By Bonnie Gangelhoff
As this story was going to press, Karen Vance called to report that she had just won three top awards at the annual Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY. The award-winning painting, EMERGING SPRING, was purchased for the museum’s permanent collection. The piece is quintessential Vance, with its atmospheric mist blanketing a mountainous landscape. The Colorado-based painter has spent more than 20 years perfecting her art, and her paintings are in a number of other permanent collections, including the University of Denver and Wells Fargo Bank.
Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? They have evolved, adding to my basis of a strong painting structure while exploring the gradations and richness of the visual elements.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? I was recently awarded the William E. Weiss Purchase Award from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. My painting EMERGING SPRING is now hanging in the museum’s permanent collection alongside the work of my mentors and works by some of the great painters of the American past—Moran, Bierstadt, Wyeth, and Remington.
Would you have done anything differently? I don’t know if I have had time to reflect. I often think my career has moved so quickly that, truly, a higher being is in control and I’m just along for the flight.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? Constantly be a student, always observing, learning, exploring, and pushing yourself with each painting. One of my most influential mentors, Quang Ho, always says, “Just paint.” I’ve found that to be wise advice.
What motto do you live by? Just do it! I have a Nike hat in my studio that reminds me of that.
What artists have influenced you? Quang Ho, Clyde Aspevig, Russell Chatham, and Tim Lawson. Deceased artists are John Henry Twachtman, the Wyeths, Joaquín Sorolla, John Singer Sargent, Edouard Vuillard, and the Barbizon School.
What are you working on now? I’m finishing up a commission of more than 50 paintings for Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, CO, plus trying to keep my galleries full while still participating in national shows and museum invitationals.
What’s your next big goal? I like to keep “carrots” in front of me. One of them is that I would like to have a solo museum exhibition of my work within the next five years.
Elk Horn Fine Art Gallery, Winter Park, CO; Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; Bozeman Trail Gallery, Sheridan, WY; Saks Galleries, Denver, CO; www.karenvanceart.com.
Mistresses of the West: A Woman’s Perspective, The Museum of Western Art, Kerrville, TX, January 2010.
C.M. Russell Art Auction, Great Falls, MT, March 2010.
First appearance in Southwest Art: Artist to Watch, March 2001
Awards won since then: William E. Weiss Purchase Award, Best Painting Award, and People’s Choice Award, 2009, Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY. Award of Excellence, 2008, Women Artists of the West, Hilligoss Gallery, Chicago, IL. Best of Show, 2008, Nomadas del Arte.
Show participation since then: C.M. Russell Art Auction, Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, Windows to the Divine, American Art Invitational, Gilcrease Museum’s American Art in Miniature show, and a guest artist at the Plein Air Painters of America show.
Price change since then: My prices gave gone up 265 percent. My 10-by-10 paintings have gone from $850 to $2,300. My 24-by-22 pieces have gone from $3,300 to $8,500.
Featured in “Success Stories” in December 2009