Cerulean blue, yellow-pepper yellow, and glowing-coral red bounce and catch the eye in the living kaleidoscope that is Karen Stanton’s studio in Piedmont. Surrounded by a joyful abundance of materials, a collage in process depicts a curly-haired dog looking earnestly at the viewer, seemingly unaware of the jaunty pom-pom topped party hat he is wearing and certainly oblivious to the artists’ clever irony of framing his likeness with bits of newspaper from yesteryear.
To visit Stanton’s studio is to be invited into a world of playfulness, productivity, and possibility; a place that is a few steps out of the everyday world yet never untethered from a sense of thoughtfulness and care about the people outside.
Having mastered the principles of design to the point of putting them to unconscious use, Stanton is able to toss her full creative imagination into her prolific art practice; whimsical themed alphabets, three-dimensional wooden sculptures, and an array of colorful prints line her studio. Piedmonters will certainly be familiar with the stunning jewel-toned posters Stanton created each year for the Bird House Gala, a school arts fundraising event that she founded when her four children were students in Piedmont schools. But her art work has done far more than create a pleasing event notice. Stanton’s collaboration with artist and teacher Raul Jorcino led to the formation of the annual Chalk Art Festival, an event on the Beach Elementary playground that now connects the community with the International Chalk4Peace Festival.
True to the influence of Christopher Alexander, an admired professor at UC Berkeley, where Stanton earned her Masters of Architecture, Stanton’s aim is to encourage and support those around her, particularly women and children. Stanton hosts periodic collage-making sessions in her spacious ground floor work space for groups of women, and whether experienced artists or complete beginners, all benefit from the atmosphere of freedom and play that Stanton creates.
With a deep concern for children’s lives, Stanton has consistently been generous with her time and talent in the school environment. For over a decade Piedmont students have brought home self-portraits and the capacity for self expression imparted by Stanton. Recently, Stanton shared this gift with eager Oakland fifth graders who worked in fascinated absorption to create works of art using their own names.
Back in her studio, Stanton’s loyal muse and companion, a tennis ball-loving terrier named Javi keeps track of break time, ensuring that Stanton’s busy schedule includes plenty of time to play catch. Stanton has many balls in the air between writing and illustrating children’s books, collaborating on school banners, creating original artwork, and even remodeling a building in Valencia, Spain. Yet Stanton’s enviable capacity is built on a solid framework of lifelong learning including languages, art, and to her everlasting satisfaction, a mastery of the math required while earning her architecture degree.
Stanton likes to remind her students, whether 5 or 55 years old, that it’s okay to make mistakes while you’re learning. In fact, it’s important to practice making mistakes. The most important question to ask as you are learning is: What will I find out?
Learn more about Stanton’s work and travels here.
Stanton is represented by Panorama Gallery and Framing at 3350 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA.
Stanton’s published books are:
Mr. K. and Yudi
Monday Wednesday and Every Other Weekend
Papi’s Gift, illustrated by Rene King Moreno
10 Things to Love About Piedmont (a collaboration with Raul Jorcino)