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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!”
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?