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Karen Powell: An Artist from Birth

New Anderson Artists Guild member was an artist from her birth outside Chicago, her interest only intensifying as her family moved to Ohio and then Pennsylvania for her dad’s work turning around failing companies. In eighth grade, her entry in a school art show was rejected because no one believed she had actually created it herself.

But when she enrolled as an art major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, one class stopped her: nude painting. “I would go up to the door, but I could not go into the class,” she said, adding that she had no problem painting nudes later in life. So she switched to interior design and business.

After graduation, she worked as a sales representative, including 20 years selling office products for Associated Business (now Ricoh). She was so good at her job—one of the company’s top salespeople nationally—that she could play hooky on Tuesdays with an all-day painting group. “In those days, we had beepers, and they didn’t bother me as long as my numbers were good,” she said.

Once she started her family, adopting two children and fostering others, she founded a mural business that allowed her a flexible schedule. She had two crews, one that did faux painting and the other that created murals for schools, restaurants, and children’s bedrooms. The inspiration for the business came from seeing murals in neighbors’ homes during a visit to her sister in Tennessee. Back home, she placed an ad in a direct mail value pack, landing a couple of customers. “Then it took off,” she said.

She had the mural business for about 20 years before she and her husband decided to retire to a lake community in Westminster. They moved in September after a drive through the area convinced them that this was the place.

These days, Powell focuses on oil painting, including commissions such as pet portraits. “I love oil,” she said. “I like the thickness and the feel you can get.” Her subjects are often nature and wildlife. “I like to be outside in the woods,” she said though she also paints weekly with a group at the Blue Ridge Arts Center. Her style is usually labeled as impressionistic.

For more information about Powell, visit


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