Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Guest Artist...Karen Hargett

I first spoke with Karen a few years ago when I was setting up my portfolio on Starving Artists. Starving Artists is hosted in the UK...I had run into some difficulty and needed to ask questions of a “real person” and it was a little expensive to call overseas!

Karen was listed as a gold member and from the perfect contact. We soon discovered that we had much in common and have kept in touch ever since. Karen was working mainly in graphite at the time, beautifully done I might add. She has since become quite proficient as a pastel artist. I’ve watched her grow in this new medium and been amazed with her progress as I’ve waited for each new painting.

I’m going to quit my ramblings and let Karen tell you a little about herself.

Marsha thanks for featuring me as your guest artist and for making that call to me a couple of years ago – you are a source of inspiration for me whether you realize it or not.

OK – a little about myself. I was born in San Antonio in 1950, one of four children – the oldest daughter. My dad was in the Air Force and although we didn’t travel and move around a whole lot we did live in Scotland, the Philippines and Hawaii. We always returned to San Antonio though where our family was.

I married shortly after graduating from John Marshall High School and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. About four years later my daughter was born. We lived in New Mexico, then back to San Antonio briefly before eventually moving to North Texas where we spent the next twenty some odd years.

At some point in our lives, some of us have “new beginnings” – I began mine (again) in 2004 and moved to the Buda area in South, Central Texas. My parents, sister and brother and their families live in the area too. I’m still trying to talk my daughter and her family to move down here so we can all be together. Anyway - I bought a small house on a couple of acres and me and my Appaloosa horse Billy Bob; Sassy, my Cairn terrier; and Samantha my cat settled in.

I work full time at a large medical association in Austin and work on my art in the evenings and on weekends. At 40 I took a couple of beginning college courses but that wasn’t where I wanted to be and I didn’t take it any further.

I’m a self-taught artist. All my life I loved drawing and painting. I have always enjoyed doing some sort of arts and crafts or home improvement – just being creative in some fashion or another for as long as I can remember. I watched art programs on TV and read books trying to learn what I could. Still do.

There is quite a story about the drawing that started your career, I wonder if you would mind relating how one drawing changed the direction of your life and how it makes you feel as you look back on that time.

Oh that was a wonderful time of my life – although it was during a very stressful time in my life – but isn’t’ that when we learn the most? I was no exception, I learned so much about myself as a person and an artist and fell in love with horses up close.

At 40 I took my first horseback riding lesson. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with reining after attending the Reining Horse Futurity in Oklahoma. I eventually ended up finding a reining horse trainer by the name of Gaetan Guthier. He was amazing. He was born in Quebec and spoke very broken English but amazingly enough he was able to communicate very well with humans and horses alike.

He found a horse for me, a four year old Appaloosa by the name of Billy Bob – yep Billy Bob is still with me today and just turned 20 in April.

Now at the time, I didn’t think Billy Bob was the horse of my dreams. I didn’t really want an Appaloosa as they had “bad” reputations and to top it off he was the wrong color – I wanted a buckskin! Gaetan in his wisdom said “he is the horse for you – you two are a match.” I took him at his word and bought him and began my training. You see Billy Bob was broke to ride but didn’t have a lot of training on him. Gaetan said we would learn together and he would “be mine.” He was right!

We began training and it was hard. Billy Bob (seen left) was tough and I had a lot to learn but with the help of Gaetan I learned how to train my horse and how to do reining. Reining is a very precise riding style – some call it the Western Dressage – the horse must be willing and show no resistance or hesitation to what you ask of it. The reining patterns include large fast circles done at a fast gallop and small slow circles done at a slow lope – the transition between the two is beautiful. Then there are the spins and sliding stops that will take your breath away. So as you can imagine training can get very intense for all involved.

One particular training session was one of those rather intense times but with Gaetan’s hard work both Billy Bob and I broke through a barrier and it was exhilarating. I was exhausted as I drove the 1 ½ hour trip home but kept replaying the success I had experienced in my head. I decided right then and there I had to do something special for Gaetan to thank him. His birthday was coming up and I decided to draw him a picture of a horse – one that had a reining horse and rider in the pupil.

I began drawing that very day and it was an amazing experience. It was as if the drawing bubbled up from deep inside of me – as corny as that sounds. I couldn’t draw fast enough. I had made a break through. Just like my lesson with Gaetan earlier. After several hours I was finished and was amazed at what I saw. I was afraid it was a fluke and drew another one. It came out just as well.

At Gaetan’s birthday celebration, I gave him the drawing that I matted and framed. When he opened the present he just looked at it. He didn’t say anything for several minutes. I was scared to death he didn’t like it. Then he looked at me and quietly said – “This is me isn’t it? This is me – I am the horse.” That was very emotional for me in so many ways and on so many levels – that was what I wanted to convey to him since I viewed him as a horse whisperer.

Today when I look at the drawing with a critical eye, I can see a lot of mistakes and things that could have been done better – but with all that it represents to me it really is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I learned some valuable lessons from that time in my life both from my lessons with Gaetan and that drawing I did. Life isn’t perfect. Life can be a challenge. It doesn’t matter how old we are we can learn something new. Look. Listen. Trust. Don’t let the fear of failure rule your life. Gaetan always said when training your horse “stop at a good place.” So whether you’re riding a horse, or working on a drawing, when you’re ready to put it away for the night it makes sense to stop at a good place even if you haven’t finished everything you set out to accomplish – it just makes it easier to pick it up the next time.

