Karen Roehl

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Karen Roehl moved to Denver as a yougster in 1967. Karen began her artistic career when she completed a design program at the Art Institute of Colorado in 1987. She enjoyed a successful career as a graphic artist for over 20 years, the last eight of which were spent running her own design business. Satisfying a life long desire to expand her creative talents in the fine arts, she entered the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program at University of Colorado at Denver and completed here BFA in December 2007, graduating magna cum laude.


Now known for her paintings inspired by abstract expressionism, Karen has work in private and corporate collections. She enjoys combining realism and her abstract mark-making to create contemporary western genre paintings, primarily using horses as subject matter and inspiration. 


Karen joined the faculty at the Art Students League of Denver in 2011, where she hosts classes in basic and abstract painting. She was also a founding member and served on the board of Denver's acclaimed Ice Cube Gallery in the RiNo Arts Districts. 


About the Abstract Paintings

Inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, my work attempts to gain access to the inner workings of self as an individual, and on a larger scale, as human and a member of larger communities both local and global.

Scale is one element I use to emphasize the larger picture. I often prefer working on large, mural-sized pieces, the effect of which envelopes the viewer while standing up close, examining the painting’s many details.

My color palette ranges from monochromatic to very colorful, depending on my mood. My monochromatic palettes focus on the high contrasts between black and white and emphasize elements such as texture, composition, shapes and the marks themselves, things I think of as comprising an individual and inner quality of essence. Color reflects more the external world we experience daily and the strong emotional forces that influence our moods and interactions with that environment exterior to our selves.

The mark-making I use in my work is an intention on my part to learn another language that happens on an intuitive level of ourselves, one that speaks outside of the intellect. They aim at recreating an experience of self-discovery. I want to explore the things that make us unique, investigate where and what the boundaries are between us, and look for the things we hold in common.

A recurring theme in my work is a focus on the quality of trust. The paintings are built up with many layers of overlapping marks, a process that requires a lot of letting go and starting new. The trust comes in when I decide to cover up a part of the painting that I’m attached to for the sake of the entire painting. I trust that the part that I feel is beautiful is not simply an accident or a one-shot deal. In other words, I trust that it is within my power to create something beautiful (subjective as that is) again and again, and in so doing discover innumerable forms of beauty. 


During the course of a painting, there are a number of times when it feels close to finished, but not quite. And "not quite" is not good enough. I force myself to continue, trusting largely in my intuition to lead me along a path to a painting that I can call "Done". I award that conclusive term to a painting only when it fully resonates with me.