do it. create. walk and see. cut and paste. scratch and sniff.
do whatever you have to do to feed your soul.
this is my commitment.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Gina interviews Kari

my kind of selfie

My friend, Gina Easley is doing a photography piece on artists who paint animals.  I feel honored that she chose me as one artist to interview.  In addition to spending time with me and my work in the studio, she also had a few questions.

Q: What is your earliest memory of feeling a connection with an animal?

A: My earliest memory of feeling a connection to animals was as a young child.  I grew up in Northern California and our back steps were constantly visited by snails.  I would spend much time watching them closely.  I would become completely enamored by watching them travel.  I would also try to study their trails.  Where had they come from while I was sleeping?   I believed I could communicate with them, that they were my friends and I did everything I could to make sure they were safe. To this day, if I see an image of a snail, I squeal out loud.

All of the sudden I am reminded of a book: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Q; Has the experience of working with animals as subject manner for your art changed how you see or interact with them in other areas of your life?  If so, how?

A: Of Course! motives for working with animals are selfish, really.  To be in the presence of ANY animal is extremely therapeutic and calming to me.  When I am in their presence, I find myself constantly thanking them for the unconditional love and acceptance they offer.  I thank them profusely for letting me take photos of them and when I am in my studio, painting them, I try my best to ask them how they would like to be perceived.  Animals give freely of themselves.  I want to be very careful that I never take advantage of this.

Don't worry, I got this, 48X36, acrylic on canvas, SOLD

This large painting of one of my muses, Tucker, our rabbit, is just one example of how creating these beings on canvas is so therapeutic for me.  One early summer evening I was sitting with Tucker in our backyard corral.  I had been worrying a lot (something I do not recommend - EVER - but something I am prone to do).  I noticed that when I was sitting with Tucker, outside, I had no worries, that Tucker had actually relieved me of this obsession that robs me of living my life!  But how could a being so small and so vulnerable really do this?   By painting Tucker in a large format, I manifested the reality of this (for me).

Another reason I need to paint animals is because I do not feel emotionally equipped to actually live with them.  I have been known to lose nightly sleep over trying to patrol the safety of a  robin's nest in my backyard.

When these personalities I feel so attached to are able to come to life on the canvas, I feel like they are closer to me and can become constant companions in a different form.  When they are purchased by others and leave my studio, I thank them, again, for being a companion to me and for continuing this companionship with the people who have chosen to "adopt" them.

I believe that animals are here to teach us and that we are here to learn from them.  I mentioned this quote in my earlier blog post, but I just have to mention this again because it sums up what I believe so beautifully: the Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as "younger brothers of creation".  We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn - we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance.  Their wisdom is apparent in the way they live.  They teach us by example.

The book, Animal Speak by Ted Andrews is also a book I reference regularly.

sketchbook page

Q: What is the message or feeling you would like someone to take away after spending time with your art?

A: I think an excerpt from my artist statement answers this question best:

I hope my work reminds the viewer that, although every individual is more than likely part of a group, they are also, most importantly, a unique individual.  Perhaps these groups of animals we sometimes overlook because of how often we see them, can be seen differently.  Perhaps instead of noticing herds, flocks or colonies, we will start to notice individual beings who each make up an important part of community.

photos by
From top left and clockwise: me with our rabbit, Tucker, Lend Me Your Ear, 
24x18 (detail), acrylic on canvas, Curly, 48X36, acrylic on canvas, SOLD, 
me with the cat, Brock and Amos at SoulSpace Sanctuary

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This is Amos

My first experience with Amos wasn't that long ago. March 8th to be exact.

During my first visit to SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary, Tally (pictured below, on the left) took on the role as tour guide, bringing me around to meet the vast array of personalities all living, loving, playing, snoozing, buried under hay, eating hay, creating mischief, etc.  It was Amos who I met last and THIS was how Amos chose to introduce himself to me.  He slowly walked forward and placed his forehead against mine.  

photo credit: Gina Easley Photography

So how not to feel attached to such a compassionate being?  And, as a painter, how could I not try to bring him to life on a canvas?  Well, this started and went uninterrupted on April 5, throughout the night (a process I never experience anymore).  It was as if the experience I had with Amos kept building and I just couldn't seem to reign it in.  And so it went.

One of the enjoyable challenges for me as a painter is having the honor of attempting to bring a particular being to life.  This is where I find so much joy in the process (and frustration too).  I work in constant dialogue with the canvas, literally talking out loud to my subject as I paint.

