Thursday, November 12, 2020

Simplicity- a great design principle

"Just out of Reach"  Acrylic
Image:  18" x 13 

This painting was finished the first time, (haha) about 2 months ago.  I thought I liked it, but upon judging it more, I realized that it was far too busy, so I simplified it.  The design in this piece was established by drawing a wire drawing in an abstract manner.  
I love to use Iphone apps to check up on my design.  One of them that I love is called PencilSketch and another one that I like is called Notanizer.   The one on the left is from PencilSketch and the one on the right is from Notanizer, using 4 levels (white, light, medium and dark values)  I can see if I need to choose a different color or perhaps add a glaze to unify a section, just by looking at these apps, when I think I'm getting to the last steps of the painting.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Plein Air Painting Tips


"Spearfish Creek"   5" x 7" watercolor
Available for $75, matted to 8" x 10".

Lately, I've had many students asking for design help with their paintings.  Especially when I Plein Air paint, the first thing that I do is to find the lights in the scene and then find a way to connect them.  I knew in the above painting that my center of interest was the strong light hitting the lime green tree mass.  I started there with my light pathway.  Then I exaggerated the lights hitting the water, so that those lights would lead up to the trees.  The sky is the other light value. I shortened the background trees so that I could have a light sky showing.   This week, I plan to do many different versions of the below photo and see if I can make the light pathway even more interesting.  I'd love it if you would join me. Just make sure that your lights connect.  Notice the black and white that checks up on my values of my painting.  

Black and white to show my values.                                                       Original photo

Friday, August 7, 2020

Plein Air Painting Tips


"Plein Air in Excelsior"   Watercolor,   11" x 15"   $195

Since the pandemic, I have been embracing Plein Air painting (painting outdoors on location) so that I can meet artist friends at a safe social distance.  Yesterday was a perfect day, and I set up on a corner, ready to tackle perspective!  Here's my tips about Plein Air painting.  Always take a photo from your painting position right away.  That way, if the shadows change, you can refer to it.  Also, when I got home, I printed off the photo, enlarged the house to be the size of my image on the painting, and traced it.  That way, I could "check" on myself to see how well I drew the image.  I actually did pretty good, except the the width of the windows were a little too wide, which doesn't matter in the finished painting.  The angle of the windows was spot on!  Yay! I usually draw the subject with pencil, come back and add my "wire drawing" lines with a permanent marker and then figure out where my light pathway will be.  See below to check out how my lights are connected throughout the painting.  The below image is how far I got on location, and spent about 30 minutes finishing it in my studio.  

(Work in Progress)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Special surprise recipe! Chicken Piccata

During this pandemic, I've been cooking more than ever before, trying new recipes and actually enjoying cooking!  What???  My friends know that I've never been interested in culinary art, but now, I'm searching for things to fill my days, and since my husband and I used to love going out to eat, this is the next best thing till this pandemic is over!   We often cook together too, which I have to admit, I'm hoping Dick will love it so much that he will take over someday. (wink, wink)  I've decided that from time to time, I will be sharing some of my most favorite recipes.  And as a bonus, I am adding one of my latest paintings, just for kicks.  This painting is available for the first person to text me for only $50, half of my usual price!  This chicken dish is a combination of many different recipes that I found online, and I concocted my own version, based on our own tastes.  Hope you enjoy it! 
"Creative Energy"      7" x 11", watercolor and collage

"Chicken Piccata"

6 chicken thighs 

Flour (optional)

1/2 t. Kosher salt

1/2 t. Black pepper

3 T. Butter

1/2 c. Dry white wine

1/4 cup Capers, drained

3 or 4 t. minced or chopped garlic

1/3 t. thyme 

1 T corn starch

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 T. Fresh lemon juice and sliced lemon

