Karen Kristin, the development of my painting

I have worked as an artist all my life. Throughout most of my artistic career I’ve focused on nature, especially the sky, as either subject or background for symbolic or mystical paintings. For a decade, while I lived and worked in Hollywood in the 70’s and 80’s, my sky paintings provided temporary backdrops for television and magazine commercials, films, and rock videos.

After I left the Los Angeles area in 1988, I formed my business, SKY ART Karen Kristin, Inc, and switched to a more enduring art form — wall and ceiling murals. During this phase, the large-scale sky murals I produced provided backgrounds to enhance the architectural spaces in restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and casinos. Highlights of these years were the many trips to Las Vegas and other US cities for shopping mall and casino projects, to India to paint skies on the walls and ceilings of temples and museums, to Macao for the biggest sky painting in the world (252,000 sq. ft. at the Venetian Resort and Casino), and to Japan for sky painting in exclusive residences featuring state of the art décor and entertainment systems. I like knowing that murals such as these will be viewed by millions of people for years to come.

During the decades I’ve traveled to create large-scale murals, I’ve continued painting on canvas in my studio. Some of these works present the sky as the subject while others combine sky imagery with visual “languages” derived from the universal symbol systems of sacred geometry, Taoism, astrology, the Tarot, and Native American culture. My intention when I paint the sky is most often to provide the viewer with a background of calm and beauty against which meditation and insight can occur.

Over the past ten years, I have revisited landscape painting using oils, a process I left behind in my late teens when I discovered the mutable and mobile nature of the acrylic medium. The Southwestern environment, wherein I now reside, no doubt inspires this return to a broader portrayal of nature. These days, not only do I set off to local spots to paint direct from nature in the Plein Air style, I also incorporate varied impressions of nature and symbolism into my studio paintings. I have explored the way in which we humans attribute and compare our own strivings to the rest of the animal world. How we see animals beyond their physical forms — as totems, as lovers, as searchers, and as guides — has captured my interest and creative energy.

Now I find myself ready to return to the sky as sole subject matter, intending a deepening exploration of it’s many moods through color and stroke.


The Color Blue by Karen Kristin

What does the color blue mean to me?

As kids, my sister was blue, while I was pink. Secretly, I didn’t like pink and always wanted to be red or blue. Later on in life I settled for red – then orange – then purple. In fact, my first large-scale sky backdrop (34’ x 120’), painted in 1978 at a film stage in Hollywood, was a vivid sunset in tones of red, orange, and purple.

Curious about the symbolic meaning of color, I researched the topic to find that the passion of red best fit my personality at the time, while blue — associated with words like spirituality, harmony, tranquility, depth, and sky – reflected the aspirations of my inner self. Little did I know then where blue would take me.

After that first big sunset sky, and over the next ten years, the paintings I made as backdrops on huge sound stages in Hollywood explored all the colors to be found in a sky pallet. It wasn’t until I left Hollywood in 1989 for a new life in the Southwest, and a career as the traveling Sky Lady, that blue began to dominate. For the next 27 years almost all skies were variations of blue, because as a “permanent” sky, everyone wanted the peace of blue. There was happy blue, deep space blue, soft sunset blue, stormy blue, tropical blue, cloudy blue, misty blue, starry night blue, baby blue, and Japan blue.

High above the floor, just under vast ceiling surfaces, spraying variations of blue, I fell into blue. Here at last I found my meditation. Time lost meaning – I was at one with my inner sky, and discovered that it’s blue on blue.

Article written by Karen Kristin, Published in The Free Press.

Karen Kristin was born and grew up in Los Angeles, California, the youngest of four children in a musical family. She knew from the start that she wanted to be a visual artist. Always a dreamer, she spent hours lying on the ground looking up at the sky imagining animals in the changing shapes of the clouds above, sculpting the flower beds into a mini environment for her ranch set toys, or lodged in a corner of the house making drawings and paintings.

Karen has lived her entire life as an artist — drawing, painting, and making sculpture. She was formally educated in California at Art Center College of Design and at UCLA, yet feels that her most influential training has come from life experience.

In 1978, Karen began working in Hollywood as a scenic artist, painting backdrops for film and television; within 10 years she developed her reputation as “The Sky Lady.”

Upon leaving Hollywood to live in Northern New Mexico in 1988, she switched from backdrop painting to mural painting and established SKY ART Karen Kristin, Inc. For her company’s first big project, she stepped into the arena of the casino industry in Las Vegas to paint the overhead skies (92,000 square feet of them!) at The Forum Shops at Caesars.

This project led to many more of similar size and scope, and in 1998, she was offered another high profile opportunity in Las Vegas at The Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes. There, she and her SKY ART team designed and painted 105,000 feet of skies over buildings and canals designed to replicate Saint Mark’s Square and other Venice street scenes.

Upon completion of the Venetian murals, Karen journeyed to China and Tibet to be renewed by the spiritual, high mountain environment. In years since, sky painting has taken her to South Africa and India to provide murals for museums and temples.

In 2007, after hundreds of sky painting projects, Karen and the SKY ART team took on the most challenging project in her company’s history. They traveled to Asia to live and work for nine months while painting 252,000 square feet of sky ceilings over the shopping mall and canals at The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel.

Karen Kristin has been widely recognized for her work and honored by several organizations.

Throughout her traveling years painting large-scale sky murals, Karen continued to paint on canvas in her studio. Much of the work from these years presents the sky as the singular subject. With these paintings, her intention is most often to provide the viewer with a background of calm and beauty against which meditation and insight can occur. Other pieces present the sky in combination with symbolic or mystical imagery; these are meant to evoke emotional response and are more challenging to the viewer.

After 30 intense years of large-scale sky painting, Karen now plans to concentrate on smaller and more personal creative projects. She intends to return to an exploration in paint of all the elements of nature – fire, earth, air, and water, and of the creatures that inhabit these realms.