It is pretty common for people to have an experience with an animal they are typically unfamiliar with and exclaim, "They are so much like a dog!".  This makes sense to me.  These are the best words we can find for our experience.  Because of our relationships with dogs as companions and family members, we learn how personable they are, how loyal and dedicated, how in tune they are to the climate that surrounds them.  I think people are generally surprised to find out, most animals have these characteristics!

On my second visit to SoulSpace this April, the personalities more comfortable with being in the spotlight (Francis, the peacock, Tally, the goat and London, the pot belly pig) were strutting their stuff.  There was even a bit of riff raff competing for attention.  I watched Amos.  He was close but stood on the sideline, observing as if to make sure all was well but also, not wanting to be in the center of all the drama.  Ha!  This is SO me!  But instead of being able to accept the drama from afar like Amos so easily did, I would have had the impulse to flee. Amos has such a sense of loving acceptance about him.  His presence is so calming and reassuring for me.

When my friend, Gina, was giving the necessary attention required to Francis, Tally and London, I was able to spend time with Amos towards the back of the field.  It turns out, Amos had a bit to show me, too.

So here is Amos, now, in my studio, and here is the beginning of another Amos.

48x24 (detail), acrylic on canvas
you've got a friend in me, 20x16, acrylic on canvas

" the Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as 'the younger brothers of creation'.  We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn - we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance.  Their wisdom is apparent in the way they live.  They teach us by example."
- an excerpt from the book, Braiding Sweetgrass written by Robin Wall Kimmerer

If you are local, SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary has events for you!  
SoulSpace hosts volunteer days and tours start up on Saturday afternoons in May!  
Visit their facebook page to keep up to date on up and coming events.
Find a way to foster your own connection.

To view an album of other SoulSpace residents, visit THIS LINK.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January 2018 creative commitment

Jan 4: recipe
I needed another creative jump start this month and a creative commitment is usually a good place for me to start.  I referenced Anika Starmer's Let's Make Patterns prompts for January.  Although I am not using the prompts to create patterns (which, I highly recommend you check out!), I am loving using the prompts for daily sketchbook entries.

Jan 7: plant lady

Jan 13: makeup

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Misfit's Manifesto

Excerpts from this book:

Misfits transform fear and anger and grief into expression rather than destruction - we give something of value to the rest of culture rather than succumbing to our own misery, particularly when those around us recognize our value.

To forge hope, we had to invent it at ground zero.

...if I could just truly and finally figure one of these origin scenes out, I'd know something about life and how to live it.

In place of hope, underneath my terror, which I had my entire childhood, was something else.  That something else was the ability to endure, to stay quiet like a still animal, close to the ground, and perhaps something even more important, the art of waiting for the right moment to act. I was, without knowing it, building a form agency. may be more accurate to call us ghost people who are a little haunted and always in danger of being dragged depression, or fear, or failure, or our unusual relationship to reality.

I believe in art the way other people believe in God.

I found my story inside books and movies and paintings and music.

I'm not the story you made of me.

In the plot of the hero's journey, there seems to be a kind of magical forward momentum implied.  If misfits could just push through the stages in order! Whereas in the misfit's myth, the stages are all mixed up, on top of each other, with false doors and creepy basements...

Monday, December 11, 2017

two new longhorns

clear eyes, full heart, 30x40, acrylic on canvas
This past September, we traveled to Wisconsin and took note of how close our travel plans bumped up against Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the home of Georgia O'Keeffe's childhood home.  Stumbling across these longhorns early on a sunny September morning turned out to be the influence for these two, most recent paintings.  Clear Eyes, Full Heart is on exhibit at Norseman Distillery in NE Minneapolis through the new year.  Both original paintings are for sale at $1950 each.  For inquires or to purchase visit

sun prairie, wisconsin

I can see your halo, 36x36, acrylic on canvas

As of 2018, you can find Clear Eyes, Full Heart
traveling with me until she finds someone who cannot live without her
Travels will be posted on instagram at @createveryday or  @karimaxwell_fineart

I Can See Your Halo is available at The Grand Hand

619 Grand Ave
St. Paul, MN

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

the story of us

September 10, 2017

There is usually a story behind every painting, isn't there?  If there isn't one I can articulate (yet), this probably means the story (that already existed to create the painting) isn't part of MY consciousness yet.

Well, this gal, here, had a story I was conscious of close to the beginning.

