Karen Blair Though her degree was in fine arts, Blair’s route to becoming a professional artist was circuitous; she did not take up painting until about 10 years ago when her youngest children—twins—were in fourth grade. Her star has been on the rise ever since, and she has had shows in Richmond and Charlottesville galleries. Her work has also been acquired by a number of corporate collections, including Phillip Morris USA, Capital One, Couric Clinical Cancer Center, UVA Hospital and The Jefferson Hotel.

Blair devotes herself now almost entirely to her art, painting landscapes (rural scenes, gardens, cityscapes), interiors and still lifes. In addition, she also does portrait commissions. “Painting is my life,” she says. “It’s a compulsion. Being in the studio settles me; I am at peace with the world and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” Blair, a native of Winston-Salem who has lived in Crozet since 2010, works five days per week for six to eight hours each day: “I have to be disciplined,” she explains, “in order to stay focused and get the work done.”

While Blair’s work is representational, it has a strong abstract quality. This is evident in the ways she applies paint, building up her surfaces with ornate chunk-like daubs, jagged brushstrokes or flat expanses of color. Blair is drawn both to what she paints and the paint itself. This duality ensures there’s a constant tension between realism and abstraction in her work that keeps it fresh and interesting.

In Blair’s hands, color also veers away from doctrinaire representation to become an expressive tool not constrained by the rules of nature. Her gaudy flowers, over-the-top green meadows and azure skies are more intense versions of their real-life counterparts and also encapsulate the joie de vivre that these particular things possess and inspire.

Blair tells me that writer Annie Dillard’s famous quote, “As we live our days, so we live our lives” expresses her attitude toward work and the spirituality of her daily devotions. As she toils each day in her studio, she produces paintings that reflect the wonder with which she views the world.

From “Practice Makes Perfect” by Sarah Sargent

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  • Blair Summer Grasses 43x43 oil on canvas