Au Revoir French Friends

This week I said farewell to some friends. They weren’t people exactly but rather a pair of paintings.  These women were in a cafe in Paris decades ago, immortalized in a photograph, yet I was able to portray them in paint on paper.

I love Paris and I have been there a number of times but I haven’t painted it before because I was afraid whatever I might do could end up trite. But when I found a postcard in a stall along the Seine, I found what I seemed like the quintessential Paris image: two women sipping coffee in a cafe, dressed to the nines, in the 1940’s. So I painted them. First one in watercolor

"Cafe 1" watercolor 11"x14"by Karen E. Friedland

“Cafe 1″ watercolor 11″x14”

the second in acrylic

"Cafe 2" acrylic on paper 11" x 14" by Karen E. Friedland

“Cafe 2″ acrylic on paper 11″ x 14”

They hung facing one another, sipping and chatting. But they have taken leave of me, gone to carry on the conversation in a sleek, modern apartment, high above the street noise in Singapore. I’ll miss them but I know they will make new friends on the other side of the world.

img_6587I have lots of new developments that have been keeping me busy and I want to share them with you. Almost ready my ART SPARKS Creative Project Card Deck! A super gift for the holidays! Great for anybody looking for creative inspiration, great for beginners as well as advanced artists. Just click HERE and I’ll let you know when they are ready.


For those of you in New York, I’ll be teaching “Painting With Watercolor To Free Your Imagination” at the Open Center on 5 Wednesday evenings, starting October. 26. You can learn all about it and sign up by clicking HERE.  From the Downstairs Studio in Brooklyn, I will be teaching the Creative Spirit workshop, Tuesday and Thursday evening, November 15  & 17. What a great way to get in touch with your creative self! CLICK HERE for information and to register. Plus Early Bird savings if you register by November 1.

Get all the updates! Sign up for the mailing list and get a free downloadable print! CLICK HERE

Mark your calendar!

October 31                     Blog Hop to launch ART SPARKS Creative Project Deck

November 12 & 13       Flatbush Artists Studio Tour

December 10 & 11         Open Studio

more info to follow




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I went to bed late last night, already very tired, and expected to go right to sleep. But instead, I lay awake until the wee hours of the morning contemplating what I was going to do next in my studio.

When I thought about it this morning, I realized thatein-profil-des-menschlichen-kopfes-formte-birne-mit-inneren-eisengngen-png-verfgbar-51525304 this was by no means the first time this is happened and unlikely to be the last. I realized that my brain was working engaged in figuring out how I was going to proceed in the shooting of my new video e-course. I’ve been a teacher of art and creativity for a long time, so this was not the first time I was teaching. But it was the first time I was creating a course that would be put online, disseminated through the World Wide Web and potentially, reach thousands of people. I realized my brain just loves the opportunity to sell the new creative problem, to figure out something completely new, to take the risk of working in a whole new medium and to see how to solve that challenge.



A student painting her creative spirit.

Now don’t get me wrong-I love teaching art and creativity. I love helping people open the doors to the expressiveness that’s been hidden away in them for too long. I love helping people children and adults alike learn how to use a new medium, a new way of expressing themselves, a new way of creating and making art. This is all very satisfying to me.

But when I myself ever introduced to a new medium, when I try a way of creating that I’ve never done before, it’s thrilling! I love figuring out how to make it happen and. I leave the judgments behind and I just forge on. It makes no sense to judge yourself on how well you’re doing when you’re just learning something new anyhow. You see, I’m really a thrillseeker that’s what drives me forward, the thrill of creating something different than I ever have before. The thrill of learning to do something completely new and use it to bring forth a work of art or any creation.


The thrill of creating something new. “Bondage” acrylic and mixed media on canvas 12″ x 12″

It does take away from my painting time and I always feel a bit guilty about that. But learning something new, making something new is where the rush is.

This summer I created a card deck filled with inspiration and ways to help  you bring creativity and expression into your life.

With images on one side of the card and fun, simple projects on the other side,                Art Sparks will get you past all the reasons not to be creative and take you to an ease-filled, expressive journey. Coming to you in October.

The video e-course will also be coming sometime in October. It will be free and take you through a fun, expressive drawing and painting project.


Opening frame of e-course video

What kind of problem-solving is your brain working on when you wish you were sleeping?

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I have always been compelled by the urge to be creative. It is a natural drive for all humans. This is a good thing because this drive is what keeps us inventing new things, solving challenging problems and making beauty in the world.