Since then, I haven’t stopped drawing.

When we first spoke, you were a graphite artist just starting to experiment with pastels. Your pastel paintings seem to have come so naturally...did you study with another artist or was this a hidden ability? And will we be honored with more graphite drawings in the future?

No, unfortunately I haven’t studied with any pastel artists – one of these days I’ll take a lesson. I have and still do, study the works of artists on There are some very talented artists there in all mediums. Also, I have Lesley Harrison’s book on pastels – it was a great help.

Yes, there is always graphite in the future – can’t and don’t want to give that up. I seem to be obsessed with color right now though so I’m looking, listening and trusting those feelings deep inside me so that I can find my way to where I am supposed to be with my art. Ha – it can be a challenge and I always enjoy learning something new! No I didn’t plan on saying that but. . .

You offer both Limited and Open Edition prints. Myself, I’ve sometimes found it difficult deciding whether to offer a particular piece as Limited or Open Edition. Can you tell us the parameters you use as you make this decision?

That is a difficult question. I hate to say it but I go by instinct. Sometimes I take in to consideration the length of time it took to draw or the complexity of the drawing but that isn’t always the case. It’s just instinct. Some speak to me or they are “more” than my average drawing in one way or another. I don’t set out to draw a Limited Edition, but at some point I know during the drawing process that is what it is going to be.

I know you still work a full time job, how do you handle the challenge of carving out time for your art from a busy day?

It’s hard balancing a full time job, keeping up with the animals at home, the work around my place, and drawing and getting to the occasional art show. Drawing is a luxury, a passion – something I must do. The dishes can wait. No, really – I draw in the evenings when I’ve got other things squared away. It’s a relaxing time for me and something I look forward to every day.

Do you ever produce a painting or drawing that you don’t like...or go through a slump where it seems like nothing is working? If so, how do you get yourself back on track?

Oh yes – I do have a few of “those” drawings (both pastels & graphite) that have made it to the trash can! Graphite I tend to know pretty quick if I’ve goofed. Unlike graphite though, pastels have the nasty habit of looking really ugly before they begin to look good. If I hadn’t kept at it, I would have thrown out some really good pieces.

Even with the ones that I’ve thrown out they aren’t “failures” – I always learn something – hopefully I won’t repeat the mistakes but I do learn something.

Right now I’ve been in a slump of sorts, but I believe it’s that obsession with color that is brewing something. What does that mean? I’m not sure but I will let you know when something new comes of it ;-)

What has been the biggest artistic risk you’ve ever taken...and what accomplishment are you most proud of?

Gee – the biggest artistic risk? That is ongoing – just putting my work out there for people to see, critique, to buy or not.

The accomplishment that I’m most proud of? Well that first year that I had decided to do this for money, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish during that year – having a website, getting set up to exhibit and actually exhibiting at several art shows, buying my Epson printer. I checked them all off my list before the year was done! That was very satisfying.

I know you show your work at art fairs. What advise do you have for others thinking about trying this venue? And, I have to did you get those display walls into your trunk!?

The best advice I could give to someone is to have someone you can truly rely on to help you with the art fairs. As you know, they are hard work. Setting up and taking down everything is a job in itself. Also, make a good check list and most of all - have fun!

Ha – when I only had 5 screens I could get them into my trunk – they come apart in the center and stack nicely. My brother made them especially to fit in the trunk of my Volvo. However, I have 10 screens now and even though they come apart my trunk just isn’t large enough to hold them all – darn!

Lastly Karen, a question I always enjoy asking...What do you know now that you wish someone had told you before starting this career?

That’s easy – don’t wait until you are in your 50s! But if you do – go for it!


Just a few things Karen didn't tell you:
In 2006...Karen was honored by being juried into the Creative Art Society exhibit at the Texas State Capitol Rotunda and the Creative Art Society exhibit at theCorridor of Art.

In 2007...her pastel painting, "Breaking Point", was awarded "Editors Choice" by Mike Sibley of Starving Artists.

2007-2008...Karen successfully juried for The Texas Arts & Craft Fair and presently serves as a juror for new artists at this exhibition.

The Texas Arts and Craft Fair is Karen's biggest show of the season, with more than 200 artists participating. The fair grounds are set in the beautiful hill country of Kerrville, Texas...May 23-26. If you're in the area stop in and view Karen's work in person. Her booth number is (T5-13)

Thank you Karen for letting us get to know you better...if you're not from Texas and can't get there this weekend you can see more of Karen's beautiful art work at the links below.

Karen Hargett Fine Art
Karen Hargett Fine Art
Karen's Starving Artists Page

PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment


PamYla said...

Thanks Karen for this great interview! I love Billy Bob also now lol..I love your work!

Karen Hargett said...

Thanks Pamyla - I'm glad I didn't bore you ;-) Thanks again Marsha!

Terry Rafferty said...

Great interview, its always fun to meet new artists. Love the marbles painting!

Karen Hargett said...

Terry thanks so much! I checked out your website a bit this morning - great work! I saw that blue marble of yours - love it.

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