Sophisticated Chaos

“Wye Mills” (watercolor, 20 x 28 in.)

“I refer to my work as ‘sophisticated chaos,’ where a structured drawing gives way to an expressive painting, resulting in a beautiful mess,” says Ken Karlic. “Drawn to scenes of complex forms, I find beauty in the streets, scaffolding, and grit of everyday life. I strive to express how something feels rather than simply how it looks, and to capture the physicality of a subject with bold brushwork and rich textures. My paintings have a basis in the representational, but often dissolve into varying levels of abstraction.

“Restoration” (watercolor, 20 x 24 in.)

“For me, watercolor is an invitation to experiment. I enjoy the quality of pigments and how they behave, but I love when I can encourage them to misbehave, embracing how they fall apart — beautifully and often with granulating effects — to create textures unachievable by any other means or media. I mix directly on the paper, and allow the paint to drip, run, and splatter as it will. My approach is as much a part of the work as the subject is, with marks, scratches, drips, and splatters all creating a physical presence in the final piece.

“Regular or Unleaded” (watercolor, 14 x 28 in.)

“I paint quickly and loosely, looking to achieve as much action and color variety on the paper as I can. More is more — and for me it’s watercolor that makes that possible. I wet areas, scrub them out, add and subtract, create and destroy, and repeat over and over, modifying the whole time. My painting method — and the end result — can be incredibly frenzied and frenetic.”

“Passenger Service” (watercolor, 20 x 24 in.)

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PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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