Local artist, Karen Thomas, is not a one for bragging but I seriously think she would be excused if she did, given the stunningly professional nature of her new book, A Passion for Watercolour.

Karen, who lives in Bridgerule in becoming increasingly well-known for her contemporary watercolour paintings, especially of animals. Her award-winning work is exhibited at art fairs and galleries throughout the west country and beyond, inspired largely by nature. She gets close to animals, really trying to understand them, in order to capture their characters and expressions. Her style is expressive, her use of colour impressive. She is lauded and applauded by artist, Steve Hall, and others. Her name is spreading far and wide, so much so that she now also attends numerous events outside the south-west.

It has to be said that Karen devotes herself 150% to her painting; her output is high-quality yet prolific, but she is also savvy at reaching her audience, for she works hard at communicating with the lovers of her work. She has stacks of followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and she blogs regularly and well (all time, all effort, but she feels it is worthwhile to connect with her audience).

The book was in response to people wanting to buy catalogues of her work. It is a book she decided to self-publish, thereby retaining control and creating a book she absolutely believes in. She will sell it through her website and at exhibitions. Pre-publication sales were high, and website sales continue to be buoyant.

Loving what she does, Karen’s enthusiasm as a painter is infectious. Understandably,  she now receives many commissions and also has her own studio in Okehampton where her imagination can take further flight.

I was thrilled to be asked to play a small part in this book by offering an editorial overview. Karen listened to my comments, taking them on board and adapting her already impressive writing to make it even stronger. As an editor, that makes such a difference. Authors may not always take every comment on board, but if something requires tightening or elucidation, then it really helps if the author means business and realises criticism is constructive. In that sense, Karen was an ideal client, professional to the last and open to ideas, while understandably wanting to retain control of her vision for what is her first book. What a debut!

This is not a mere coffee-table book of pictures, beautiful though they are, but is a carefully woven tale of Karen’s journey, plus some tips, illustrated by her wonderful paintings. She mentions some of the issues that inhibit artists, such as erratic progress (it isn’t linear) and experimental process. Of course, it is always fascinating to hear of a person’s journey towards success.

Additionally, the book provides hope for anyone serious about art for Karen is not convinced that artists need ‘talent’. She says she doesn’t feel talented. She feels like someone who really loves what she does, has a clear idea of what she wants to learn, and then immerses herself in it. She studies the craft as if her life depended on it, and to be honest, she does go at around 100 miles per hour in working to achieve her goals. We can all learn from that.

In the book, she talks about criticism, experts, the influences on her work, her working tools and methods, how she learns, and notions of ‘good versus perfect’. Then there are the pictures. This is a full-colour book, beautifully presented. Apart from some professional input, Karen wrote, illustrated and had a keen idea about paper quality, size and design.

She worked like the very devil to get the book finished in time for her forthcoming exhibition season without skimping on quality.

Congratulations to Karen on a superb book for artists and animal lovers everywhere.

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Creative stuff!

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