Karen-2The Ojai Studio Artists Second Saturday Tour: Inspired by painting trips to the Santa Paula Airport, Karen Lewis will display her recent work in her Art Barn studio on Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during OSA’s Second Saturday Tour for April. “I now divide my time between plein air painting, studio painting and printmaking,” Lewis says. “I work in oils on a large scale inspired by airplanes, faces, places and things.” The tour is free and self guided. Karen’s Art Barn is at 515 Foothill Rd. in Ojai’s Arbolada neighborhood.

October 2019: The Ojai Studio Artists Annual Tour. Join Karen in her studio for this annual October event, which this year at the Art Barn will feature ‘plein aire’ California landscapes, images of local produce, and hand-pulled prints, along with more group scenes from her 1980s New York City period when she was a member of SoHo’s pioneering Pindar Gallery. 515 Foothill Road in Ojai.

“FACE TO FACE,” Aug. 24 to Oct. 15, 2018, Hillcrest Center for the Arts, 403 W. Hillcrest Dr., Thousand Oaks, Calif. Group show sponsored by the Arts Council of the Conejo Valley. Karen’s contributions included oversized canvases from small photos of large groups. “I love how enlarging the photos reveals the personalities of the people and the changing group dynamics between the figures, especially in the ‘Rhinebeck Airshow’ series,’ ” Karen said.


Though primarily a studio painter, Karen paints her landscapes in oils and on location at the beaches, mountains, and backyard gardens of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. She often sets out to paint a “view” — only to arrive home with a still-life painting of blooming artichokes or Matilija Poppies, even leaves among the grass. She’s been known, too, to “borrow” baskets full of ripe pomegranates from friendly backyards.

Visual Harvest: Paintings and Prints – August 2012,  Ojai Art Center

Whether her subject is a person or a pomegranate, Karen K. Lewis creates vividly realized images on an epic scale, covering large canvases with bold, sweeping brush strokes saturated with rich, ripe colors. She reveals the sculptural grandeur in a pile of patio chairs; the pathos in a menagerie of abandoned dolls; the playground politics that animate a gaggle of young ballerinas jostling for position. In August 2012, Karen celebrated her 80th birthday with month-long show at the Art Center, featuring a collection of oil paintings, etchings and monoprints drawn from five different decades of her career – including the current one.

Born in Los Angeles, Karen studied art at Choinard and UCLA before heading east to Washington, D.C., and later to New York, where she earned her MFA at Lehman College and exhibited regularly at the Pindar Gallery in SoHo, epicenter of New York’s art scene in the 1970s and ’80s. By 1990, she had returned to the West Coast and put down roots in Ojai, where she joined the Ojai Studio Artists and exhibited annually on their Studio Tour. In June 2012, she was a Focus on the Masters honoree in Ventura.

Karen’s Art Center show included some of the large, expressionistic paintings that have comprised her signature style over the years. But the show also featured a bounteous harvest of recently painted miniatures of vegetables plucked from the Ojai Farmer’s Market. “I am drawn to the sculptural qualities of summer squash,” Karen says. “Vegetables are a wonderful point of departure for messing around with shape and color.”

The show also included “The Red Hat Mamas,” a photo-expressionist group portrait of Karen’s college friends from the ’50s, who still reunite annually. One of the faces is Karen’s own, a self-portrait at 80 as she contemplates the choices ahead. “I feel like I’m at the fork in the road,” she says. Some artists at 80 are mounting retrospectives and putting away their brushes, but Karen Lewis is getting ready for the next phase, whatever it turns out to be. She plans to follow Yogi Berra’s advice: When you come to a fork in the road, take it. “That’s kind of where I am right now,” Karen says. “I feel that there are choices out there, and I’d better take one.”