From those of you who follow my work, you probably have realized the titles are (almost) as important to me as the work itself.  The titles usually can be bridged to other, previous experiences that all were necessary to create the painting.

I never have a title and then paint from that mindset.  I tried that once (and only once).  It doesn't work that way for me.  If the title comes to me while I am creating the piece, it seems to come "out of the blue" (and from those of you who know me, know I don't consider this coincidence).

This is when I know to really pay attention.

Well, when I was about at this stage with this gal, I heard, "Free your mind, the rest will follow." And there was no rebuttal to be had.  As a side note: I do try to argue with what I hear sometimes.  Oh, and by the way, that never works either.

November 12, 2016

Now I don't have a playlist with this song by En Vogue from their album, Funky Divas (released in 1992) and I never had the CD.  But you can bet your bottom dollar I added it to one of my playlists (titled "empower me", by the way) as soon as I heard these words.  I really had no recollection what this song was about.  But, after listening, I heard, "...strong black brothers", "Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me".

Hmmmmm....good to listen to those messages that seem to come "out of the blue".

So here this gal is, reminding me to free my mind.  Because, I believe it's an inside job first (get my drift)?

Free Your Mind, 24x18, acrylic on canvas, 995.

As a post script, I think the dates are extremely significant.  Free Your Mind was in the beginning stages on November 12, 2016 and was finished on January 9, 2017.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Dear Ijeawele, or, A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions

written by Chimamauda Ngozi Adichi

I read this book during one sitting (about 45 minutes).  Do not let the simplistic text and small size fool you.  This book is beautiful and can be used as a reference for life.  Brilliant.  Recommended reading for ANYONE (regardless if you are raising a girl, a boy or raising yourself to become more aware).  The excerpts below are all the author's words, notes I took while reading this book:

I matter equally.  Full stop.

Be a full person.

...what matters is what you want for yourself, and not what others want you to want.

Give yourself room to fail.

...when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something.

...question the idea of marriage as a prize.

"Gender-neutral" is silly.

Do not measure her on a scale of what a girl should be.  Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.

"Allow" is a troubling word.  Allow is about power.

We have been so conditioned to think of power as male.

If she were not to go to school, and merely just read books, she would arguably become more knowledgeable than a conventionally educated child.

...what you say to your child matters.

I do not believe that marriage is something we should teach growing girls to aspire to.

Her job is to be her full self.

Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like and dislike.

Give (her) a sense of identity.

Don't think that raising a feminist means forcing her to reject femininity.

I cannot overstate the power of alternatives.

Social norms are created by human beings and there is no social norm that cannot be changed.

It's not enough to say you want to raise a daughter who can tell you anything; You have to give her the language to talk to you.

To make sure she doesn't inherit shame from you, you have to free yourself of your own inherited shame.

The shame we attach to female sexuality is about control.

Every conversation about virginity becomes a conversation about shame.

In a healthy relationship, it is the role of whoever can provide to provide.

Make difference ordinary.  Make difference normal.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Octopus (behind the Walker in the Wurtle, upper garden) and The Spinner (near Parade Park), Alexander Calder
In true playful form, Alexander (also known as Sandy) was first known for creating a miniature circus out of found materials and wire.  He traveled with his circus from city to city with five suitcases holding these tiny, movable sculptures.

Bog Walker, Aaron Spangler (behind the Walker)
Spangler represents the state of Minnesota here!  This artist lives and works in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

Model for Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking, Kinji Akagawa
Akagawa is a Japanese born artist who is known for creating sculptures with practical function.  He went to several art schools in the US, attending MCAD and the University of Minnesota in the 60s.

Five Plates, 2 Poles, Richard Serra
Serra's father was a pipe fitter in a shipyard in Northern California where this artist became fascinated with sheet metal and steel. 

Double Curve, Ellsworth Kelly
Kelly not only created sculptures of large scale but also delicately lined plant drawings and bold, single color geometric and organic shape paintings.  We just viewed his Green Curve With Radius of 20' at Mia last week.

Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth, Dan Graham
Even though Graham is an American artist (from New Jersey), Minneapolis is fortunate to have one of his five sculpture commissions in the US.  Graham is also an artist of many mediums.

Empire, Eva Rothschild
This playful looking structure in black, red and green is meant to represent the canopy of trees in Central Park (even though this artist is from London).

Back of SnowmanGary Hume.  
Hume is known for interpreting everyday subjects with high gloss industrial paints.  This particular sculpture is one of many snowman in this artist's series.

