Karen Danielson, the Traveler and Artist of Haywood Community College

Posted June 24, 2020

Karen Danielson, a Continuing Education Instructor in the HCC Creative Arts Program, is a painter and world traveler. Danielson has been traveling since she was a child, a baby even, as her mother moved her from Connecticut to California. Danielson traveled between the east and west coast throughout her young life as she was raised by both parents, each being on different sides of the U.S. The traveling between the east and west coasts of the U.S. allowed for a young artist to be able to continually review unique characteristics in landscapes throughout the country. Karen Danielson has always and continues to pay attention to details in the landscape during her travels. Danielson makes the comment,

“I feel like there are times when I am driving that I wish a camera would do what my eyes see justice but it never does as far as landscape and I feel inspired by that…”

Danielson can evaluate a scene, and see more colors between two shades of blue that most people are not able to perceive. Danielson wishes to encapsulate all the colors, shades, and hues in a landscape view that she observes. Danielson actually comments that she would like to pursue painting skies in the future. Her love for the Haywood County Skies was communicated clearly through her words, “I would like to paint a series of skies; our skies are amazing here.” -Danielson

The image above was taken in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC.

Danielson happens to be an Airline Stewardess and is able to see the skyline much like an eagle in the sky, that escalates from a tree to the clouds. Danielson has strived to put herself in a position that she is able to thoroughly study the landscape and successfully does so from both the sky and on land, she is a true admirer of the earth as an artist. 

I asked Danielson what role she believes art plays in the current climate we are in and given her position as an Airline Stewardess I was especially interested in her opinion given the fact that COVID19 is affecting daily living habits of artists and non-artists alike. 

A quote from Danielson in relation to the current cultural climate.

Artists tend to look deeper, I said to Danielson and I believe she not only visually intercepts colors but also is capable of understanding the importance of process. COVID19 has certainly changed much in the world as we know it as well as in our art process. I believe artists have been and will continue to be affected greatly by COVID19’s affects such as being socially distanced from others which I believe will inform artist opinions in a positive way. Artist are greatly affected by their surrounded, but say for instance if an artist is only in their own company and using their own ideas without outside influence, an artist would create truly for themselves and from their own mind. This is an opinion of course, but a positive one! I believe Danielson makes a great point that our process is changing and given that we are mostly working on a digital format, especially now, what will this say about the tactility of painting? 

The process of painting is quite important and in order to gain the full value of what painting has to offer; one must pick up the brush, mix the paint, feel the surface the paint will dry on, etc. 

I believe Danielson very much has these benefits in clear view, for instance painting assists in mental health as the tactile experience of painting relieves stress. Painting acts as an emotional release and also can substitute as a form of communication. James Earl Jones even stated “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” Now, imagine feeling this way (or maybe you do), if you had painting as a form of communication it would assist in conversing hence forth relieving emotional distress. This is only one benefit one can achieve through painting and I encourage you to seek the other benefits of painting by clicking here .

Danielson hopes that other artists, outside of herself or even interested painters are practicing painting as a tactile experience rather than pursuing full-fledged online painting practices. The conversation between Danielson and I, after speaking as to how COVID19 is affecting our everyday process and leading us to a fully online format as artists took a turn as to how she prefers to work, which informs the environment she creates in her classes to further benefit her students. 

Karen Danielson’s painting and drawing classes offers the benefits of painting as well as the benefits of experiencing auditory stimulation. A love of music came into the conversation when Danielson mentioned that an integral part of her creative process is music. Danielson’s painting process includes creating an environment of light and music, to fill the room with inspiration to fully support each individual to reach their creative height. Music is integral to Danielson’s process in painting. Danielson states,

“I think I would perish without music. It’s been such a significant source of inspiration. When I teach we usually have classical on in the background.”