People are creative from their souls, it is not necessarily based on talent. In fact, I believe that creative drive and learning skills are what truly equals talent. Plus one needs the perseverance to put effort and time into their pursuit.

But their are times that our creativity feels dry. Have you ever wanted to be creative but the well was empty and you just don’t know how to get back to it? I’ve had that experience and it is totally frustrating. I’ve learned a number of tricks to get me out of that space and get back to creating. Here are 3 of my favorites:

  1. PLAY WITH COLOR. Look at a magazine or other book with photos or paintings. Find an image that speaks to you and pick out the 3 most prominent colors. Then identify 2 (or 4) more colors that are accents. Using markers or crayons. start making lines and shapes in the principal colors. Use your accent colors to connect them. See where it takes you.
  2. TAKE A LINE FOR A WALK. Choose a pen that makes a strong line (like a Sharpie). Use it to make a continuous line, varying the shapes of the line as you go. Make the line touch the sides of the paper and come back, crossing the lines you’ve drawn. You can make diagonals, curved, wavy, zig zag, spirals, any shape you like. Now take color and fill the shapes you have made.
  3. INVENT A STORY. Using a novel or newspaper, go through the page and circle interesting words, 7 is a good number, not more than 9.  Use the words to make a sentence-I know it may be kind of crazy. Make that sentence the start of a 3 sentence story. You will be surprised with the story make. Try it with a friend and see what crazy, cool stories you come up with!

Want to get really creative? Want to shut down self doubt? Join me in the Downstairs Studio in Brooklyn on August 3rd and 4th, 6-9:30 PM for the Creative Spirit Workshop. It’s about the joy of creating, being in touch with your creative soul and tamping down the inner critic we all have. The point is to enjoy the process. Read about it and register here.

Do you have any great ways that you use to get back to your creativity?



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I was just reading another artist’s blog where she referred to a post about what inspires her. So she inspired me to reflect on that same question and share it with you.

As I think about it, I realize that anything and everything can be a source of inspiration for me. This has increased as I am further immersed in my life as an artist.

I am inspired by nature- the colors of flowers, leaves and grasses, the variation of colors in a Stoney rock face, the greys and lavenders and flaming orange of a sunset. IMG_3566




But likewise, the city fires me up. The shapes and geometry of the buildings & streets, the color of the light and reflection.

The people themselves inspire me with their varied attires’ colors, the fashion styling, as well as the shapes in their faces and bodies.

Plus, since I love painting animals, my travel abroad has given me much inspiration.

I guess what I mean is that after all these years of being an artist, I see with artists’ eyes. My perception turns all elements of the world to colors, forms and contrasts. I see things as a kind of tableaux, all parts fitting together in a grand puzzle. Each piece is perfectly fitted to the next, diagramed precisely to contrast or complement each adjacent unit. By perceiving the world in this way, all things become inspiration. How one color sits next to another, the way a shape stands out in uniqueness or repetition, these are things that motivate me. When something surprises or blends, calms or excites, evokes a feeling from me, that is something that I will seek to emulate in my art.

So you see, it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that inspires me, because it is everything in the internal and external world. But it really is not a difficult thing to do. It is all just a matter of paying attention…and taking a lot of photos. ;0)

What is it that inspires you?

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I’ve gotten very active on Instagram these days. Perhaps you seen my posts.

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My instagram feed.

I share a lot of my work as a process because it gives me a way to let folks into the inner workings of what I do and how a painting gets to be finished work of art. I’ve noticed a very strange, to me, phenomenon when I do that. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Instagram, one posts a picture of anything, as well as leaving a caption or remarks about it. It’s possible for a viewer to leave a comment responding to the post but more frequently, people double tap on the image and that indicates”like” it with a heart.Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 5.19.10 PM
The thing that is puzzling to me is that I frequently get more likes on an image in the very early stages than I do as the painting becomes more resolved.

And when the painting is complete and I posted it, I feel like I have to really work to get signs of approval, the likes.

I think this is because people respond to the freeness and intuitive nature of my paintings with the first pass of color. Like me, they respond from the gut, the colors and shapes and how they have put themselves together. For this stage, I work very loosely and hardly thinking consciously about what I’m doing. I just select colors and lay them down with a variety of tools, and in whatever forms might meet my fancy at the moment. It is frequently fairly random.

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A first layer of color.

