Karen Cornell is a painter and printmaker who has lived and worked in the Seattle area since 2004. She received her MFA in painting in 1998 from California College of the Arts in Oakland.

Her work is comprised of paintings on paper, panel and canvas, and monotype collages. Two distinct painting processes—one spontaneous and quick the other meditative and slow—complement each another and result in a varied body of work.


Color is key to her work and her means of entering each piece. Movement and connection is found through the painting process and working between pieces. The paintings and monotype collages use quilt-like modular arrangements and compositional space as the common thread between processes.

Paintings on Paper
Her paintings on paper start out as quick studies, with spontaneous layers of color applied in various ways: brush, roller, and transfer. Paint is then squeegied off and lines drawn into it. Then, adding layers and painting over areas, editing, experimenting with quick, gestural marks, she paints on the floor (instead of walls) until the paintings are resolved. They are then arranged in series to be hung together and continue the dialogue that has been created between them.

In her large, wall-sized works paintings are pinned to the wall in a quilt-like fashion. Historically quilts were utilitarian and created through a communal process. The Gee’s Bend quilts sewn from old sharecropper clothing are now considered art, and the San Francisco AIDS Memorial Quilt helped a community and nation heal from loss. Cornell thinks of her painted and printed quilts as healing quilts as well, giving voice to places or things in our natural environment, or our internal environment, that are suffering and need attention and focus to bring them back into balance.

Paintings on Panel
In contrast to her layered work, Cornell’s paintings on panel are more simplified compositions of color, line and form, realized through a meditative, slower process that is focused and decisive. A quilt-like space may show up in the painting composition or by hanging multiple pieces in a quilt-like grid.

Monotype Collage
Spontaneous, colorful monotypes (one of a kind prints) are created and then cut and pieced together. Lines suggesting individual fibers or strings interweave the blocks of color and texture together, along with whimsical shapes that refer back to Matisse’s cutouts.

Nature has always influenced her work. When living in urban areas she sought out sacred spaces in nature to nurture her soul and artwork. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the natural world—the water, trees, plants, and the distinct seasons-—has appeared in her work, abstracted, like a concentrated seed of some deeper consciousness trying to break through.