Shoda Shima Stone Study, Isamu Noguchi
Noguchi was a Japanese American artist.  Noguchi is well known as a sculptor in addition to his collaborative role with Herman Miller and Charles Eames regarding furniture design. View the children with this piece in the video slideshow.

LOVE, Robert Indiana
Although known as a pop artist, Indiana really did believe in spreading more love.  He did so with several paintings and sculptures in this series.  With his interest in design, the "o" is tilted to the right so that the negative space lines up with the angle in the "v".  Before there were artistic postage stamps, Indiana's painted LOVE was the first to be used on a stamp.  The MOMA used a similar piece in this series for their Christmas card in 1967.

Hahn/Cock, Katharine Fritsch
Fritsch is a German artist with Hahn being the German word for rooster.  This sculpture is the second edition to the one in London.

For Whom..., Kris Martin
When creating his sculptures, this artist likes to consider time and history.  Martin is also known for leaving something significant out of each piece, to lend to the imagination.  

Woodrow, Deborah Butterfield
Butterfield travels between two residences in Montana and Hawaii, known for creating horses out of found objects, primarily wood and sheet metal.  Some remember a class we had last spring on this artist.

Theaster Gates
Gates, residing in Chicago, is also well known for his community service, bringing artistic opportunities to underprivileged communities.

Sky Pesher, James Turrell
Strategically placed away from all the hustle and bustle of the busy sculpture garden is this, partially underground, cubic structure by James Turrell.  This piece is one of many of Turrell's skylight series.  When sitting inside, we watched the sky change, viewed the shape the sunshine cast on the wall,  chanted ahhhh-ohhhhh-ummm, and had a spontaneous ukulele concert.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

new body of work

arrow, 12x12, watercolor+ink on 140# paper

My life is a series of "one step at a time".  SERIOUSLY.  I can plan a direction and sometimes this manifests, but it's the letting go that opens the door to happy surprises along the way.

The piece above was inspired by Eugene Herrigel's book, Zen and the Art of Archery and the quote, "What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will.  You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen."  A good reminder to myself on any given day.

I was resenting putting the time in, painting in my studio.  I know, who am I to complain about having time to go into my studio?  But sometimes the muse is just not there and most of the time, I still need to show up (in case you haven't noticed my motto). I was wishing for some inspiration I had a few years ago along the lines of my exploratory work titled Life Lessons.  

Being reminded of the writer's discipline of one thousand words a day (when reading Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life), thinking about Agnes Martin (we will be studying her work during the first week of art camp at the Create Everyday Classroom) and needing to participate in a meditation of my own, in my studio, a new body of work is born.

This kind of work I do never gets that much attention.  I've been creating different bodies of work "on the side" similar to this for over ten years.  Without this work, I believe my primary work would suffer.

Because, you know, the "side work" is the work.

tent, 12x12, watercolor+graphite on 140# paper

medicine wheel, 12x12, watercolor+ink on 140# paper

what we think is finite, 10x8, watercolor+graphite on paper

"The power of imagination makes us infinite." - John Muir

pyramid, 11x8.5, watercolor+graphite on 140# paper

These pieces (and more in this series) are for sale.  Please contact me here for purchase information.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bernadette travels

It started before but this was part of the beginning.  It really started on a dirt road in Colorado where Peter and I were driving.  There was this giant, beautiful cow, all on her own, no fence between us.  I asked Peter to pull over and I stopped to get out and greet her.  I never knew her real name but it didn't take me long to name her.  Before we arrived at our campsite, I had.  The name Bernadette seemed like the perfect fit.  I immediately sat down to sketch.  Another dear client who has an original cow painting of mine (titled Tender One) purchased one of these sketches.  It's even heart warming to know where this sketch is.

Bernadette was completed in April of 2015.  She initially traveled to Cello Gallery (in Bozeman, Montana) where she was exhibited and photographed.  She traveled back to me in March of this year.  I was tickled to be reunited.  I wanted to spend as much time with Bernadette before she found her new home (see hashtag Bernadettetravels on instragram).

As of this past Thursday, Bernadette has earned the companionship of someone else.  Another perfect match (in my humble opinion).

So long, dear Bernadette.  Thank you.  I feel so grateful I can say that I am passing you along to someone who appreciates and loves you just as much as I do.  You are in great hands.  Here's to the love your spread and all your future travels.  Bernadette love forever...

Where to find your cow:
Cello Gallery I am surprised no one has chosen Freckles yet!
The Grand Hand You can see the first cow of 2017 here!