I think the response to the early phase is a visceral  one. It too is just a reaction to the stimuli. At that point in time, the painting is filled with possibilities and opportunities and you don’t need to be an artist to see and feel them. But as the painting progresses and I make more and more conscious decisions on the direction of the painting, I am narrowing my options and also those of my viewer. This is my job. It is required that I do this in order to complete the painting. However, my choices may not be just what my viewer may have chosen. There are many moments where it does not look its best. And just like you, at those times I do not like the painting nearly as much as I did at the start when it was filled with possibility. As in any projects of creation, there are challenges and things that don’t work so well. The job of the creator is to keep working to overcome these challenges and push through the passages that don’t work so well.

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“Ocean Set” The finished ones can get a lot of likes too.

At the end, I hope that you will like the painting again, once I have solved and resolved the issues. But it is truly out of my hands at that point and I don’t work for “likes” but rather to send my creations into homes and workplaces of people for whom they bring joy.and with them, a piece of my spirit.

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Deciding what to buy to be tricky business. While no one can tell exactly what piece of art is going to resonate with an individual so that they fall in love with it, just going out into the world of art without a plan can be totally overwhelming and paralyzing. So I am here to help you plan how to go about the search in three easy steps and find the perfect work of art.


This painting fits the panel behind the chair perfectly! “Dream” in acrylic on paper.

Most of the time, people have in mind where they would like to place a new piece of artwork. It might be a space over sofa, in an office lobby, or in a small entry. It is key to look at how much space you have so that you will buy a piece of artwork that is in good proportion to the place where you’re going to hang it. If you have a wonderful painting that is too large for your space, it will look crowded and squeezed. By the same token, if you find a delicate, diminutive piece to put over your sofa, it will look lost and insignificant.







This depiction of an Italian village brought back memories, so close to the owner’s heart.

Some people know that they want to look up and see a road in the countryside in a landscape painting. Others love to see paintings of people. You may love the ambiguity of nonobjective abstracts that leave it to the viewer to decide what they are. As you search for your painting choice, having a sense of what you would like to see depicted will make your search easier.







Many people have specific preferences as to what style or period of painting they prefer. If you love the old masters, something in oil paint with yellow and gray tones will be right up your alley. If you prefer modern lines and vivid colors, you will select a very different kind of art. More than anything, this will set the mood that your artwork will create. You needn’t worry about matching your interior decor. Mixing styles within the space will help enliven it, bring more interest into the room and attention to your beautiful new aquisition of art.


Make a statement with a large abstract! “Cycle” acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas.

Now you are ready to go out into the world of art buying with a plan of 1, 2,3! If you have any questions or comments about your art hunting, please put them in the comments below. Enjoy the hunt! You will see many beautiful things along the way and, I am certain, find just the piece or pieces that you will love for many years.

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I thought it might be useful to define some of the different media that you hear artists working with in their original artwork. I have worked with most of them at one time or another and so I have familiarity with themAcrylic-Paint.

The medium I’m working in right now is acrylic. Acrylic is a 20th century innovation, made of polymer medium, in which particles of pigment are suspended. This is just a fancy way of saying that it’s liquid plastic with color  in mixed in. When you have a painting  that is painted with acrylic, you have a very durable surface.


One of my acrylic paintings

Acrylic paint adheres well to just about any surface that it is painted on. You may also have heard about mediums, like gel medium and gloss medium. They are colorless formulations of the liquid plastic that have different characteristics and viscosities.  acrylic-mediums-bannerThere is gel medium which is thick like cake frosting and it can be either gloss which is shiny, semi gloss or matte which is not shiny at all. Some of the mediums are thinner, more liquidy and others are completely solid, kind of a Crisco thickness. But they will dry clear and give different kinds textures to the surface.

Next is oil paint. Oil paint was used for centuries and most of the great classic paintings you see in museums were made with it. oil-painting-1128693_960_720 It has color pigments suspended in a linseed, natural oil base.


Forest hi res copy






With the oil paint one needs to use centers such as turpintine to clean it. Generally takes quite a long time to dry as opposed to acrylic which dries minutes. There is a special luster that comes from oil paint which is hard to reproduce.



Then we come to pastels which had been my medium of choice for a long time. In the art world when you refer to pastels, it generally means the dry, chalky type. However, they are not chalks. They are solid sticks of color. There is only a small amount of binder used to make the color solid and when you apply it to the painting surface, you get exactly the color you hold in your hand.


