Karen Calden Fulk







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"There's only 2 ways to live your life. 
One, as if nothing is a miracle, and two, as if everything is a miracle." 
 Albert Einstein.

     I have to admit, I don't think I had much to do with the way my life has gone, & as I look back, it seems orchestrated from the gitgo. I was taught from my youth that God  is aware of our every thought and all we do (and will hold us accountable), yet as a good Father, He let's us go on our own journey to learn the right paths and the wrong paths.  I learned eventually that "man devises his own way, but the LORD directs his steps."  I could say I wasted a lot of time, but good ol' Bob Dylan has saved me many times.  He said, There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all", so eventhough we are allowed to stumble because of whatever selfish reason we've done something for, it can be used for our growth into maturity if we bother to pay attention.  Wisdom eventually brought me to what Bob Dylan also said,  "I don't wanna learn what I gotta unlearn."  So many "truths" but what was "The Truth"?  Finding that Jesus "is" the Truth (and the Way) has opened the trap door of finite understanding for me.  Now I  feel I've escaped out of the cage of my own reasoning and carnal gratification  into the Infinite.  I no longer believe in "relative truth."  But how does this relate to art?
The Artist vs The Illustrator:
     Some scientists today say the origin of the universe was an explosion of energy and matter into total chaos from the Big Bang, which then "organized itself" into galaxies and solar systems, which are constantly evolving and devolving.  Life on our planet, they say (taking a big jump), originally came from chaotic chemicals in the primordial soup which somehow organzed themselves into simple cells, which, in the chaos, somehow multiplied and changed and evolved for billions of years until man finally "appeared" out of the chain of evolution (to obviously reorganize the planet back to total chaos). 
    Well, how does the artist's job, and the illustrator's job compare to this?  The way I see it, the illustrator takes a multitude of ideas (chaos) and simplifies them into an illustration that hopefully says it all.  Alot of my work is illustrative in this way.  But the "narrative" Artist is one who can take a simple point and delve into it until they find, like the scientist with the microscope, that the single cell is actually very complex!  They  can open up a subject to all it's meanings.   Some like instant gratification, some like deep contemplation.  Now, as a CARICATURE artist, I sometimes have the tendency to push the point ...would that then be satire?   The choices are unlimited, the joy is in the journey.  The creative process is the joy of the artist.  And as a Christian, the joy of knowing the Lord is my strength, as I journey through my life on this glorious planet understanding that everything that is happening was foretold in The Book of books. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly.  Where do I fit in personally is my quest, and I believe it's the very mystery implanted in all of our souls.
     My love affair with drawing began at a very early age, in the late 40's, thanks to my Mom and Dad who illustrated the ABC's for me and put it in my very own book. I grew up with Disney, of course, and later with Norman Rockwell's covers on Post magazine, but it was only by Providence (& my Spanish teacher's mercy) that I was admitted into the University of California at Davis, where I had the great privilege of learning how to draw & paint from Wayne Thiebaud, who along with my ceramics teacher, Robert Arneson, I took classes from all four years during 1961-1965. Both of their art has influenced my own in very deep ways, and in 1970 a portrait I did of Wayne Thiebaud won a Purchase Award from the Sacramento Regional Arts Council at the Festival of the Arts, and hung in Sacramento City Hall for a year. This portrait was drawn in all of Thiebaud's colors, but the final looked like a black & white photo. I thought the idea was unique, and prayed for it to be mine until I had the opportunity to develop it.That opportunity came 20 years later, after raising 3 kids, having a life-changing spiritual experience,  and moving to the country where we could build my studio.

     Actually, my fine art endeavors started off rather well after graduation from U.C. Davis with a show at the Artist's Contemporary Gallery (The Last Show, July 1967); 2nd place in Graphics at the State Fair and a promising involvement with the Davis Art Center, but with marriage and a move to Sacramento, then kids and church, I put my art on the back burner. Finally, in 1986, I was bursting at the seams to get back to serious painting, and found a mentor in William Boddy, who was starting the Sacramento Regional Illustrator's Guild at the same time. I was asked to be a Charter Member, and learned how to be professional through the Guild's guidance.