3 Chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Optional:  Coat chicken with flour lightly, if preferred.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Using 3 T butter to pan, fry chicken for 5 minutes.  Turn chicken over. Cook 2 - 3 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan and place them in a 9 x 13 pan.  Baste chicken with some of the butter that is still in the skillet.   Add corn starch, wine, capers, garlic, 2 T. lemon juice, and thyme to skillet.  Cook 2 minutes till slightly thicker.   Add sauce to 9 x 13 pan, but try not to pour over the chicken, so that the chicken will remain crispy on top. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes till internal temp of the chicken should register 190- 200 degrees. (I put loose foil on top of the pan for the first 15 minutes, then removed it for the last 15 minutes to allow the chicken to get crispy.  Sprinkle evenly with green onion, garnish with sliced lemons.  Serve over jasmine rice. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Follow your own heart!

"Parley Lake Vineyards".  watercolor
11" x 14" image   $195
I started plein air painting (painting outdoors) 2 years ago, while wintering in Florida.  Last year, when I was painting with friends from Minnesota who were there vacationing, one of them said, "I can't wait to see what you do, Karen, with your abstract mind."  Till then, I had been painting traditional paintings while on location, and it really got me to thinking.  So, instinctively, I slashed a red color across the page, and then had to deal with it.  It gave me permission to be abstract!  From that day on, I've been painting like "myself" while outdoors, allowing myself to paint abstractly, and it opened up a whole new world to me.  This painting was done 2 weeks ago at a really cool vineyard in Excelsior, MN, that has countless possibilities for paintings.  My first obstacle was to try to draw the barn, using my perspective rules.  That was hard for me, but I felt like I did pretty well.  The thing about plein air paintings, is that upon viewing them, years later, you remember the sounds, who you were with, the temperature that day, everything!  You really are "in the moment".  That's one of my favorite things about plein air.  If you haven't tried it, please do consider it!  It truly will make you a better artist, and will get you out in nature too.  A tip from me:  I found out that I had to paint direct painting style.  Wetting the paper first didn't work for me.  Once I started just painting more directly  I liked the results better.  These end up being studies for larger studio paintings.  Below is the beginning stage of my painting.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Keep experimenting!

"Quirky Friends"   Acrylic
Accepted into the San Diego International 2020 Exhibition
This painting started by me doing a blind contour drawing onto tracing paper.  I did each girl separately and then held my finger on the side so that I could maybe position them where I wanted them.  Blind contour means that you do NOT look at your paper, and you don't lift your pencil.  It's a great way to loosen up and get some unusual free paintings.  I had done a really abstract beginning, using acrylic and when I traced my new drawing onto the underpainting,  I loved how the design cut through their faces.  And the outfits just painted themselves, looking like the one on the right had bare shoulder.  This was a total experiment for me, and was so much fun to do.  I definitely plan to do more!  Notice how the light pathway leads the viewer all through the painting.  That's always very important to me.  This painting was accepted into the San Diego International 2020 Exhibition, where there were 874 entries and juror, Michael Reardon, picked 100 paintings to be included in the show.  This is one of the top shows in the USA.  I'm honored to be a part of it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Free preview of my newest acrylic video!

More Exciting news!! Mark your calendar for this Thursday, June 18 , at 3:00 Eastern Time (2:00 Central Time zone) when Streamline Art Videos Facebook page wil be featuring part of my new acrylic video Karen Knutson: Fun with Acrylics!
We'll be broadcasting @ 3pm ET from the Streamline Art Video Facebook
page (
). I will be on hand to answer questions in the chat line. There is a great discount if you order the video on that day!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Exciting news! Artist of the Day on Streamline Productions Facebook!


On this Thursday, May 21st at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time Zone, I am the featured Artist of the Day on Streamline Productions Facebook page.  Be sure to mark your calendar and tune in!  I will be there to answer any of your questions as the video progresses.  This video explains the charcoal pour process and then how to collage and paint a bird in watercolor.  Lots of design tips as well.  Hope you will be enticed to buy the video!
Here's the link to watch it:

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Good Design is the blueprint for success!