TANNERY-MOROCCO is made with pastel.


Once the painting is done, the loose, dusty particles can be made more stable by spraying on fixative but when pastel paintings are handled or moved around a lot, frequently dust will loosen from the painting. That makes it very hard to ship to juried shows and that problem is what made me move on to acrylic. You may be more familiar with oil pastels that some artists use but are frequently used by children. These are similar to oil paint in their taking a very long time to dry.






Artwork - 035

“What’s A Prince Without His Crown” 30″ x 22″, watercolor


Our next big category is watercolor. What are color paint comes in either tube or cake form and you use water to dilute it and make the paint liquid. When applied to paper it is transparent and so has a beautiful light contained within it.


There is also gouache which is a form of watercolor where the paint is opaque and you cannot see through it. This is frequently the medium of choice for designers. This paint has a matte, not shiny finish.




I hope this clarifies some of the differences the time to paint that artists use and that the next time you go to an art gallery you will find it easier to interpret the labels under the paintings.

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Being in Mississippi for Art Colony is an intense, stimulating,inspiring, hilarious, heart-warming, exhausting experience.  There is a tremendous power just being in a place where 40 or so accomplished artists gather to work individually but together. Each one works on their own projects but there is consultation and support and exploration-a synergy, if you will- unlike any you can ever find on your own. It’s a growth experience that you can’t get in the solitude of one’s own studio.

For me, it is an opportunity to paint larger than I usually do. This means wielding a canvas that is 5′ high and 4′ wide.  I feel a freedom for exploration and discovery that is hard to summon all by myself. Knowing that this is a unique opportunity, I decided to throw caution to the wind and committed myself to the best learning experience I could have.

I began the large painting with pouring and dripping paint onto the canvas while I tilted it in different directions to help the paint run. After several layers, I discerned a figure, wearing a hat, seated on a ball. In order to see it better, I used white to outline it.


I consulted with our teacher/artist, Noah Saterstrom, who suggested I protect that image as I added more layers to the painting, so I covered it with blue painter’s tape.  I continued



to add layers of paint to the canvas as well as shapes, blending and dripping as I went. While protecting the form of the figure, the tape created other problems. I think I was unconsciously pulled by the blue of the tape as the colors I added were all some shade of blue.  It also meant that the figure would be isolated from the rest of the picture and I would have to work to integrate it into the overall image. I soon removed the tape and began that process.

IMG_5428 (1)

This is where I’ve left it, just for the moment, as it continues to build. More in the next installment. What does it look like to you? What direction might you take it from here?

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Hot Miss

Here I am in Mississippi,  an unlikely place for a New Yorker, for the Spring session of Mississippi Art Colony. I am a fulfledged member, having been introduced to it by an artist friend who lives here.

I gather with 40 other artists to work together, share ideas, make art and consult with the artist teacher about our work. It’s a stimulating and fun 5 days and I always make some insteresting work and get inspired. Mississippi Art Colony boasts being the oldest in the country, although I know of no others.

We are housed at a sleep-away camp and like all camps, the food isn’t very good nor are the beds. But the experience is great! Here’s a look at the camp lake our first, foggy morning. It led to a very hot day.

I’ll keep you updated on my developments here!

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I’m writing this with a red pen, which seems appropriate since this article is about the color REDRedPenProbably my favorite color, at least this week, I feel qualified on the subject as people are always talking to me about my colors. As a colorist, who has studied color in depth, I have become somewhat of an authority on color and by extension, on red.


From a technical standpoint, red is a primary color (along with yellow and blue), meaning that it cannot be made through the mixing other colors but rather can be used to mix an infinity of colors, including purple, orange, brown, magenta, lavender, etc. Considered a warm color because of its association with heat, red can generate a sense of warmth, embracing and calm. using-redOthers find it energizing, volatile, exciting and, at times, representative of anger. We say we are “in the pink” or “seeing red” with fury. So having red (or shades of) in your life can be a powerful thing.

This came up when I was sharing some new work at my artist group. A musician friend came up and said “I really love your red paintings; they make me feel so calm, I’d love to own one.” I was certainly pleased that she felt that way but was taken aback that she called it a red painting. Yes, it did have a lot of red elements but the background was all yellow and as well as some lavender. But there it was, a red painting – red dominates the space. 


HOT ICE acrylic on cradled board, 10″ x 10″ $295 

What effect does RED have on you?




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