Karen Crocker

Cape Cod Art  /  ART Annual 2021 /

Writer: Elizabeth Shaw

Karen Crocker is a seventh generation Cape Codder. But unlike those who came before her, her family moved out of Centerville—to Osterville! “I am a true blue Cape Codder,” she laughs. “I find a lot of serenity when I get the chance to sit down and paint a landscape or a flower. I get a chance to relax and take a break and play with colors.” A house painter by day, Karen also works directly with homeowners and interior designers to focus on design work, through pillows and a wallpaper line, all hand painted. “I like to do all different things; I have three-dimensional paperwork, wallpaper, furniture painting and more.” But what was originally something Karen did as a change of pace after working manual labor, she found she loved the house painting just as much so she finds ways to balance and enjoy both. 

Hydrangeas • 42″ x 45″ • acrylic on canvas

A glance through Karen’s website, where her work lives now that she no longer runs a physical gallery, shows that despite a variety in subjects and mediums, a simple, calming impression lingers across all her pieces. “I work with a simple color palette, even though when I put my palette together I use all the colors. I like my viewers to only have to see two to three colors maximum, because I like to keep things very serene—I like the complexity to come from over-mixing the colors so that there’s just a slight variation, especially in my landscapes, which I do in oil. All my landscapes are in oil and all my still-lifes are in acrylic,” she explains. “I love doing still lifes. But as a painter, I don’t want to spend a lot of time looking at something. I like to work from my head, and I like to just put the paint on the canvas and see what happens. I’ll take simple subject matters, like pears, and I’ll do all my still-lifes, like florals, in acrylic. I’ll take the pears and just do them in a contemporary way, so there’ll only be pears in the painting.” 

The different mediums for different subjects is a strategic choice on Karen’s part, and aids in the distinct yet familiar feeling that permeates her work. “The acrylic for the still lifes are because I like to work really fast. And I like to be able to put the layers on and mix, then have them dry and mix again and move the paint around. Whereas with the oils, I like them to go a little longer and get a better flow of the paint,” she says. “So when I’m doing the clouds or the ocean, I don’t care about anything else besides how the colors mix together.” 

Sheepdog • 18″ x 24″ • charcoal on paper

Like many artists who find themselves painting the Cape’s landscape again and again, or visitors who come back year after year, Karen feels the pull and inspiration that comes from the land, and sea, around her. “I love the horizon line and I don’t get tired of painting it. I feel as an artist, if you can move forward and you can put a very simple ocean scene on a canvas, it brings it to another level of allowing the viewer to decide for themselves if they’ve been there and how they feel about it. People will look at it and say ‘oh that looks like this beach or that bay.’”

Karen gives a lot of credit to those who might not spend all of their time on the Cape. “I think the summer people and the tourists are a big factor for artists down here. I think people who are traveling to the area often want to bring something home. And they think about art that reminds them of their trip. I think people want to feel a connection to the Cape and they do that through artists.”

You can find more of Karen Crocker’s work online at moth-artdesign.com.

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a former assistant editor, photographer & videographer for Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth spent many summers on the Cape, before she and her family moved down full time in 2016. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island as a double major in Writing & Rhetoric and Film Media, and started at Cape Cod Life the following fall. In her free time, she takes as many pictures of her dog, Watson, as possible, in between beach trips.