Lately, I've had lots of emails and requests from students needing help with good design. They say that they have a good handle on texture and color, but they don't know how to finish their paintings.  I believe that good design has to be established BEFORE starting a painting.  It's like the foundation of a house.  A strong structure to support the house. 

Here's a great Design Exercise that will help you get started:  Using mat corners, crop into a photograph to about 2" x 2", until you like the abstract shapes.  (You can also cut out L shaped papers and use them for the mat corners.). The thing that you look for is high contrast and big simple shapes, in looking for the cropped room photo.  Below is the line drawing I did based on the cropped photo.   I like either the lights or darks to connect.  Turn your sketch all 4 ways to make sure that it is balanced.  Do a value study, using only a mid tone and the white of the paper.  This will force you to simplify the study.  I add the darkest darks within the shaded mid tone later on. 

I like to use a continuous line that is the shapes of the dark shapes in this photo.  Now that you have the line drawing, try coloring in the center section as pictured below on the left.  OR.... you could shade in the corners, leaving a light shape that connects the viewer to all 4 sides. (See on the lower right.)   Notice that this practice gives you limited shapes. I count 6 in all!  You will know that you have a good design if all the corners are different sizes and there is good repetition and variation.  I hope this clears up some of the design questions.  I find it so different that the left and the right ones are from the same drawing shown above.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Deep Thoughts

"Deep Thoughts"        Image:  8" x 10"

This painting is pretty deep.  The figures in the center are my husband and I, holding my broken heart.  The dark figures on the left are my mom and the other residents in the memory care unit where she is residing now, (a 10 hour drive away) with no visitors allowed.  The figure on the right depicts the Corona Virus and how it is stealing our time with our loved ones.  Much love to all of you as we all struggle with this horrible time in our lives.  I'm very thankful to have a patient husband, loving friends and family, and my artwork to help work out my frustrations. Stay safe....

So, below are the steps to this painting, that I used only 3 colors:  New Gamboge, Winsor green (blue shade), and alizarin crimson.  Very unusual colors for me.  I scrubbed out some lights at the end, using masking tape to block it off.  I also cropped so that it would be better design.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Good Days Ahead!

Our Easter Sunday was cold and snowing all day.  We ended up getting about 5 inches of snow.  But today, we woke up to sunny skies, and it honestly was a beautiful scene.  Our lake is the most beautiful shade of Antwerp blue with the sky being cerulean blue, and the shadows on the snow are so striking!   The moral of this story is-  sometimes, we have to have some gloomy days, so we will appreciate the beautiful ones!  It got me to thinking about our present situation and how dismal it seems, but we have to hold onto hope that tomorrow will be a better day!  So, here's hoping you are having a great day, and maybe I can give you some inspiration to keep painting!
Easter weather on the left.    One day later, on the right!

I thought I would take photos as I progressed through an illusionary painting.  Hope it will inspire you to give this process a try.  I only used 3 colors throughout this painting.   I used quinacridone gold (DS),  Red Rose Deep (DaVinci) and Antwerp Blue (WN).  Watch for future workshops if you want more instruction.  This process is called Illusionary Painting and it is pure watercolor.  This image is 7.5" x 7.5".

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Using your Camera as a Tool

Bay Preserve, Osprey, FL      Plein air painting
11" x 15"  Watercolor on paper
This is a painting that I did while in Florida, plein air painting.  That means that I painted it on location.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  I have grown to LOVE plein air painting.  I remember smells, sounds, everything about that day, just by looking at the painting, after much time has passed.  At this time of the Covid 19, I'm especially thankful for those times and look forward to good times ahead when I get to be with my artist friends again.  This painting is not actually done yet.  I need to increase the values  of the mid tones and put the darkest darks where I want the viewer to look.  Do you know how I discovered that?  I use a camera app called PencilSketch, when I am 3/4 finished with my paintings.  Then I turn it to "sketch" to see if I have a connection of my values, and a clear light pathway.  Below is the picture from PencilSketch. I like the grouping of values, but there should be darker darks to really add "Wow" to your painting.  Check out this app.  I LOVE it!

