Sunday, July 23, 2017  

Karin Andrews
Q&A with a local artist

Karin Andrews is a local artist from Essex County whose work is loved, owned, and collected by many throughout this region. Her most noted pieces of art are most likely her map prints in which she draws a sketch of a location and surrounds it by the architectural treasures within each area. Currently she has prints available for Essex, Middlesex, Richmond, Westmoreland, Lancaster and Northumberland counties, the City of Richmond, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Karin is also quickly becoming known for her decorative wall finishes and murals. She has recently started a company, Everyday Opulence, which focuses on using wall finishes and murals to bring a room to life. When meeting with Karin, on several occasions, it became evident that one of the reasons her work is so lovely is because of the beauty within her as an individual. Her attention to detail and appreciation for surprises in her own life shows through in her paintings.

When talking with Karin I tried to gain a better understanding of how she has gotten to where she is today and what she plans on doing in the future.

I guess the first question that everyone would like answered is how did you get into being a career artist?

    You know it’s really funny; I never went to school to become an artist. I have always been a creative person. When I was in high school I was selected for an advanced art program that allowed the students access to college art professors and various artists, but my training ended there. The techniques I use in most of my art were self-taught and mastered over time.
I really got into the decorative arts as a career after my first husband passed away. I moved back to Essex County to take care of my father and built a house close to him. When the house was done, I began to paint murals and also utilized different decorative finishes throughout. What began as a way to put my life back together turned out to be a wonderful work of art. It amazed me what I had been able to produce. Some of what I did resembled fabric wall coverings, but it was just paint. After I was finished a friend came over to visit and asked if I could do something in her home. From there it really took off, just through word of mouth, and I have been doing it ever since.
    With regards to my prints and posters, the very first print I did came after much prodding and inspiration from my good friend Jennifer Vaughan, at Crying Shame in Tappahannock. I had done a watercolor painting of Essex County and surrounded it by historic and other icons from the Tappahannock area that I have always loved. Jennifer convinced me that this would be something that should be reproduced as a print. To date I have sold almost 500!
    My husband, William Forrest Andrews, and daughter, Caroline, have been such a propelling force in this adventure. They both are constantly encouraging me to spread my wings and try new adventures in my career.

How long ago did you first become a career artist?

My art as a career form really took off in 2000. Looking back, it is really hard to believe how far things have come in just eight years.

How would you best describe the art you produce?

    I consider myself a fine artist, muralist and gilder. Most of my work is mainly tailored for historic properties and high-end homes. My work has covered everything from Trompe l’oeil or “fool the eye” murals, Grisaille—literally meaning “shades of gray” or tone on tone murals and faux architectural elements, waterscapes, landscapes, historical and nautical themed murals. In addition to all these, I have extensive experience in historically accurate hand-painted “period” detailing and other painted murals reminiscent of the murals found in historic homes; mostly of the Greek Revival, Federal and Georgian era, as well as other Classical styles of yesteryear.   Several of the Grand homes that feature my work have been on the renowned and prestigious “Historic Garden Week in Virginia” tours.
    Several years ago, I began producing fine art prints and historical posters. The prints I produce are fun and colorful.  They are perfect for the more casual areas of the home, river/bay house or yacht.  

Could you tell me a little more about some of the murals you have done in historic properties?

