Born in Middlesbrough, Teeside, UK, acclaimed contemporary figurative fine artist, Karen Willis can these days be found residing in her old parsonage deep in the Lincolnshire Wolds with her husband, himself an artist. This rural idyll serves as the perfect environ from which to detract the most creativity, blessed by the peace and tranquillity that it affords the artistic couple. When she isn’t committing paints to canvases, and away from her familiar studio habitat, Wallis is presently penning a novel, whilst in her spare time she enjoys playing squash and tennis. With an honours degree in Interior Design to her credit, Wallis’ enduring love for modern living spaces and the ways in which they’re designed and dressed with furniture is never far from the fine artist’s mind, and associated themes and colour swatches can often be seen in her hallmark two-dimensional works to this day.
In terms of Wallis’ resolutely singular surfaced compositional work, she favours the application of mixed media (oils or acrylics set to paper, canvas or board) which are constructed using several glazes of thin paint, overlaid with impasto, which visually cement her habitual hazy and evocative images we’ve grown accustomed to bearing witness to. Wallis pioneers this concept of fusing fine art and abstract elements together, with the resultant images being ultimately presented in a traditional manner yet afforded a contemporary edge. Wallis concentrates on female models which she paints in soft, subtlety considered tones and details and then pictorially imagines them in a blank space within the canvas, while all the time maintaining a feeling of unanchored light and air, which Wallis pitches so that the viewer can instigate and conjure their own world.
Wallis insists that there are very few artists who aren’t inspired and influenced by light, knowing and acutely aware of just how said natural light sources conspire to transform the every day into something of the extraordinary. Describing it as a type of magic, Wallis strives to perpetually portray the fleeting, transient substance and effect of light in all of her paintings. Adopting and figuring in related moods and forms, Wallis is adamant that when all these variables interact, her work takes on a life of its own, as intended and visually prescribed from the outset of each individual study.
Wallis places great emphasis on the original sketches and drawings which she decrees form the illustrative bedrock of her mainstay of work, and explains that every figure she envisages and creates is individual rather than a variation on a theme. By choosing different models on separate occasions Wallis is able to observe and express the complexities and nuances of the individual, while she also finds portraits a fantastic way of meeting the acquaintance of strangers, where the artist tries to instil a connection between herself and the ‘sitter’ which can only benefit the finished graphic article.
Born and bred in Middlesbrough as mentioned from the top, Wallis went from secondary school to Teeside University where she obtained her BA (Hons) in Interior Design, before embarking on a course to gain her teaching certificate at Durham University. As she embarked on her career, Wallis divided her time between the professions of art and teaching, yet when her own two sons flew the Wallis family nest for higher educational pursuits, Wallis seized the opportunity to dedicate her full attentions to that of solely painting.
Wallis lists those artists who inspired her as a who’s who of the Pre-Raphaelite movement; Rossetti, Millais and Waterhouse, explicitly for the poetry and romance discovered at the very crux of their artistic visions and intentional art. Elsewhere Wallis refers to the contemporary artist, Israel Zohar, who she cites as being a continued inspiration to her, courtesy of his wonderfully haunting body of pictorial work.
Currently represented by one of the UK’s leading fine art publishers, Buckingham Fine Arts, Wallis believes this collaboration serves her needs well as a professional artist and has proved very fruitful in terms of introducing her work to a much larger audience. Wallis’ work has featured in several exhibitions across the country, whilst a host of art galleries showcase her evolving portfolio. Furthermore Wallis’ work has gained column inches in various magazines and newspapers, and her pieces have found homes in collections throughout Europe and the USA to date.