Monday, March 30, 2020

New painting, "Hope"

10" x 10" watercolor   $125
In this time of social distancing, I think we all need hope.  I've really had to dig deep to get myself out of the blues, and I know many of you might be in the same boat.  Thankfully, I'm back to feeling good again, mentally.  If you still are struggling, my advice is to reach out to friends doing FaceTime calls or I discovered a Zoom app that is fantastic for big groups of people.  The other thing that I'm doing is taking one or 2 walks per day, trying to schedule them when the sun is the brightest. Vitamin D is so healthy for us!  But I really believe that the thing that made the difference for me, was exercising to a Facebook site, Planet Fitness, with the trainer, Erica.  I can't keep up with her at this time, but I'm hopeful that each time, I will get better and stronger.  It's free, and has a connection with TV show, The Biggest Loser.  Who knows?  Maybe I will lose a few pounds too, but the main reason I'm committing to this is that it helps my mental health.
Now, let's talk about my painting.  This is a watercolor color study , using only 3 colors: WN raw umber, Hobein Pyrole Orange, and WN Antwerp.   The process is shown if you look back at my blog on Sept. 1, 2018.  Or you can type in "color studies" in the search box at the top of my blog and that will bring you to all posts that involve color studies.  Adding words makes it really difficult and I fly by the seat of my pants for that.  Have a great week everyone, and be safe; stay home!

Friday, March 27, 2020

There IS HOPE!

Little Landscapes (5 minute paintings)

I promised myself that during this “Social Distancing”, that I would get my blog going again, maybe offering inspiration to those of you out there that might need a little art hug!  The truth is that I, myself have been going through a deep depression.  Not just from this, but because of so many things leading up to this. I had 3 flights back and forth our rental house in Florida, to Spearfish, SD to help my parents move into 2 different care centers.  And then on Feb. 24th, with my sister and I holding his hand by his bedside, Dad passed on to heaven.  He was such a kind, gentle soul, and I miss him so much.  My mom had been moved into a Memory Care Unit a few days before that.  We also lost Dick’s uncle and went to his funeral in early March.  It’s especially hard right now, because the nursing home, where my mom resides now, is under quarantine. I really would love to hug her lots right now.  So…. You can see it’s been a LOT to handle.  We left Florida and drove home to Minneapolis in only 2 days, driving 14 hours each day.  We arrived home on March 18th.  We actually had rented a home in Florida till mid April, but decided we’d rather be home in MN, if they didn’t allow travel. 
In this present Corona Virus time, I did all the normal things that others were doing.  Trying to stay busy, but I really couldn’t bring myself out of the blues until yesterday.  I went for walks once or twice each day and made myself paint, but only could do little 5” x 7” paintings.  So, I only lasted about 30 minutes each day in my studio. And the rest of the time, was vegging on the couch in front of the Hallmark channel.  If you are in my boat, all I can say, is keep in touch with your friends and family.  There are many FaceTime apps that make it so fun to see your family.  We used Zoom the other night and it really brightened my day.  I also have added doing exercises along with Erica on Planet Fitness Facebook page.  That is a good one!  I actually had wet hair and a very red face when I was done.  And it truly helped me feel better.  So, I can honestly say that I am digging myself out of this deep black hole.
All I want to say is, keep making yourself paint.  Find something that you did years ago that you really loved and you were successful with.  I’m posting my little 5” x 7” paintings today, so you can see those.  If you do a search on my blog, for Little Landscapes, you should find instructions for them.  It's on December 18, 2018.  I plan to send my little paintings to the residents at my mom’s nursing home.  I hope it brightens their day.  We will get through this, with all of us helping one another.  It's a great time to send cards to friends going through hard times.  Just an idea.  Love and Art Hug to you all! 


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