    In 2006 I was commissioned to do a three-walled panoramic mural in the law offices of Dillard and Katona in Downtown Tappahannock. The building that houses the law office is commonly referred to as the Ritchie House. It was built in 1760 as a complex of three separate buildings all connected by covered walkways: the Ritchie House, a kitchen, and the Ritchie Store and Tavern. All that remains today is the Ritchie House.
    I  was so honored when Alec Dillard first approached me to do this commission. He is a wonderful gentleman who has done so much for historic preservation and interpretation in Essex County. This was such a fun project for me because I was given certain instructions to include several properties and portraits of individuals within the piece, but other than that I was allowed to use my own creativity and judgment. My love for Essex County’s rich history made this a fun project, as I included significant architecture, icons, and scenes throughout the mural.
    I have also done extensive work in historic Ben Lomond, built around 1730, in the southern portion of Essex County. My most extensive work in this home revolved around a mural that covered the four walls of the dining room and the ceiling. This was another mostly architectural mural, depicting many of the historically significant buildings of that area. One of the challenges of this commission was that the owners wanted to ensure that the mural appear as though it had always been in the home. To do this and have the mural blend with the existing furnishings in the room I had to paint the mural in a very two-dimensional manner. This meant that elements, normally used to add depth and dimension, were largely out of
the picture.
    Their desire to have the mural look original also led to me applying several different types of finishes to give the mural a flat, crackled look; as any mural of that age would take on. Luckily for me, my work in Ben Lomond did not end in the dining room. I was also commissioned to do gilding work on several pieces of their furniture and put a decorative trim on various walls throughout the home.

Do you mainly do murals in historical homes?

    While I have done a large amount of my work in historical homes, my work is by no means limited to just historical properties. Several of my most beloved murals are actually quite modern.
    A few years ago I was commissioned to paint a mural throughout a party room. This mural was loads of fun. The homeowner gave me a swatch of fabric she would be using for drapery and throw pillows throughout the room and asked that I get my inspiration from there. I was delighted to see that the swatch was a rainforest print and that I got to spend the coming months turning the room into a tropical paradise. I started by painting ferns, trees and other greenery throughout the room. I then continued by adding various flowers, parrots, parakeets, exotic tree frogs, humming birds and so much more. In the end, everyone was pleased with how the space had turned out. The owners named this room the Party Room and now when you walk in you just can’t help but have a good time.
    Another mural that I just loved painting was on a wall overlooking an open stairwell and second-floor landing. The person who commissioned this mural asked that I gain my inspiration from the area surrounding his home, a beautiful cove in Deltaville. The piece is a painting of a creek with a heron taking flight in the forefront. So often we see paintings of herons perched in one location. I decided that drawing the heron taking flight gave the mural more movement. This depiction of the heron also gave the viewer the most common view of herons in this area; flying away. This piece was so large that I also had the opportunity to paint other wildlife in the marsh grasses without taking the focus off of the heron.

What other types of decorative wall finishes do you specialize in?

    I specialize in all sorts of finishes, plasters, and repeat patterns that I produce myself. I gain my inspiration from vintage fabrics or from visually intriguing aspects of their home. One of my favorite stencils was designed to resemble sconces already in the foyer I was painting. These sconces were each custom made and were such unifying and prominent elements in the space. I felt that by using the existing pieces for inspiration I was more accurately depicting the homeowner’s interests while making the sconces even more aesthetically pleasing.
    In another home I particularly enjoyed doing, I repeated diamond patterns throughout the foyer and connecting hallway in a monochromatic tone, using custom formulas to create the finish. This created an elegant finish that becomes more or less obvious with the changing light and provides an elegant backdrop for their collected art.

You have done so much extraordinary work, where do you see yourself going in the future?

    Where I plan to take my company has a lot to do with the name I chose for it, Everyday Opulence. Opulence refers to riches and wealth. My company, Everyday Opulence, aims to make the riches of fine art finishes more attainable to the everyday person. How I hope to do this is by teaching the skills I have gained over the years. I see myself giving studio art lessons, but also going to a client’s home, after they have taken a course, and working with them on the techniques to begin their own mural or applying their own decorative finish.
    One of my long-term goals is to sell kits with everything available—from the finishes, to the stencils, to a book and DVD providing instruction. I feel like my true calling will be giving individuals the tools to create their own works of art. Every person is an artist; many just need the tools to begin their artistic journey. That is where I would like to come in.

If one of our readers is interested in hiring you for a commissioned piece or for lessons, how should they get in touch with you?

    All of my information, including additional information on my work, is available on my website: www.karinandrewsart.com. It is probably easiest to get in touch with me through email, which is linked to on my website.
    I can also be reached by telephone at 804-445-5500.