but now I was ill. It was too late. Or was it? I wanted to add in hope. Perhaps this was only temporary. In the painting, I further expanded on this idea. That molting, that period of time between dreams. Is a gift given us by the universe to guide and direct our lives to become all we are meant to be. That fate comes in and blows away old dreams, leaving us open to new opportunities. It also represents a period of rest, reflection, rejuvenation. This woman will one day fly on new wings of new dreams.
While painting "Dreams Lost" I pushed myself in a way I had not before. The results were not disappointing. In fact, I discovered through that painting that I could DO IT! I could take my work to a new level. My technical abilities were finally catching up with my imagination. Now there wasn't anything I couldn't paint!


What did you try to depict in your most recent piece "Facing My Reality"? The truth of my disease. Although I was finally diagnosed in 1997, it has taken me until 2002 to truly come to terms with it. And I used that painting to help me accomplish this. I had sketch the idea in 1997, right after I received the diagnosis of a rare and incurable neurological digestive disease (Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction). By re-visiting the emotions of accepting a chronic degenerative illness in 2002, I was hoping to finally lay to rest the "old" me. And accept the real me. I am trying to show the disease, represented by both the hand coming out of the gut, and the shriveled face upon my shoulder, forcing me to face the illness and all the implications. By looking at the illness, I would be looking at my reality.
I don't live where I was hoping to be living at this time in my life, which is represented by the view of the house on the island in the Caribbean. Instead, I live back in the house I was raised in. My brother's old room. The view out of the window is the actual view from my front window. A view I spent most of my adolescence trying to escape! The stone wall, with many faces hidden in and amongst the stones, represent the judgment that I feel comes from people who don't or wont understand my plight. The stones also represent the wall built up as a way to protect myself from their judgments. The red ribbon, which goes through my hair into the hand and becomes drops of blood that, once cleansed by the rainbow, melt these stones. This shows me that even though this disease is not what I wanted for my life, it can still be turned into something positive and hopeful. That, one drop at a time, the wall that divides me from my true dreams is slowly dissolving, and one day I will live on that island in the sun!

What are your more important ambitions or goals as an artist?
To provide a voice for others with chronic pain and other invisible disabilities. To give doctors a tool for better understanding the drastic and often dramatic challenges that chronic diseases offer. To simply show doctors what pain looks like. To give patients a tool to help them speak to their doctors. "Here Dr., this is what I feel like, see this painting?!"
To bring back beauty, skill, and appreciation for technique to the art world, which I feel has allowed the lowest common denominator to become the ruler for which we measure art. I want to create art that speaks to all, not just those with masters degrees. I want to bring back the emotions that, especially living in the United States, have been almost completely dismissed from the current "in" art world. I want to make people feel. I want to leave behind a record of what life is like, emotionally, in this fast paced, materialistic world in which we live. I want to make people cry! Something that could be witnessed in an earlier age of art, but is rarely seen in today's cold abstract world.
I would love to create an artist warehouse/gallery for disabled artists, where they could come and create art, while art students, in exchange for lodgings, would take care of our special needs.
Most of all, I want to continue to be true to my artistic vision, my gift.

I understand you are self taught. Do you perceive not having a formal Art preparation has affected your work as an artist?
Most definitely. I've personally witnessed what art schools have done to artists' work. And I've not been impressed. I suppose I would belong to some type of "outsider" artist group who is ready to rebel against what has become the established definition of art. I believe that had I had formal training, my work would lack the intensity and expressiveness that it currently has. Knowing myself, I believe that I would have followed the crowd, and would be terribly dissatisfied with myself and my work. And I wouldn't have a clue as to why.
My son stated it best when, while at the book store perusing through art magazines, I made the comment that as long as post modern scribbles on a piece of newspaper is considered art my work doesn't have a chance. His reply: "That is because people don't like to see the truth, and your art speaks the truth!" Such insight for a 15 year old. But even at his age, he is constantly asking me why the stuff he sees in the art magazines and books is considered art!?! I'm afraid I don't have an answer.
I feel unable to give my son an educated reason for the current trends in art. That is a definite negative of being self taught. I have no idea as to why today's art is art. And I'm afraid that has left me a bit close minded and unappreciative of other's visions and ideas. I'm trying to work on that.

How would you define the obvious evolution in your style and technique from the very beginning of your artistic career up to now?
Boredom. I've always wondered if I suffered from undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. This may sound like a flippant answer to this question, but I have always felt the evolution of my work is driven by my extremely short attention span. It has taken a very strong will to discipline myself, to commit myself to these oil paintings that take much time to complete. Even my earlier colored pencil drawings never took more than a few days to complete. I feel that maturity also plays a role my ability to make this commitment.
These days, to combat the boredom, I always have more than one canvas going. I continue to push myself technically, which keeps my mind engaged. The joy of this time in the journey is I now have the confidence to be able to create that which I imagine. Something I had not accomplished in the past.
I know that as I master the medium of oils, my style and techniques will continue to evolve and change. I have no clear idea where this "ride" will take me, I only know that it will be interesting, cleansing and healing.

How much does Surrealism influence Art in today's world as you see it?
The Surrealism movement made it acceptable to explore the inner psyche in a way never before done. It helped artist break out of the conventions of what is expected and allowed them to enter into the realm of what can be terrifying. The inner workings of the subconscious mind.
Although purest say Surrealism comes from dreams, my work comes from conscience ideas needing subconscious expression. Rather than delving into my dream state, I want to explore my waking state. The emotions that seem so powerful, overwhelming at times. Surrealism has paved the way for artist like myself to openly and freely explore our minds and the vivid landscapes therein.