      But, I'm ahead of myself. The summer after graduation, I drove a friend to Pasadena and naively decided to go to Disney Studios looking for a job while I was in the area. As Providence would have it, Disney Studios didn't need me, but they just happened to have an opening in Tomorrowland drawing "Pastel Profiles"!  That was the beginning of a now 41 year career drawing caricatures for fun and profit. To make a good thing even better, the very first Sunday I went to church in Wheatland, I was introduced to Frank "Pancho" Willmarth, a famous Brown Derby Caricature artist from the 30's & 40's. "Pancho" took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of entertaining at parties & Corporate events with my gift. We joined the fledgling National Caricaturist's Network, which is now a worldwide network that includes many famous Caricature artists. My favorite caricarture subject over the years has been Sourdough Slim, for whom I did his "Yodelling Cowboy" CD cover. What a face.  I've also been commissioned to draw Jack Nicolson, Jerry Reynolds, Wes Craven, and Tim Burton, among others.
    But, meanwhile, back at the ranch, in my new studio, I painted two big B&W portraits after the style of the Thiebaud portrait, and I was debuted in the Introductions Show, at the Matrix Gallery in 1990, and mentioned in Victoria Dalkey's art column in the Sacramento Bee, as someone worth seeing.  Right after that, I miraculously garnered representation at the coveted Michael Himovitz Gallery, where I just walked in off the street to show him my portfolio. I started my series of "Nostalgia" paintings with Michael's direction. The painting "The Eyes Have It" was Art Pick of the Week in the Sacramento News & Review for the group show "Just Looking:  Viewing the Photograph." 
    In 1991, the juror for the Arts & Flowers Show in Yuba City gave me Best of Show and said this about my work: "Karen Calden Fulk captures Americana at it's best; using her astounding technical ability, she depicts a sense of humor through nostalgia.  Her playful subject matters express the naivety of America to which we are all emphatic.  The photorealistic qualities of her work express the simple, every day, recognizable subjects and give the viewer a taste of the era and golden dreams of America."  That was pretty nice to have.  
     The "Nostalgia:  It's worth going back for" series lasted the whole decade of the 90's and brought me some cool press, but my favorite coup was having my name in lights at the Grand Opening of the renovated Tower Theater Gallery in Roseville in 1997.
     1997 was also a memorable year for me at the California State Fair.  Not only did my painting "Random Mutations, 25 cents" (unabashedly influenced by Thiebaud's gumball machine, Robert Arneson's satirical outlook on the going Gestalt, and the start of more narrative painting) win the "Spirit of California Award",  I was also interviewed by Channel 31 for the "Remembering Elvis" Show & had my Elvis painting "Wanted:  Dead or Alive" on tv &  in the Sacramento Bee's Encore Magazine.
     Here's another coup: I forgot to mention that during the year 1970, my husband and I made "custom leather clothes" for a hippie clothing store in Sacramento called "Our Side, Inc."  Soon after I became a Christian though, in 1972, I decided I didn't want to dress up people's egos anymore, and wouldn't you know, the drummer from Sly & The Family Stone called me to make him a leather suit!   My claim to fame. I of course didn't do it, & I think God honored that. When a pair of leather pants I made came back to me years later, I decided to donate them to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art after seeing their collection of Era Art for the 20th century. They not only accepted my "Psychedelic Leather Pants" for their permanent collection, they put them in a show called "Far Out: Bay Area Design from 1968-1973" in November 1999. To top it off, they used the pants on all their promo for the show, which included Janis Joplin's porsche painted by David Richards; Peter Coyote's leather moccasins; & Wavy Gravy's famous patchwork jumpsuit. They also put them in a beautiful little coffee table book they published called "City By The Bay: San Francisco in Art and Literature."  I'm across the page from a quote from Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool Aid Acid Test". Whoda thunk it? Also in the book are Ansel Adams, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, Richard Diebenkorn, Jack Kerouac, Dorothea Lange, Jack London, John Steinbeck, Robert Louis Stevenson, Amy Tan, Wayne Thiebaud, and Mark Twain! Such company I never expected to be amongst. Laugh? I thought I'd die. I told them I didn't even live in San Francisco, but since I was born there, they said it was ok. 

   Current Show:  "Art Exists Here" @ PATRIS S 12 GALLERY, 1200 S Street, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814.  Through December 2010.  Second Saturday Receptions Nov. 13th & Dec. 11.  4-10pm.

Thank you,
Karen Calden Fulk