About The Artist
Born in Portland, Oregon and the oldest of 5 children, Karen devoted countless hours to drawing from a very young age. At eight her family moved to Alaska where she was exposed to a new raw and inspiring beauty that encouraged her love for art and nature. Through the years she has studied under other artists and continues to hone her skill.
It is frequently said of her work that a glow, or light from within her paintings portray warmth and life. Karen strives to capture that life and glow in every subject she paints; often claiming her favorite pastime is chasing the light. Spending many early mornings and late evenings painting en plein aire (French for “in the open air”) Karen refines her ability to record delicate and dramatic effects in light that cannot be accurately captured in photographs. It is from this activity that she gains both the ability to convey and her fascination of, light.
Whitworth's prolific portfolio varies from brilliantly-lit endangered Hawaiian birds perched delicately on red hibiscus blossoms, to grand Alaskan landscapes with towering mountain peaks and cool glacier-fed streams. Her award winning work is diverse and passionate. Her paintings are now found in collections around the world and featured in several US galleries. From her home studio she creates paintings for exhibitions across the US. She lives with her husband, Greg, and two young children in Wasilla, Alaska
Perhaps,It Was Always Meant To Be; An Artist’s Love Affair With The Islands
After the Civil War, Karen Whitworth’s fourth generation past Grandparents, Solomon and Hannah Crowley, abandoned their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for the prospects of happier life for their 8 children. That quest lead them West by way of ship around the Cape Horn of South America. By the mid 1870′s, now in Portland, Oregon, they all had boarded a sugar boat, the Mattie Macleay for their 31 day voyage across the Pacific and the last leg of their journey to the Sandwich Islands. It was here they planned to buy a sugar plantation on the Island of Oahu and start a new life for their family. Upon their long awaited arrival to Hawaii they rented a home across from the King's Palace in Honolulu. James, the then 18 year old son of Solomon and Hannah, recalled their stay adjacent the Royal Grounds. He would eagerly watch the goings on as King KalÄkaua and the royal carriage would come and go throughout the day.
Though the children seemed quite entertained with their new surroundings, Mother Hannah could not adjust to an unforeseen aspect of life in the tropics. For her, exposing her young family to the topless (though very friendly and hospitable) locals, was something she could not acclimate to. With this, she and Solomon made plans to return to Oregon. During their few month stay in Honolulu, the children of the Crowleys were invited to the palace for tea with their royal neighbors. On one occasion, the Princess presented them with a ceramic jar filled with Hawaiian honey as a remembrance gift. They soon loaded all their earthly possessions back on a ship and returned to Oregon on the Jane Falkenberg. To this day, stories of the family’s adventure are told, and the honey jar gifted by Princess Lili’uokalani along with a line drawing of the Jane Falkenberg steamer serve as testament to their incredible journey.
Though Karen was unfamiliar with her family’s Hawaiian legacy until she was in her early twenties, she recalls a love for the islands, even before her first visit. A longing to see and experience it first hand was constant. Living in Alaska is just about as far from warm trade winds and tropical-anything as you can get, it’s hard to say if her surroundings in this rugged north state fostered her strong hunger for the islands, or if perhaps it was a deep-rooted part of her from the beginning.
When she visited the islands for the first time in the fall of 2008 it was an incredible experience. As an artist, immediately she was enamored with the light, color, atmosphere, and aura of the islands. Her encounter was something stronger than just a tropical escape. It changed her and her art. While this experience was life changing and new, there was also an element that brought immense comfort and peace. Some part of her was home, a feeling and passion she strives to capture in each of her works.
In 2010 Karen was selected to exhibit 10 new original works at the East Hawaii Cultural Center located in Hilo, Hawaii. Over the course of that year she submersed herself in study for the paintings she would create featuring the flora and feathered fauna found in the islands. In February of 2011 Karen and her paintings migrated south for her “Birds of Paradise” exhibition. As her first solo exhibition outside of her home state, this was both a rewarding experience and monumental event in her career as a painter.
Through her isolated and contrasted Alaskan home Karen is able to capture Hawaii with a fresh vibrance and truly unique appreciation. Since her first visit many paintings have resulted and every year she strives to make her pilgrimage to Hawaii as often, and for as long as possible. To this day much of her time is spent in the studio painting her island experiences and planning her next adventure to the islands.
From A Collector…
“Â I am impressed at the variations in your subject matter….not just florals or birds or boats or mountains. You do them all and do them very well. Your lighting is wonderful. I think your art is going to increase substantially in value over time because your paintings are ALL good. Some artists just get a few ‘happy accidents’ of good art. Not true with you. I am so excited that you sold me the moose. My family will treasure it always. And, by the way, I loved your horses. How many artists can do perfect florals, birds, AND horses?
You have it all…a beautiful talent, a beautiful mind & body & spirit, a beautiful family, and a beautiful place to live and paint. Go girl! ”
~ Judy Gross