Before I walked the Camino and discovered the joy of being a journal artist, I constantly felt stymied by the challenge of coming up with subject matter for my watercolor paintings. I felt like I had to paint something meaningful.
So vague, that word…’meaningful.’ What is important to one person can mean nothing to another. I can paint something meaningful to me and the result could mean absolutely nothing to you. And vice-versa. So why spend the energy trying to figure out what you can never really pin down? Art is terribly and wonderfully subjective, and over these past few years I have decided to paint what sparks my heart and my eye and my paintbrush. I try not to worry about the rest. It’s been a somewhat arduous journey to get to this point however…
When I first started painting on my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, it was a revelation to paint just what what was front of me. I had never done that kind of art before. I painted the path. I painted my coffee cup. I painted the view from my bunk bed at night. I painted the simple and ordinary and I painted the complex and extraordinary. I slowed down and began to see the detail and the texture and the beauty I had missed before and it became the most meaningful process I had ever embarked upon. Over time, this experience and the resulting choices I made changed what I choose to do with my time, how I choose to spend my money and ultimately how I choose to live my life. I think I can safely say that this is MEANINGFUL, regardless of your world-view or perspective.
When I had my exhibitions in Santiago displaying my journal work, I was taken aback by the response from the other pilgrims. The thing that surprised me the most is that people clearly connected with my art even though I had painted it for just myself. They seemed to respond more to this very personal work than they ever did to the pieces that I had agonized over. Of course, the common tie was that they, too, held memories based on the images I had captured. My art was transporting them back to their own personal journey and allowing them to be present in that space and time; reliving that moment. I felt honored to have some type of skill that could do that. It felt a bit like magic.
During my time in Oxford (Headington Quarry to be exact) touring the the home of C.S.Lewis (the Kilns), I met a large group of Americans from North Carolina. They were very intrigued by my travels and my art and asked that I share my drawings from the tour. I gave a few women my card and told them I would probably post them online when I returned home. Many months later, after I had returned to the US, I received an email from one of these women named Sarah asking if I had the sketch of Trinity Church (C.S. Lewis’ neighborhood church and location of his grave) available for sale. I was in the midst of house construction and leaving for my travels to Peru and I responded that I would try to post it soon. I promptly forgot about it until a few months ago when she patiently emailed me again. I had only painted the door of the church in my journal so I spontaneously asked Sarah if she would be interested in a commissioned piece of the whole building. She responded immediately in the affirmative. The piece above is the result.
I’ll be honest. I was a bit reticent about doing commission pieces for others. It feels like a departure from the very idea I expressed above; creating art with the goal of documenting my personal journey. After a period of time, however, my perspective has shifted. I like the idea of creating a piece that transports someone to a time and place they want to hold close. I am blessed with the gift to capture these moments for myself and it is equally a gift to share this with others. I think I now feel confident enough in my skills to offer this to others and remain true to my artistic style.
So, if you have a travel photo of a landscape from an amazing adventure that you would like to have rendered as a one-of-a kind painting, please check out the new offerings on my website here. I’d love to transport you to that moment in time that you hold close. I’d love to use my bit of magic to create something meaningful for you.
Update: Sarah, who commissioned the painting above, commented on this post this morning and I thought that it should be part of the main text. I’m so humbled to be a small part of honoring the memory of her dear friend Carol.
This is Sarah – Let me add another layer to Kari’s story…
I was in England in October 2016 with a dear friend who invited me to travel with her Methodist church group to trace the lives of the Wesleys and to visit Oxford. Carol and I are voracious readers and we both loved C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, etc., so our day trip to the Kilns and the churchyard where C.S. Lewis is buried was one of the highlights of the trip. As Kari said, she ran across our group at the Kilns and she and I struck up a conversation. I’m also a watercolor painter, so I was especially interested in how she managed to backpack and carry her art supplies.
Fast forward to 2018 and my request for a painting of the church and graveyard. Carol was diagnosed with leukemia in the early spring and I helped get her to chemo and all the other things you do to care for a close friend. I told Carol I had commissioned a painting from Kari and she was excited to see it.
Sadly, Carol lost the fight much sooner than anyone expected, but the day of her funeral, Kari’s painting arrived. I like to think Carol was remembering our trip and I think of her every time I look at the painting. It’s more meaningful and precious to me than I ever expected. Thanks to Kari for your wonderful talent!