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Meet Karen Phillips of Karen Phillips Art in Lake Claire/Candler Park area

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Phillips.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I became an artist in a roundabout way. My first career was in computer programming and analysis. After a feeling of restlessness began to creep into my consciousness, I began to do a lot of searching. I read a lot of self-help books and took workshops on various subjects but I wasn’t finding the answers I needed. I eventually found a life coach who told me I was creative. I didn’t want to believe her at the time. I had a background in computers. I loved science, logic. My mother was the creative one who could paint and draw.

There was one thing I was curious about though — computer graphics. So, I took a course in graphic design just to see what it was all about. We created all kinds of things. The final project was a large poster. I didn’t know how to make a large poster on the computer so, I decided to piece it together and paint a portion of it. Even though, I worked long hours at my day job, I stayed up all night working on this poster.

As I was painting stripes of color, the sun began to rise and I was filled with joy. I was in heaven. This was it! I had found my calling: graphic design… or so I thought.

Following that experience, I took a lot of graphic design courses and was promoted to graphic designer at my job. I enjoyed the process of coming up with ideas for projects and developing them into a final cohesive new business proposal or report.

At some point though, I began to feel a little tug. I started feeling like this career wasn’t quite it. I loved being creative but something was missing. I considered taking fine art classes, but I just ignored that urge and continued working.

A few years later, I started having problems with my lower back. It became pure agony to do anything while vertical and I began walking with a limp… but I was still determined to continue working. I had projects to finish. What would happen if I weren’t there? I couldn’t let the company down.

Much to my dismay, the human resources person saw me grimacing in pain as I tried to stand up one day and sent me home saying, “We can’t have you working like this.” I didn’t know it then but I was close to finding my true calling.

My doctor ordered an MRI and discovered I had a herniated disk. I allowed myself to be convinced that surgery was the best option, but it made the pain worse. I tried everything from acupuncture to hydrotherapy to get rid of the pain, but nothing worked. Several months passed and I needed something to do so, I decided to give painting a try. The challenge was that I could only paint 20 minutes at a time, but I did that every day. I started discovering positive things happening around me. My life was changing.

I even started being open to the idea of being an artist. I joined an art group where I would have to share my work. I was shaking in my boots and sweating. And that was before I had shown my work.

Growing up, my mother used to say, “a hard head makes a soft behind.” Yeah, ok Ma. After nearly three years of recovery, I landed a job. All that artist stuff was pushed to the side as I began to work longer hours. While I painted occasionally, my main focus was my job. Then, I got married and the hours lengthened even more. Needless to say, I crashed and burned. I had so little energy that I could barely walk up the five steps in front of our house. The recovery took a lot longer this time. I started painting again and eventually showed my work for the first time in public.

The day before the opening I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know how people were going to react to my work. I had to do some positive self-talk. My husband and I set up the exhibit area so I could have conversations with viewers. There were little cafe tables and chairs with music playing in the background. As people sat talking among themselves, I moved around discussing my art with them. That experience made me want to have more conversations and inspired me to continue making art.

Has it been a smooth road?
I didn’t always want to be an artist. So, I allowed work to get in the way of my making art. A couple of health issues helped me decide.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As a mixed media artist, I create abstract paintings that are layered with paint, scribbles, shapes and colors. I’m known for creating paintings that people want to get lost in.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
When I moved to Atlanta, I was surprised to find a thriving art community here. There are organizations that help artists learn how to show and sell their work. So, I think it’s a great place to get started.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Tom Meyer, Karen Phillips

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