Creative Life of Artist with Parkinson’s

palm trees, ocean, beach

Karen Bryson’s Painting on Wood with Left Hand

Woman smiling glasses

Karen Bryson


Karen Bryson discovered her talent for art when she was four years old. She loved to draw and color she recalls. “It took me to another place. Art always, and still is, my happy place.” She grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. She and her husband raised three children in Upstate New York. Living on the Gulf Coast of Florida now, she is inspired by palm trees and beaches. Her three children and soon-to-be six grandchildren are occasional muses.


woman holding baby

Mother and Child Watercolor of daughter, Amy and granddaughter, Paige

She is also inspired by another unexpected force to continue to paint. When she was fifty-seven, she discovered she has Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological disorder with no cure. “When I was first diagnosed, I thought about not being able to do art with my right hand which tremors. So I decided that day to start using my left hand.” Three years later Karen can paint with both hands. Although she still does fine detail work with her right hand when it cooperates, she is training her left hand to do fine detail as well. Still another proactive approach is learning to finger paint with both hands.

art studio desk art suppllies

Karen’s Studio–Her Happy Place, Her Safe Place

Because PD symptoms  often feel out of Karen’s control, art is still one thing that feels in her control. She describes her small studio in her house as “her happy place, her safe place.” One of her favorite paintings is a watercolor of her grandmother adorning her studio and making her feel good every time she looks at it.

She does not keep structured hours in her studio, just when the mood hits her. Since PD, the mood is often. “Having PD has been a blessing when it comes to my artwork. I don’t know why it’s happening, but my mind is filled with ideas. There has been a creativity explosion. I am driven to create. When I am in that zone, it’s hard to contain it. It’s hard to sit with hubby and watch television when I have ideas swirling around.”

bird cage, bottle

Flea Market Finds–Art Inspiration


One idea swirling around was to do something besides painting that incorporated using wire. As Pablo Picasso said, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Karen collects items from flea markets and yard sales that catch her eye and keeps them in her studio.

One day she was playing around with different pieces to see what would fit together. “When I placed the inverted wire cage on top of the glass bottle, ‘She’ popped into my mind. I have no other explanation. I had to determine how to secure all of it. I also wanted to use the framework for a  papier-mâché head, so that took more thought.”

Karen finds these kinds of little side projects quite fulfilling and great brain food. Her customers love them too.

ecccentric woman, wire hat with flowers blue bottle for body, wire frame glasses

Mrs. Doubtwire

Karen has a talent for connecting with others through her art. While motorcycling, Karen and her husband encountered by happenstance a man who had kayaked out to a remote island and spent the night. After sharing some photographs of the sunset he had taken from the island, Karen asked if she could use one as a reference for a painting. He later sent a photo, and she created a watercolor. In the meantime, she discovered he was a police officer with many years on the force. So she sent him the painting as her way to pay it forward in appreciation for his service. “The painting belonged on his wall, not mine.”

“The most awesome experience I can have as an artist is to see how my art touches someone’s heart,” she says. Recently she painted two dogs that perished in a tragic house fire. Their owner not only lost her two beloved pets, but she also lost her home and everything in it. After Karen heard her story, she asked for pictures of the dogs and the house. The owner also shared a picture of wispy rainbow clouds that appeared in the sky after the fire. The effect of Karen’s intuitive and compassionate work is illuminated by a family member’s comment. “You captured their eyes in this painting as Tuck and Bailey captured our hearts! Awesome talent!”

Two black dogs rainbow clouds house silhouette

King Tuck and Bailey

Parkinson’s and painting are inexplicably linked for Karen. But often her PD  is forced to the shadows. “The actual act of painting frees me from thinking about PD. I am able to get lost in my artwork and forget about even having Parkinson’s. It’s great therapy, so I make it part of my daily life,” she says. Enjoying Karen’s artwork is therapy for us as well! If you wish to see more of Karen Bryson’s art or commission work, please visit K Bryson Art As I See It on Facebook.

Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.”  Karen has embraced her challenge with purpose while helping others. This profile will end where it started with the leaning palm trees painted totally with her left hand. Karen sent this painting to a woman in Arkansas who is in advanced stage of PD  “to inspire her when she feels like giving up.”

Question:  Of the art featured in Karen Bryson’s profile, which one is your favorite and why?