In what ways do you feel the Internet will affect today's or future Art?
I am very hopeful that the Internet will allow artists to circumvent the sometimes close-minded arts community. The internet allows any and every artist exposure to the entire world. This is an amazing concept when you really think about it.
When I look at my site's statistics, the tracking of visitors to my site, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see that 40 people in one week looked at my painting "Fear". That I was able to touch the lives of those 40 people. Even though I don't know who they were, or where they came from, I know they saw MY work! There are no boundaries. There are no gallery owners refusing to show my work. I am in total control of the presentation of my art. It gives the artist so much power over their own careers.
I recently designed a website for a fellow artist. She is set up to sell prints directly online. This gives the average art lover the opportunity to collect new and interesting art that might otherwise never be seen. With today's cheaper art printing alternatives; art can be made available to everyone! I am hopeful and excited about the future that the internet will play in the artist life. I believe it will turn the art world upside down, especially as the children who have grown up on the computer become the money makers and spenders. My 15 year old son and 17 year old daughter are already developing a strong sense of what art they enjoy. They peruse the internet looking for artist that inspire them. The internet also brings viewers who may never step inside an art gallery to an artist's work! I believe a great future will open up for artist on the internet.


Do you feel the Internet is more positive or negative or neither in this aspect?
I believe the internet is much like anything else on our planet. It depends on who is using it. Good people with good intentions will find positive and helpful ways to bring their view into possibly every home in the world. But someone with hurtful or negative intentions will use the internet for destructive purposes. The internet is a community unto itself. A world within our world. And like our world, it is full of every type of depravity imaginable, but it is also full of every type of beauty imaginable.
For me to be able to connect with other artist with similar visions as my own has been an experience beyond words. As a disabled almost complete shut-in, the opportunity to communicate with artists all over the world is rewarding and grounding. It takes the power of my disability away. Gives me the ability to do what it is my heart has always longed to do, make a difference in the world! I believe that for artist, the internet is mostly positive.
Negatives are sure to exist. Copyright infringements being one of the greatest. My attitude is first and foremost to share my vision, and get as much exposure as possible. If someone has downloaded one of my images, as low quality a print as it might make, they are helping me spread the word about my work. I look at it more as free advertising, than as an infringement on my ability to make a living.

What about your immediate plans for the future. What are your working on at present? Would you give us a preview?
I have several projects going this year (2003). I am currently working on two paintings. Both dealing with highly charged and very difficult emotions. I recently moved my studio into another part of the house. I was all in one room, and it was impossible for me to "turn off". But this part of the house is unusually quite and there is no tv, no music, nothing to quite the continuous conversations going on inside my head.
This has created a much different painting experience. One of the paintings deals with the realization, some 12 years later, of the extreme consequences of relinquishing custody of my two children to their father. I knew my illness would create a less than optimum family experience for the kids, and only wanted the best for them. Now, they are teenagers, and they have a step-mother who loves them very much, but I have felt pushed out, not really a mother and knew I had to deal with these explosive emotions before I was buried beneath the guilt of it all. Without the distractions in the background, I have been able to deal with emotions buried for 12 years. Those emotions are rawly depicted and as the painting progresses, amazing healing is taking place. Honest conversations are happening; the children are happy. What a gift working out these difficult and burdensome emotions is!
The second painting is about the war in Iraq! Such conflicting emotions churn in my stomach, so once again I am taking it to the canvas. It is only in the infant stages; and as things progress in Iraq, the ideas for the painting change as well. I am looking forward to its completion, and the discussions I hope it inspires.
They both can be seen at as soon as you enter the gallery, I have a new preview section where you can watch the process of painting from beginning to end.
I have also recently purchased a new digital camera. This is a professional 5 mega pixel camera and the photographs it takes are beyond my expectations. It is the first camera that captures my vision, and I am quite excited about the prospects. I have put together an online show of photos taken of the beautiful sanctuary of the church that I attend. These can be seen at I have also been photographing flowers, as spring has hit my part of Texas. And although the internet is full of beautiful flower photos, I can not help myself. The macro settings on the camera allow me to get up close and personal with flowers, showcasing colors and shapes that many times go unnoticed in the bigger picture. I hope to be putting together a showing of these photos, so visit my website often to check on the progress.

How do you feel you have been blessed personally from embracing the life of an Artist?
Healing. Healing. Healing. Most times I feel as if I am a hostile artist. Much like the hostile witness at a trial. I never intended to be an artist. My first love was music and I made a living using the mathematical/logical side of my brain. I knew I had artistic talent. I painted quite a bit as a teenager, and was quite adept even then at capturing the mountains I loved so much. But to embrace this lifestyle fulltime? I finally did, kicking and screaming all the way!
Now that I have settled into it. I feel lucky to know my life's purpose. My reason for being here. And it goes beyond the medium to the heart of creativity. Whether it be music, painting, photography, comes down to branching out like the many new leaves on the trees outside my window, letting the ideas flow, allowing the healing to take place and suddenly, in the midst of all the pain, knowing peace!
To finally accept my reality. I'm not "normal" I'm unique, I'm gifted, I'm eccentric, I am an artist and that allows me most of all to be ME!

Finally, if you could offer one bit of advice to emerging artists what would it be?
Be true to your vision. Don't let anyone tell you how to do what you know in your heart you are to do! Each of us is an individual and, as I tell my children, the greatest insult to your creator, however you view that higher power, is to not be the beautiful creation you were made to be.


::: Karen Musick ~ Surrealist Art :::

© Karen Musick

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