Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Solo exhibition - "Verdigris" River Arts Gallery, Damariscotta

 It's been a long but satisfying day because I just returned from hanging my solo exhibition, "Verdigris", in the West Gallery of River Arts and it feels good to have it up and ready for the public. The following is my statement about the show which contains 53 works in various mediums and a large variety of subjects. I hope you get a chance to see the show and also come to my reception which is July 11 from 5-7(due to the holiday on the 4th). All are welcome!
The more I paint the more I realize just how important my life experiences, dreams, and environment, are to my work. I paint images that are not so much literal translations of the immediate world but rather ideas and feelings that come from those places to tell a story or express something about the beauty and mystery of nature.
    I work from photos taken of familiar places and during road trips with my husband throughout Maine, New England, and the southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The photos are used only as basic reference points which refresh my memories of sensory perceptions experienced along the way.
     Roads and trails have become a part of my recent landscapes, as well as New England style buildings with the simplest architecture. To me these dwellings have great presence and are representative of the resolute people who built and lived in them for generations.  I’ve felt the same connections while standing in awe in the ancient dwellings carved from the cliffs of Gila and high plateaus of Mesa Verde National Park.
    My show is a compilation of this life journey and how I see things. Every new scene builds upon the next in a storage bank of images. Thoughts and impressions run together when I think about a new painting. In the studio I pull cloud formations from one photo and combine them with subjects from another, colors and tone values are pushed a little…or a lot. I paint in my head often…those are the best paintings.
   Domestic animals are an interesting subject to paint. Dogs, cats, and horses have been such an important part of my life and have done more for me physically and spiritually than I can express. I find their body language and character a challenge to capture in any medium.
    Nocturnal paintings are a favorite genre because of the limited light conditions in which darkness or moonlit effects can create mysterious scenes. This type of light is a challenge to paint but offers more opportunities for subjects done with subdued color palettes and very close tone values.
  I’d love to hear comments from you anytime. Please feel free to contact me @ or catch me on Facebook or my website where new work is posted often in my blogs.

I hope you enjoy the show!

Karen Pettengill

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Green Donkey

It's been a long hiatus from blogging. They seem slightly redundant when you can post new artwork and the stories behind them in much quicker fashion, and in my case, reach a larger audience on Facebook. Most of my Facebook "friends" are other artists and feedback from them has been great and I enjoy seeing their work as well.
One of the reasons for this post is to launch my new website which has been updated and has a crisp new look. I also have a solo show coming up in two months and it's time to start getting the word out.
More info about the show will be posted in subsequent blogs, FB and Linked In.
This is a new 14 x 11 watercolor - The Green Donkey, and features a scene from a small village we traveled through in southern New Mexico.
This little town had definitely fallen on hard times and we noticed that most buildings were run down and vacant. But the artistic spirit was alive and well and expressed in the form of full sized fiberglass donkeys hand painted by local artists and then placed all over town! Hence the colorful donkey in this painting. I noticed others on roof tops, in parking lots and in front of public buildings....all colorfully painted in different ways.
The architecture of this shop was so interesting and reminded me of the building facades in western movies.What can I say about the skies of the southwest....words cannot express...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top Shelf Aucton for Maine Discovery Museum

It's been along time between blogs. Summer is a wonderful memory of many warm and bright sunny of the best summers that we recall. We were busy every week. Now the crisp fall air is here and filled with smells of wood smoke, cooling earth and molding leaves. Things are winding down. We 're closing up the yard for winter and have a new garden shed to store plant pots, outdoor furniture and tools. Last week I made a delicious caribou stew, courtesy of a coworker whose husband got it during a hunting trip to Labrador. It was the first of many slow cooked comfort foods to come.

Every year at this time the Maine Discovery Museum's Annual Fall Gala and Auction in Bangor comes around. This show title is called, "Top Shelf" and was so named for the wall shelves painted by Maine artists invited for this year's show . The dinner gala is a big event in Bangor and I'm very excited to be included. The date for the gala is November 19.

