WORDS Alyson Sheldrake
Quiet, reserved, and shy of crowds to the point of being slightly antisocial, local artist Karen Wride dividest ime between her home in Monchique and her studio/gallery in Guia, where she teaches oil painting four mornings a week to budding artists.
Occasionally you’ll see her out and about with her easel, furiously daubing on paint, trying to capture ‘the light’ before it disappears (and the scene that grabbed her attention flattens out).
With a background in graphic design, creating packaging and brochures for well-known brands in the high-end design houses of London, Karen has a good eye for composition and visual storytelling. Her classical/impressionist style is full of atmosphere and drama, drawing the viewer in as a willing participant in her snapshots of time.
She initially studied fine art at Swansea Art College back in 1982. However, fears of not being able to make a decent enough living from such a niche market prompted her to change her course to advertising and design at Bournemouth & Poole College of Art. This was in an age where computers were futuristic technology and ‘visualisers’ were employed to hand draw ideas for client approval. There followed two decades of frenetic career advancement where Karen’s drawing skills needed to be quick and accurate, whipping up storyboards and mock-ups to tight deadlines. Then along came the Apple Macintosh and desktop publishing programmes with pre-designed templates that prompted the user to ‘drag and drop.’
So, after deciding she wanted a calmer life for herself and her two daughters, she left the UK behind and moved initially to Spain and then to Portugal, where she has been for the last 15 years. It’s no surprise that both girls, having grown up surrounded by sketchbooks and paint tubes, have become professional artists themselves, exhibiting throughout Europe and gaining a large following on Instagram.
The years of rapid-fire design demands from diverse corporations have left its legacy, as Karen’s colourful and eclectic pieces in her gallery attest. A painting of semi-abstract, three-dimensional blue iridescent flowers sits on an easel next to mystic and moody street scenes and seascapes that appear to glow with light. Her crowd scenes are so real without being photographic, that they make you feel almost voyeuristic. Her portraits sizzle with life, the occupants silently contemplating you, the viewer.
It is said that only men suffer from colour blindness and that some women see extra colours. I think this is true of Karen. How else would she explain the glowing jewels of paint she incorporates into her collection of works?
Karen’s workshop/gallery is called First Class Art and can be found on the old road out of Guia towards Albufeira. Prices range from 100€ to 2000€. Her opening times are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.