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    • Alissa Sego on July 31, 2018 at 9:18 pm
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    Karen is amazing, I love her beach and palm tree work. She painted a scene for my hair studio that captures your eye and heart every time you look at it.

    1. Thanks Alissa for sharing another facet of Karen and her work. How wonderful for your clients and you! I used to live in Sarasota and the sunsets are awesome on that side of the state.

    • Ginger Kist on August 1, 2018 at 12:07 am
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    I love Karen’s coastal paintings so of course that is my favorite! But the heartwarming story about Tuck and Bailey and their gorgeouse painting melts my heart!

    1. Thanks Ginger for visiting this blog. Karen’s paintings are gems any way you look at them! I appreciate your comments.

    • Penny Maloney on August 1, 2018 at 2:10 am
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    The only trig that may exceed Karen’s art ability is her kindness. As a family member (cousin), I have witnessed Karen’s kindness in sharing her art talent with friends and family members. It may be a portrait of a loved one, person or animal, or a favorite scene or location. I personally get to enjoy a watercolor, a blue glass vase filled with sunflowers, that I commented that I loved when she shared it on FB. She shipped it me in Erie!
    My favorite piece in this article is of the two dogs. She has captured their personalities and love for their owners in their eyes!

    1. Thank you Penny for taking the time to tell us more about Karen, especially her kindness. I bet you smile every time you gaze at that watercolor! Oh, the dogs. I shed some tears over their story and even more when I saw the painting!

    • Ginger Kist on August 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm
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    I should add that every room in our winter cottage in FL is decorated with Karen’s paintings! She’s a wonderful person, sister, neighbor & friend to have in my life! So happy you wrote this wonderful article.

    1. Ginger, now that would be something to see! A gallery in the form of a Florida cottage filled with Karen Bryson’s artwork! Getting to know Karen through an interview and then studying her work has been an awesome experience. It’s been my pleasure to shine the light on her by writing about her life.

    • Maureen cameron on August 2, 2018 at 7:19 am
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    I am English and met Karen on a Facebook group for watercolour artists. We have never met but I feel she is a friend. Her paintings and works of art are inspiring.

    1. Thank you Maureen for taking the time to comment. Interesting I feel the same way–Karen and I have not met in person, but I consider her a friend!

    • Donna Link on August 3, 2018 at 4:22 pm
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    Karen’s artwork is a tribute to her indomitable spirit and her willingness to overcome unexpected twists and turns in this life. The painting on wood: the leaning palm trees and the beautiful, busy ocean beyond say all of that to me. Love your work, Karen!

    1. Donna, thanks so much for taking the time to comment on Karen’s inspiring artwork. From all the hurricanes we have endured in Florida, we know palm trees are resilient. So is Karen!!

    • Janice Rowan on August 8, 2018 at 7:55 pm
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    I am.a great fan of Karen’s artwork which always reflects her wonderful creativity and kind, caring and generous spirit….. She is a great inspiration to the Parkinson’s community with her positive attitude to life and ongoing energy to create such beautiful artwork that brings much joy to others….It is hard to pick a favourite piece as all are special but I am drawn to the “Ocean image with palm trees”.

    1. Thank you Janice for taking the time to leave a comment. I know Karen will appreciate the kind remarks. She is a gem, indeed! We are all blessed to have her in our Parkinson’s community.

    • Karen Bryson on August 22, 2018 at 10:00 am
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    My goodness, what heartwarming, flattering comments have been made by so many. I am truly humbled and appreciative for each and every one of you. Thank you for showing love for me and for my passion. I am so pleased my artwork has touched so many. Thank you for the motivation to continue to paint. I love you all!

    • Anne Barcus on January 10, 2019 at 12:57 pm
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    Karen is one of God’s best blessing in my life. We met on a Parkinson’s blog and she immediately became a source of inspiration and strength. “ Kanaka Wai Wai” hangs outside my door in the Assisted Living facility in Farmington Arkansas. Thank you Karen for letting God use you to bring healing!

    1. Hi Anne, She has had that effect on me as well. I found Karen and her incredible art in some creative PD support groups. I knew instantly that I wanted to interview Karen and showcase her talent. How wonderful you have Kanaka Wai Wai outside your door where others can enjoy it, too. I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to write.

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