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Featured Artist

Quick Sketch

By Steve Horvath

Karen Finerty

Karen Finerty
Karen working in her studio.

Elm Grove, Wisconsin, December 30, 2016 – A hobby becomes a full time endeavor.

Karen and I got together at her home studio to interview for this article. A light filled sun room in a quiet corner of her and husband John’s condo in Elm Grove.

Originally from Menomonee, Michigan where she grew up through high school, Karen migrated to Milwaukee to study business at Carroll College (University). Not finding that as fulfilling as she had hoped she found her way to the Pabst Brewery research laboratory. At that time Pabst researched their beer by-products to find ways to cure things like redwood tree decease to finding a possible cure for cancer.


When we’re young we are searching for just the right thing to be our life’s work and Karen was no exception to more than once change directions in threading her way down the path of discovery. She decided to change her career direction to radio copywriting writing radio commercials for WMIL Radio.

Karen met her future husband John at WMIL while writing commercials for him on his music program. His music gig was part of an internship undergrad degree, on his way to becoming a law student at Marquette University.

It was about this time that Karen, having an interest in art, started to take art classes at MATC in the evening and classes at the Art Museum while writing commercials for John to read on the radio.

Karen and John married in 1964 and the next year began raising their family of four children.


She had an interest in oil painting and began taking lessons with Ingrid Parker for several years to learn the basics of working in oil. This experience led her to acrylics as she was interested in exploring different mediums. She applied her acrylic knowledge to paintings she was making in primitive art style.

She started taking watercolor classes in Cedarburg with Jean Crain. She found these lessons, as she did all of her art making experiences, beneficial in improving her ability in making art. She says that “A watercolor is exciting to see develop the way a picture takes form”, and this is why she started to focus on watercolor, for the past 25 years, as her medium of choice. Karen starts many of her paintings from a photo she has taken and from sketches she has made on some of her trips to get the idea started but then the image begins to take its own course and she follows that path rather than relying on the photo image alone. She does all of her work on a very heavy 300# cold press paper along with an array of mostly round brushes along with Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton.


Karen takes the classes that run along with the TWSA (Transparent Watercolor Society Association) exhibition that shows in the spring at the Kenosha Public Museum. She also takes other classes around the state.

Karen likes to travel and went on a painting trip organized by WWS member Joye Moon. They spent 11 days in the Tuscany region of Italy. Karen had an opportunity to produce a lot of sketches and making color notes with her small portable watercolor paint palette.

Karen stays busy in the community as well. She ran the Elm Grove Women’s Club Spring Art Show for 7 years and as some of you may be aware she put in a great deal of effort, along with our WWS Vice President, Bill Davis, in putting together our 65th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at the Wisconsin Club in 2012. (Note: Our 70th Anniversary Dinner is coming up in the fall of this year. Look for details in future communications from your WWS Board.)

If you would like to see more of Karen’s work just visit our website at