‘Alla Prima’ Art: Painter pursues ‘organic experience’ in oils

‘Alla Prima’ Art: Painter pursues ‘organic experience’ in oils

Karen Spencer says she can’t remember a time when she didn’t feel like an artist.

“I have always looked at things a little differently, thought deeply about our existence and felt empathically for the tangible and spiritual worlds. Painting and the arts in general have always seemed a natural way to document as well as express those ideas and feelings.”

A lifelong artist — with time off to raise her children — Spencer is now embarking on a new adventure. She has just opened her own working studio and gallery space at 19 E. Mountain St. in Fayetteville.

“My heart was telling me it was time for a change,” she says. “I had shared studio space with a sweet friend for several years. I had been feeling the nudge to find a personal space for some time, and I just finally made the move. It was bittersweet.

“I randomly found this space. I was looking in the area of the square and Dickson Street, saw the ‘for lease’ sign and the large windows and had to check it out. The northern light is perfect.”

With the studio and gallery just open on Dec. 28, Spencer took time out of a busy schedule to answer three questions for What’s Up!

Q. Where did you grow up? Were your parents artistic? What was your first experience as a young artist?

A. I grew up in the northeastern part of Arkansas in Batesville, along the White River. My mother painted in watercolor as a hobby and had lots of creative interests. My first artistic experiences were at home with pencils, paints and other craft materials. We always had a project going. When I became focused and passionate about painting during my junior high years, Mother purchased an easel and lots of great supplies from a professional artist friend of hers. This really spurred on my passion for painting. That easel still sits in my studio today.

Q. What did you intend to be when you grew up? And how did that part turn out?

“My work has evolved over the years to become much more alla prima,” says artist Karen Spencer. “I will only paint from life or from photographs I have taken on location. I will make some exceptions for commissions, but for my personal work, it is important for it to be a very organic experience and interpretation.”
(The Free Weekly/David Gottschalk)

A. As a young girl I wanted to be a painter AND a foreign missionary. Traveling to far-away countries, sharing my faith and painting — what could beat that? I graduated from the University of Arkansas with an art education degree and taught public school art.

During the years raising two children, my painting was on hold. Fourteen years ago I saw work by Carol Roberts, a local artist. Her work stirred my soul — the color and application of the paint. I asked her to give me lessons to restart my art journey. I have painted full time [in oils] since then.

She not only became a precious friend, but I credit her with teaching me a trove of knowledge as well as being my art therapist. I have also taken classes from several nationally and internationally known artists.

Q. How would you describe your work to someone who cannot see it?

I love this question! My goals when doing a painting are to convey an emotion or mood of the scene or object through color, texture, line, etc.; apply the paint in a thick, textural, sensual manner; evoke the senses; document a moment in time; [and] for the piece to “read” like a poem.

So, depending on the piece, I would describe it as “still” or “warm sunshine on your face.” Another piece I might describe as a “rushing wind and loud swoosh,” and of course, I would encourage the actual touching of the surface of the paint when dry to feel the movement and “cake icing” texture of the paint. It’s just yummy. I might search for just the right verse or prose to describe a work.

I believe our everyday lives and surroundings and what can seem mundane are really the extraordinary and supernatural.



Karen Spencer

Studio & Gallery

WHEN — By appointment only, since it is a working studio

WHERE — 19 E Mountain St., Suite 14, in Fayetteville

COST — Admission is free; work is for sale

INFO — karenspencerfineart.com or email karen@karenfineart.com

FYI — Spencer plans to display other artists’ work in the window on a rotating basis.

Categories: Galleries