It's always interesting to see what other artists chose do for their pieces.

I decided to paint a scene of Schoodic Point in Downeast Maine. We traveled through Acadia National Park in August and went just a little further north to this remote region of the park. It was one of my favorite locations....especially this beach on Frenchmen's Bay facing Cadillac Mountain in the distance.The clouds were so low and puffy we thought we could reach up and touch them as they floated overhead.

For info on how to bid for your favorite shelf go to

Two special pieces are offered on of them is donated by author Stephen King!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An afternoon in Shapleigh

My work keeps me pretty busy and it's interesting but I really look forward to my days off, especially when the weather is so nice. Steve needed photos of a new listing in Shapleigh so we made an afternoon of it.
While he was at the town hall gathering information I took Koda for a walk through the sweet park in the village center. I was surprised by a pair of handsome Canadian geese with a family of seven fluffy gray sygnets. Dad and mom walked toward me with threatening looks as I approached them for photos. You can see the pond and bridge in the photo of the geese. The gardens and gazebo are beautiful too. From the poo covered sidewalks I'd say they own the place for now.
When Steve finished we headed north to Limerick to pick up lunch, then we found a quiet lakeside spot on West Pond in Parsonsfield to eat.
The bottom photo is of old Mousam Grange which is across from the town hall and the park.
I'm inspired by the scenery in Maine and paint these places in my head..getting to the studio is quite another thing....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

3 Phases of the painting "Native Son"

Here are three phases of an acrylic painting called, "Native Son", which was completed two years ago.
I couldn't get the photos set up correctly on this blog so the first phase is actually the one on the bottom . The canvas has been covered with a terra cotta underpainting which is just like the papers and panels used in my pastel paintings. The warm tone makes the cool color palette in my work sparkle. It's rare that I paint on a white or light toned background.
I paint with a big brush(house trim painting size)
and use all the tips and edges for blocking in and shapes right down to the smallest areas including the mooring line. The only time I use a small brush is for my signature. I found that this works for me because I have to move my whole arm to get what I want...there's more energy in the strokes. Yellow was added midway then white and green mixtures were scumbled over areas of the boat. I used a dry scumble of greens on the water for depth and reflections.
The scene is from memory. When I was a kid we lived near Casco Bay and these islands could be seen from the beach where I spent many summers. How fortunate I was....

The outboard motor was my favorite thing to the shape of it, especially the little prop in the sun.

The clouds came from a photo I took in the California desert around Palm Springs.

The skiff....well... she was on dry land in the middle of December...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who's your Buddy now.

This is 'Buddy' a handsome mixed breed dog owned by a friend. He reminds me of a German Shepherd in this portrait, especially with his large upright ears and coloring. His direct gaze speaks to his personality which I'm told is strong and energetic but lovable.
This guy loves to run and he has just the right home for it with a big beautiful field on the owner's property and plenty of pesky wildlife around to keep him a family of foxes.
His new mother loved him from the start, but he was a handful and his dad wasn't quite sold on the idea. It took a little time but Buddy worked his way into everyone's hearts and now his dad takes him everywhere.
This is acrylic with touches of casein mixed in, painted on a terra cotta toned panel. I started using toned pastel papers several years ago and use that same underpainting for acrylic and casein. You can see it peeking through in the background and in areas of Buddy's chest and neck. I like the warmth and cohesive quality of this method.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Photoshop experiments

The pastel panels I ordered should arrive tomorrow and until that happens I'm playing with recently finished acrylic paintings in Photoshop. We've had this program for about 12 years now and it's been really helpful when it comes to altering paintings for the "What ifs". I'm never satisfied with a finished painting...there's always something I should've done differently and this program gives me a chance to try it. I've also found that by flipping a painting horizontally distortions are easy to spot. That's come in very handy since there's no mirror in the studio and dragging some of my paintings down spiral stairs to the bathroom is an accident waiting to happen.

Here are three versions of the acrylic painting 'Puddy' and it's interesting how the hues and tone values change the feeling. One of the applications makes him look like he's moving.

These are my favorites..