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Figures, 2002-2015

Drawing the human figure is central to the training of an artist. I did the painting "Il Pugilista" this past summer along with the drawing for it. There also are a few life drawings I've done over the years as well as a biblical painting. As you can see, I'm interested in the classical aesthetic in particular. In fact, one of these is a drawing of a sculpture in did in Italy.

Portraits

Portraiture

I spent many years only drawing and doing sculpture in preparation for painting portraits. Here I have included five drawings and five paintings. All portraits were done from life in my studio, and all of the paintings were done with natural light. Portraiture is perhaps my favorite subject. There's nothing like watching a person's personality unfold on his or her face as you paint them. I've been teaching portraiture for years, and I always tell my students to watch for the small movements that lend expression to the sitter. If a snapshot captures a moment in time, the artist working from life has the opportunity to observe and document the inner person as it manifests itself over time.

  • Rick

    Charcoal on paper, 20 X 27"
  • Pamela

    Oil on linen 16" X 20" 2007
  • John

    Oil on panel 9" X 10" 2004
  • Christopher

    oil on linen, 12" X 16"
  • Ed Reading

    Oil on linen 16" X 20" 2008
  • Megan

    Charcoal on handmade paper 15" X 17"
  • Super Star

    120" H x 86" W x 20" D
  • George

    Charcoal on handmade paper 18" X 24" This is a portrait of my friend George, who sadly died last year at the age of 40. George was kind, creative, funny and one of the most unusual people I've ever known. He had the talent of making each person who knew him feel that they were special when he was with them. For his memorial, Sasha's restaurant closed on a Sunday and hosted a moving afternoon dedicated to George. The place was packed with people, all of whom were George's friends.
  • Mike

    Charcoal on handmade paper 16" X 20"
  • Conner

    Charcoal on handmade paper, 16" X 20"

Still Life Paintings

Still Life Paintings

Working in the classical tradition as it was revived in the Renaissance, I take a flat surface and make it look three dimensional. That might be the most basic definition of classical painting. But a beautiful work of art is the sum of its parts, and there are several aspects of painting which interest me in particular. First, a carefully considered composition is the initial step in creating what I call "visual music". According to Pythagoras, the concept of numbers was the key to the universe. I have been carefully analyzing old master paintings for many years, and I have discovered a geometric system that I apply in my work. I have also studied organic form, both through drawing antique sculpture and through studying sculpture, and I always search for the true form of any organic object that I render. Finally, I find that the aforementioned form is best revealed in natural light. I am constantly struck by the beauty of light on form and the subtlety of value and color that it creates.

2009-2010

This group includes a variety of subjects: still lifes, biblical paintings, a bar mitzvah portrait and a drawing. Subject matter is important, but the true concerns of a painter are light, form, composition, value and color. The subject must be conveyed through this visual vocabulary.

  • Head of the Winesack Bearer

    graphite on paper, 15" X 20 2010 Last summer I taught a portraiture class at MICA. Watching my students do such beautiful drawings inspired me to do a highly finished pencil drawing. I've had this cast of the "Winesack Bearer" for many years and hadn't drawn it in a long time. Copying casts of Greek sculpture was how I learned to draw and the rigor involved in executing this drawing felt good.
  • Behind the White Curtain

    oil on linen, 10" X 14" 2009
  • Still Life with Venetian Mask

    oil on linen, 12" X 16" 2009
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

    Oil on linen, 16" X 20" 2009 I wanted to try something different than a traditional still life, so I borrowed a bunch of little statues from my friend Rick and created this scene. I love how the figures are together but don't really interact, and I love everything about antiquity. Can you tell who the central figure is supposed to be?
  • Queen Esther's Prayer

    Oil on Linen, 22" X 30" 2010 This is the other biblical painting in this series. Queen Esther, who is the wife of Ahasueros, King of Persia, is an Israelite. Her cousin Mordechai has just come and asked her to go to the king to beg him to save their people. Mordechachai stands behind Esther with the decree that all the Jews will be killed. Approaching the king when it's not her turn poses great danger to Esther. Instead of relying on her worldly power and charms as symbolized by the crown and fur which have been cast aside, she kneels in prayer, relying on her faith.
  • Il Paragone

    oil on linen, 8" X 12" 2010
  • The Queen of Sheba: Seeking Wisdom

    Oil on Linen, 16" X 24" 2009 This is one of the two biblical paintings in this project. The Queen of Sheba seeks Solomon because he's renowned for his wisdom as a judge. In this painting, the queen is looking at Solomon, symbolized by the balance in the mirror behind her. The basket with the white cloth is the basket of gifts she bears. The lions are attributes of royalty.
  • Andrew

    oil on linen, 18" X 24" 2010 This a portrait of my nephew Andrew who sat for me with great discipline. His bar mitzvah portion dealt with many episodes from the life of Abraham. The background is a copy of a detail of Peter Paul Ruben's "The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek" at the National Gallery of Art.

2012

A picture is worth a thousand words.

portraits, 2014-2015

Painting portraits is absolutely my favorite thing to do. There's nothing quite like the experience of capturing a person's personality as it reveals itself over time before my eyes in the studio.

I always work from life. For paintings, I usually meet with the model for a series of about five or six sessions. Drawings are much quicker.

landscape, portraits 2015

The landscapes are mostly places in Baltimore City, all painted on site. The portraits were all painted in my studio under my skylight.

  • Jimmy

    oil on linen, 12" X 16", 2015
  • Latrice (in progress)

    oil on linen, 14" X 14", 2015
  • Heather

    oil on linen, 16" x 20", 2015
  • Alexandra

    oil on panel. 16" X 20", 2015
  • Cottonwood Tree

    oil on panel, 12" X 16", 2015
  • Druid Park Drive

    oil on prepared paper, 10" x 10", 2015
  • Fulton Theater

    oil on prepared paper, 10" x 11", 2015
  • Clifton Mansion

    oil on prepared paper, 11" X 18", 2015 This is one of the oldest buildings in Baltimore. The second owner was Johns Hopkins (the man, not the school) and he transformed it into the Italianate mansion you see here. The most amazing thing I saw when painting it was the orange light that appeared in the portico at the end of the day.
  • Inside Brown Memorial

    oil on linen, 18" X 24", 2015

still lifes, 2014-2015

Ever since I attended the Schuler School almost 20 years ago, I've dreamt of having a north facing artist's skylight in my studio. This past year that dream came to fruition! All of the still lifes in this series have been done since April 2014 when I was finally able to paint under my new skylight.

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About Karen

Karen Warshal earned her MFA at Tufts University in conjunction with the Boston Museum School and her B.A at the University of Pennsylvania. Her interest and training in classical art began in 1988 when she studied at the Parker School of Structural Sculpture in Bethesda. She then spent several years in... more

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