Danielson also uses nature as inspiration. Nature as an inspirational muse has been in affect I believe since humans began to paint and draw, this dates back to Paleolithic cave paintings. I believe Ksenija Pantelic, a Serbian writer and artist, has written an accurate description that touches on how nature affects artists such as Danielson through the following,  

“A pure fascination for artists, nature is a great setting onto which inner feelings and progressive ideas of the new aesthetic language and trends can be imprinted.” (Pantelic)

The article 10 Famous Landscape and Nature Paintings illustrates well how artists view nature. Music, lovely natural light, the natural world and good quality materials all play a role in Danielson’s painting process and especially when capturing natural elements. Haywood County is a special place for Danielson as when she views the siting’s in the area she feels a sense of higher power at play, that no human can create mountains such as these. Clyde is in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains which is a popular vacationing area, due to its beautiful landscapes. I encourage you to view the NC Smokies link if you haven’t visited or inhabit the area to understand at a glimpse of what Karen Danielson is so in aw of. The landscape is a pivotal source of inspiration for Danielson as well as expression artists. 

One artist, that Danielson expressed favor for, that really inspires Danielson is Chaim Soutine. Soutine was a Russian painter during the expressionist movement, he’s known to be quite the contributor to the era. The New Yorkers, Peter Schjeldahl, describes Soutine’s landscapes as vertiginous and some of his portraits as empathetic caricatures. Danielson states the following,

“His brush strokes are thick with rich colors with a macabre subject matter, because he was hiding…escaping from Germany…and he lived near a butcher shop so he was painting dead chickens and dead fish and really kind of sinuous, life sustaining stuff…that’s how I learned to use a brush like him.” (Danielson)

Chaim Soutine
Fish and Tomatoes, 1924
Oil Paint on Canvas

You can see the influence of expression artists such Chaim Soutine in Danielson’s work below. The paintings listed are gathered from Danielson’s website

You can see from Danielson’s work that thick brush strokes are applied to the canvas with the same “Soutine Sinuosity”. There is something that Danielson applies to her work, outside of what the expressionism movement has informed, that could be described as the ability to draw the eye in a unique fashion across the canvas. 

When you view Danielson’s work your eyes move up then down and then to the center. It is unique for an artist to be able to lead the viewers eyes so specifically. In many works when we view then with an eye we see the center and then subconsciously view the image in a circular manner, but in Danielson’s work how one views each painting is much more mathematic, similar to following the shape of a hyphen. I believe this is due to her continuous work in the sky as an Airline Stewardess and how she is continuously seeing a change in elevation in the horizon view. After reading the previous sentence I hope you scroll back up to the gallery, and look over how you see the work once again and notice how your eyes view each picture and which points you are drawn to first and which you are drawn to last. Danielson’s ability to draw her viewers eyes could be linked to her talent for capturing eyes as a facial feature alongside her consistently changing view of the landscape. 

Notice the liveliness in Danielson’s pet portraits, specifically in the eyes, in each painting the eyes are particularly more luminescent than other areas within the frame. Danielson comments that her customers who commission her to create pet portraits state she has a gift for the eyes and that she is able to make the pet come alive in the painting. The eyes in each painting have a difference in detail, value, and in some a distinctive texture which is how Danielson highlights the facial feature.

Danielson captures the everyday life moments we tend to overlook, such as luminous pet eyes, landscapes, still life objects that sit on our kitchen table, exedra. The time I have taken to review her work and listen to her words I have been finding myself to be more grateful for the moments I take to cloud watch, pet my dog, sit looking at a bowl of fruit, etc. Her work has taught to me appreciate every moment. This very well could be due to the current climate we are in but I can’t help but consider that my viewpoint has changed due to how Danielson has been able to lead my eye throughout her work. 

Danielson’s inspirations and painting technique illustrates how our everyday environment affects what we create as artists. Danielson’s upbringing as a traveler and her desire to see the world from the sky as well as from the ground has created an ability within her to be able to lead her viewers eyes through her works in a specific manner and in turn has affected this particular viewer how to view everything. Her work has been enjoyable to study over the past few weeks as well as understand what makes it special, which is no doubt due to Danielson’s individuality as an artist.

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