Color: Red/Purple by Karen Matheis

 A trim of a 1950's house of a friend has led to an investigation and research of (probably lead based) deep red/purple paint hues of this era. Color coordinating windows with the yellow bricks of the exterior led us to finding the original color of the trim under some peeling paint.  

Although red/purple may seem like an unusual color for a trim, my research into this color revealed that this hue was a common color used in 1950's houses, including Frank Lloyd Wright houses.  In one of his 1950's houses where he designed fixtures and chose colors for floors and fabric of upholstery,  Wright included his signature "Cherokee red" as a color for his floors.  

For my friend's trim, the undercoat is a deep red/purple with earth tones. I've been visiting with employees of area paint stores who have explained the chemical make-up of the older style paints.  

Titles of Kansas Landscapes by Karen Matheis

Giving titles to my present landscapes has been a challenge because they represent a fleeting moment of traveling through Kansas fields while moving in a car. The paintings are a result of memory and experience and not of words.   I have chosen to give each series of paintings a title.  

My newest landscapes are titled the "Kansas Series."  The titles include a play of words for 'color field" ( fields with color or color field painting).  Color field painting is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane.  My paintings use squares of flat color that are intertwined in the painting. Each painting is named for particular colors of square


Color: Grays by Karen Matheis

It is incredible how many different kinds of grays can be created.  There are several ways to mix a gray including adding a color complement or adding gray from a tube.  Surprisingly, there are many types of colors of grays, including warm grays and cool grays, and I am always discovering new variations.

One of my favorite grays is Gamblin's Torrit Gray. Torrit Gray is ugly by itself, but  great for mixing.  Torrit Grey is Gamblin’s solution for leftover pigments floating in the air of their factories.

Every spring, Gamblin cleans out its air filtration system called the Torit Air Filtration. The air is filtered around the areas where dry pigments are handled. Rather than sending any of our high quality, expensive pigments into the landfill, Gamblin paint makers recycles them and creates a color.  Because of the unusual way it is created, there is a different Torrit Gray every year and it is a mystery to consumers until the tube arrives.  Some years the Torrit has a more green tint, and other years it has a more blue tint.

One can not purchase Gamblin's Torrit.  It is a free give away and promotion by Gamblin. The new tube is now out, and I am excited to see this year's Torrit Gray. 

Studio Practice: Playing With The Surface by Karen Matheis

Studying printmaking with a master printmaker taught me to experiment with media. Much like a scientist investigates, we searched for ways of creating texture and mark making for our prints.  For woodcuts, we used various types of cutting tools to apply indentations and media to create thick brushstrokes onto foam core that would reveal texture when we printed.  Our intaglio plates involved melting materials and covering the surface of our plate. We observed how the plates would react to different chemicals and altered times in the acid to produce different types of etched lines, patterns, and value.

I have applied my lessons in experimentation in printmaking to oil painting as I play with the surface of my canvas. I like to scratch the surface with my palette knife. I  draw into the paint using a pencil.  I use sandpaper when the paint layers get too thick or when the paint is wet.  I look for different ways to change the fluidity of the paint. I work with the paint when unplanned things happen, which keeps the painting open and impromptu. 

Much like printmaking, I am always discovering new things about paint and surface as I paint. I work with these discoveries to keep moving forward with my paintings. 

Studio Practice: Searching for Types of Fluididity by Karen Matheis

I am currently working in the large format that I have in my current commission.  The large format is really fun, as I can stretch ideas bigger. 

 I am developing the underpainting for nine large canvasses. Although this underpainting or sketch will be a guide, the painting will develop in a natural way, and will deviate as I work.

As I progress, I am searching for different levels of fluidity in the  paint.  I work with a glossy surfaces as the painting develops, using Dammar varnish and turpentine to give a juicy consistency.  The fluid nature will also allow for the gestural parts of the painting to glide on the canvas and over the flat underpainting. Because the paint is fluid, it will also provide some spontaneous outcomes such as drips. 

Although the painting will have gestural lines as a component, the gestures will be tight.  A mathematical grid will bind the overall layout of the painting.

Living in Kansas by Karen Matheis

Living in the small town of Lawrence, Kansas gives opportunity for introspection because the pace is slow and quiet.  I am able to explore painting in my own way as I retreat into my farmhouse studio. 

My environmental aesthetic has developed by talking to the people who live in my town, Vivid narration of what it is like to be in Kansas is provided by people who grew up on small farms.  I hear descriptions of the hard work it takes to run a family farm.  Farmers are constantly thinking about and observing the soil and weather. 

The flat nature of the land allows the viewer to see far in the distance. The people around me have shown me the importance and beauty in the constantly changing colors of the terrain and of the sky of Kansas. 

Contemporary View of Landscape by Karen Matheis

The vast and empty landscape near my home in Lawrence, Kansas, allows for abstraction and gives the opportunity to work out problem solving.  

My current paintings draw from the tradition of landscape, but also encompass contemporary views of painting. Inclusion of tradition is following a horizon line and vanishing point.  Trees and other parts of nature are recognizable.  Contemporary aspects intellectualize the space and change it into a fluid area that is seen as one drives through on a highway.  Solid shapes appear from the perspective. Lines are placed on a grid to indicate the human element of a landscape where a division between two counties are applied. Or, they could be telephone wires.  Or they could be simple mark making. 

Putting another layer to the way master painters approached landscape is in keeping with the modern way we take in our environment.  We are no longer static, but are most likely moving as we absorb what we see.

Studio Practice: Working with Opposites by Karen Matheis

When I go into the studio, it is my playtime.  Painting for me is a series of mini puzzles.  The nature of the flat landscape of Kansas gives me the perfect opportunity to work out problem solving and to experiment. 

One of my favorite games to play is "working out opposites".  Some opposites include:  thick versus thin lines, controlled versus energetic, planned versus spontaneous, light versus dark, real versus abstraction, static versus fluid, heavy versus light, drawing versus painting, open versus tight spaces, landscape versus urban.  I observe how complement colors layer, and develop a wide horizontal format versus a tall vertical format.  

My studio practice is one of exploration, moving forward while still considering the traditions of drawing and oil painting.