“And Then I Got Back Into What I Really Liked...”

By Cindy Reed | September 20th, 2016

Internationally known Boomer artist Karen Latham reveals how her dreams to become a professional artist became a reality.

Flight By Karen Latham Image

Karen Latham is an amazing, talented artist. Her wildlife paintings are mesmerizing…one feels as though they’ve stumbled upon a rare moment and is instantly sharing it with the subject they’re viewing in her painting.

Face to face and a breath apart from a buffalo… finding fawns secretly hidden in the woods… watching a Canadian goose glide through the rippling water.

Karen paints and exhibits with her two daughters Rebecca and Bonnie. The award-winning Lathams are internationally recognized for their realistic expression of wildlife with fine detail in their paintings of animals, birds and nature.  It is as if one can reach into the painting and pet the animal’s fur.

The three-artist family has raised thousands of dollars for wildlife and conservation through their artwork.

Karen’s accolades are extensive. She is associated with many art and miniature societies in Australia, Canada, England, Europe, Italy and the United States, to name a few. She’s a member of Marwell International Wildlife Art Society (England/ UK/ Europe), The Wildlife Art Society International (England/ UK/ Australia/ Italy/ Europe), a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists (USA / New York), among others.

But this Boomer artist actually began her professional journey in the medical field.

An interview with Karen reveals how her dream of becoming a professional artist became a reality.

You began working in a field other than art?

Yes, I got a Biology degree, and I worked in the medical field.

I got really discouraged from doing art. When I was young the teachers thought I was doing a good job in art, so I got a special job doing art for the class.

But science was big back then.

So I got my Biology degree and went into medical technology.

How did you find a way back to your love of art?

Our family moved to Hastings, Minnesota in the 1980’s. I juggled a lot…we homeschooled, family activities, and I worked different shifts at the hospital. There wasn’t much time for me to do art. In 1985 we decided I’d leave my job at the hospital.

I began to paint more, and I taught art to our homeschool group. At first I was self-taught. I expanded as each opportunity was presented.

And then I got back into what I really liked.

I found a lady who taught classes out of her house. She lived across the river in Wisconsin and I took art classes from her and learned everything I could.

I did my first workshop with Daniel Greene. I had to go to Minneapolis. Somebody I knew couldn’t go… he said I could pay the balance on the class and take his place. So I did that, and that got me started with people that I liked. (Notation: Mr. Greene is considered the foremost pastelist in the United States. He presented a pastel portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1994.)

Then I did some wildlife art with people like (wildlife artists) Carl Brenders and Robert Bateman. That got me into the realm I wanted.

So it started to come together for you… art classes, wildlife, living in an area where you’re surrounded by wildlife.

Yes. As Boomers, if there’s something we want to do, we can do it.

Rebecca and Bonnie really got into art when they were young. They even started taking classes with me when they got old enough. Art is a way of life…a natural. I just made it happen the best way I could with the opportunities I had… embraced it, and went for it.

We started our own art gallery in 1994 and had that for five years. We taught classes and put our artwork up there. We were invited to exhibit at a wildlife expo show. We thought it was a stretch but decided to try it. We closed the gallery for that week and went. Our art sold like crazy! We had always looked at the magazines and thought ‘we’re not good enough yet’…‘we’re not ready’… but they loved it! Rebecca won the miniature part of the show.

From there, we went to more art shows…Jackson Hole, Wyoming… New Jersey…Lakeland, Florida. We stretched out a little bit more. Then we were exhibiting full time.

That’s how we got started full time…we got out and did it. That was about 2001. Our paintings are now carried in select galleries across the country.

You travel and take your own photos for your paintings, where do you go to get them?

It’s actually a family thing. Everything we do is tied into our artwork…every vacation ties in with what we do. We love getting out there with the animals and their habitats. We take the pictures ourselves…together. And then we paint them here, together…and we go out and show, together.

We travel from Florida to California to Canada. Yosemite, big cat refuges, raptor facilities, wolf sanctuaries, birding sites and more. Babies only come in spring, swan plumage is best during mating season when they show off, and we take pictures of the wolves when their winter coats are optimal.

We recently returned from a trip to the Raptor Centre in Toronto, Ontario where we experienced hawk walks. They let the hawks loose. They hunt like wolves and they follow you on the trail. They make alert sounds and talk to each other. We got them to land on us on a glove, so we got pictures of the experience of it.

For us, it’s more about the experience and what we felt when we did it…that’s why we do our own photos and try to relay that in our paintings.

I don’t have to retire. I just keep going with it.

You can see the largest selection of Karen Latham and her family’s paintings now at Seaside Art Gallery in the Outer Banks. They will also feature a special Latham Family Art Show this November 2016 at Seaside Art Gallery. It’s one of the largest galleries in the Southeast with 55 years of excellence and reputed customer service.

Seaside Art Gallery is at 2716 South Virginia Dare Trail in Nags Head, N.C. Their toll free number is (800) ­828 -2444.

The gallery has a generous policy of 30­-day refund or 5­-year exchange. They ship anywhere.

  “>Cindy Reed is a freelance copywriter. She writes articles, blogs, online content, websites, and is published in the U.S. and Europe.