Kari Lehr - Wild Things
Kari Lehr lives and paints in the beautiful Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada. A graduate of the Alberta College of Art (now known as Alberta University of the Arts) she spent 20 years illustrating for various agencies, studios and corporations around North America. Today she pursues her own artistic vision, working primarily in acrylic, often incorporating mixed media.
"I am endlessly fascinated by the textures and layers which are found not only in the landscape, but which comprise our relationships with each other and the mental and physical environment in which we live.
In this frenetic society we live in, I cherish the quiet solitude I often feel in my community which allows room for peaceful contemplation. Through my work, I seek to impart a sense of that stillness which allows us to feel connection to each other and the natural world."
About Kari's Wild Things series:
I have always found comfort in the natural world, including a fascination with wild creatures and spaces. Bears in particular have captured my imagination from childhood, where they were often present in the periphery of my dreams. I feel a connection to bears, and hope that through my paintings, the viewer too will connect to the joyful sense of respect and admiration I feel for them and all things wild.
The following is excerpted from an interview Kari gave to Art Ink Print:
I would say I have two distinct styles. In my figure and landscape work, I usually incorporate finer detail, often with collage elements using a variety of papers. These pieces, especially the figurative work, often illustrate a more personal, narrative theme.
In my Wild Things series of animal portraits, I am freed up to apply a more expressive painterly approach using bold colour and strokes. Sometimes I apply collage to these pieces as well; I have always loved the texture and layering that is used in textile art and found I could satisfy the desire for texture by incorporating collage elements into my pieces.
Pursuing two styles used to confound me, as I'd always heard that artists need to focus on producing a cohesive body of work in one recognizable style, but now I accept them both as expressions and extensions of myself.
I was an illustrator for 20 years, but always harboured a desire to find my own voice without client-driven projects. When I moved away from Calgary to the small community of Crowsnest Pass, I found a community that supported the arts through a local public art gallery. It was through this gallery and community that I became brave enough to put my own work into the public arena. It was initially a difficult transition, in the sense that I kept trying to figure out who I was painting for, having been used to receiving art direction for so long. But soon I was able to let that go and focus on what I wanted to express for myself, and this became the greatest lesson of my early painting career:
Stick to what inspires you, without thinking about who it is for, or who will buy it, and you absolutely will find an audience who responds to your authentic voice.
Even though those early figure works were very personal, I received so much positive feedback and encouragement, including many sales, that I never looked back.
I would say what I say to all artists: stay true to yourself and listen closely to what is whispering in your heart. Follow those doors that open and keep an open mind to the endless possibilities. I couldn't have imagined I would be where I am at now years ago when I was focusing exclusively on figure work. When those bears kept whispering in my ear, I had to sit up and pay attention.
The cultivation of gratitude is a constant in my life. I am so grateful for all the art lovers (some self-proclaimed, and others who have just been awakened to the joys of art) out there who not only connect with and purchase my work, but who take the time to email me or share their thoughts in person. It is encouraging and validating, and keeps me painting; it also proves to me without a doubt, that art is not a luxury, but a vital, nourishing and necessary part of our human experience.