Atlanta artist and designer Karen Mayer Johnston is a busy woman these days. It seems as if Karen was born to be versatile. Her career has included package design, art & photography, pharmaceutical sales and finally Kitchen & Bath design in the remodeling industry. That‟s quite a career building on her degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia.
Growing up in Columbia, S.C, Karen showed her creativity at an early age and it has manifested itself in a number of ways: From age 6, drawing the church pulpit. Recruited to design the high school float and the Official Forest Acres City Seal. Selling hand painted pocketbooks for International Day, and yes, Painting the hood of her old Chevy Vega like a bulldog after she graduated from UGA the car got so much attention, it got a standing ovation from the crowd as she drove by the railroad tracks outside Sanford Stadium before attending a UGA football game.
“I‟m doing a balancing act these days,” she says as she laughs. “I‟m teaching art classes and leading events, working on a Southern College series of paintings and taking commissions on portraits. “I‟m having a great time, but I‟ve never worked so hard in my life.”
With her outgoing personality, great sense of humor and rare modesty, it would be easy to overlook Karen‟s many accomplishments. You may have seen Karen‟s lively paintings and prints of familiar Atlanta scenes around town - Music Midtown Festival, Tabernacle Blues, Blind Willie’s. She has been commissioned by The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Georgia Hospital Association, and The Music Midtown Festival where she was on site to sign limited edition prints for the 3 day festival with over 300,000 in attendance. Her recent work on pet portraits has benefited The Gwinnett Humane Society and a number of non-profit organizations.
“The dog portraits all started with „Reagan”, says Karen, of the rescue dog that was being treated for heartworm that Karen fostered, then adopted. “I‟ve always grown up with dogs and had such a love for them…when I am creating a portrait, I am really trying to capture the spirit of the dog.” This is apparent in her paintings.
On portraits, “I like to work with candid snapshots supplied by the client. If they don‟t have a good photo, I take one myself. With today‟s digital cameras, it is so easy to capture a child‟s expression or a treasured moment.“
Continuing to work on her college series, she is starting a series on musical instruments, reflective of her love for jazz by the use of vibrant color and bold brush strokes so common in Karen‟s work. Her sensitivity to color and impressionistic style is much like that of Cezanne and Van Gogh, two of her favorite artists.
Karen‟s creations - whether art or design - have been featured in local and national publications: InTown Neighbor, Jezebel, Atlanta Magazine, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Better Homes & Gardens, Atlanta Home Improvement, NKBA Profiles. She was selected as a judge for the National Kitchen and Bath Association Kitchen-of-the-Year Contest and Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles. Additionally, her artwork has been accepted into many juried shows.
Whether Karen is commissioned for a painting or hired for a corporate event, her work and her personality are bound to make an impression you are not likely to forget.