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Featured Artist

Quick Sketch

By Steve Horvath

Karen Lenhart


Watersmeet, Michigan, May 26, 2017 – The directions to Karen’s home/studio were pretty easy after all, I have my trusty phone navigation. Her address is on Cisco Lake Road, not spelled ‘Sysco’ as I plugged into my navigation device. (Note: If you are not an angler, Cisco is a species of fish). So I had to get directions the old-fashioned way by calling and writing them down. As you get close to her address look for the row of mailboxes on the right then go past the pole barn then turn left and pull into the second driveway on the right. Perfect.

Karen and her husband, Phil worked and lived in Wisconsin most of their adult lives and have had this lakeside home for many years before becoming their permanent and only home when they both retired.

Karen is originally from Clintonville, WI and spent a few years out of high school “looking for direction” she says. She lived with her aunt and uncle in Madison for a couple of years then found her way to Milwaukee with a girlfriend at the time, to work for AC Spark Plug in their Traffic Department for about three years.

She met Phil when she was in Madison for a time and kept up their communication. Phil took a teaching job in Delavan, WI and that is when they decided to tie the knot. Karen got a job with Sta-Rite Pumps in the Accounting Department.


Phil’s career took them back to Madison where Phil accepted a teaching position at Sennett Middle School. Karen and Phil started their family about this time and had their first daughter in 1971, and their second daughter in 1972. When their daughters were in the fourth and fifth grades, Karen enrolled in a college program culminating in a B.S. degree in Art Education in December of 1985.

Karen began a job at a company known at that time as National Guardian Life Insurance Co. She only intended to stay until she could find a full-time teaching position and put her degree in Art Education into practice. She started out as a service clerk and after a short period of time was promoted to payroll, then to marketing doing advertising and promotion, then to HR Director and eventually to VP of Operations. All of this took place over a period of 16 years before she retired in 2001.


During this time she was making art and taking classes at The Clearing in Door County. She also worked with Morton Solberg and Mike Casper, both of whom Karen says had a strong influence on her work. She also worked with Joe Fettingis, Karlyn Holman and numerous teachers at The Clearing.

Karen says she likes to use more heavily-pigmented watercolors, using permanent white gouache to mix with her transparent watercolors and mixing different mediums such as Ink Tense blocks and pencils by Derwent to influence her work.

She seems to like the idea of not knowing exactly what will happen “staying with the pigment rather than with their elements.”

A case in point is the image of the bird clinging to the tree trunk. (See image). She started with a watercolor base and then added the paper from a paper wasps nest. This was followed by a heavy-bodied painting gel medium applied with a palette knife showing more texture. She then added more paint on top of the textured gel to get the eventual coloration she had envisioned for the image.


I was first attracted to Karen’s work by the images of wildlife she has on her website – her landscapes are equally engaging – that are so skillfully and sensitively done. When I arrived at her studio she had a couple of pieces of work in progress that were very abstract in nature. (See image). She pushes and pulls color over the canvas looking for something to happen that will influence the emotion of the more recognizable imagery that will most likely appear on top of the abstraction. You can get a stronger idea of how she works by going to to see her unique and accomplished approach to painting.

As she says on her website “I’m eager to see where my artistic journey takes me, as I explore untried techniques, different mediums and new subjects.”