In 2020 (The year of staying home), it wasn’t uncommon to hear about someone attempting something new – gardening, or baking, or cross-stitch perhaps. Longtime oil and gas accountant Karen White started painting. Now, 250-plus paintings later, she can’t stop.
“I had never even contemplated painting. I was always good at decorating, and I used to flip houses,” said White, who completely gutted and renovated her 1972 Quail Creek home after purchasing it in 1999. She recalled her first impression when she toured it with a realtor: “The home looked like Austin Powers had lived there,” White said with a laugh. “The great room had purple shag. Every room had shag, really. I bought it immediately. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.”
White completely transformed the home, choosing old-world traditional decor popular at that time. Since then, she has updated her home to have a more modern-traditional mix with an eclectic feel.
Five years ago, White knocked down the wall between the kitchen and living area to create an open floor plan, and painted the walls white to brighten the rooms. Her decorating decisions created the perfect backdrop to display artwork, sculptures, ceramics and other collectibles she and her husband Paul have gathered throughout their travels. Stunning paintings from Ireland, Canada and Italy — among other destinations — grace their walls. Of course, now they hang alongside White’s own works too.
White discovered her passion for painting in early 2020, after attending a wine-and-painting class with girlfriends and local artist Sara Kay Michaels.
“Everyone was trying to emulate what she was doing, and I started doing my own thing,” White said, noting that she signed that first painting “Tutu,” a name her grandchildren call her. “Two weeks later, the pandemic hit and we had to shut down and work from home. I had bought some canvases just to mess with, and I started painting one night. It just got me; I haven’t stopped since.”
White has become a prolific painter, and she continues to sign her artwork “Tutu.” Her style varies greatly in subjects, themes and colors, but all pieces portray positive emotions — she has never painted anything dark.
“It’s just happy art. I’ve been told that by everyone who sees it,” White said. “It’s an extension of my personality. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I’m a happy girl.”
With plenty of “Tutu” artwork to showcase, White has been opening up her Quail Creek home as an art gallery since June 2021; now she hosts art shows about once a quarter. Her next show will be during the Quail Creek Home Tour on May 14.
White’s approach to painting is much like her approach to decorating: full of whimsical notions, lively colors and interesting textures that bring her back to special moments — especially related to travel.
“I cannot walk into a house where everything matches. It makes me crazy. I have to have color and texture and good vibes,” White said. “I feel like our home is a living museum of everything in our life together. The way I decorate is basically around experiences and feelings and memories.”
Art sales and shows the past few years have connected White to many friends, new and old. She’s found a love not only for painting but also for a community that has formed organically around her art.
“Painting is part of my entire life now,” White says. “It has a role in everything I do.”