DiscoverAustin Art TalkEpisode 75: Karen Offutt
Episode 75: Karen Offutt

Episode 75: Karen Offutt

Update: 2019-11-10


“My goal has always been to make a painting breathe with realism, but when you get up to it you can really see the brush quality. That is what I’ve always been drawn to when I look at work. That has been my obsession since I was very young.”

Karen Offutt is a figurative realist painter and one of the founders of Austin’s own Atelier Dojo, a professional arts academy offering classes, workshops with visiting artists, open studio sessions, and a new intensive study program starting next year. After growing up with a love of drawing and art, it took Karen quite a lot of searching to find the instruction and community she desired. After many years of serious study which eventually led to teaching others painting, she has made a respected name for herself in the realism community and also through the growth and reputation of the school she started with fellow painters, Jennifer Balkan and Denise Fulton. We talk about her practice, about the school, and what she has learned in all of her different roles including motherhood, and how her work continues to evolve.

Wallflower ‐ Oil ‐ Panel ‐ 24 x 20

Bio courtesy of Karen's website.

Karen Offutt was born and raised in Dallas, Texas by a creative family who encouraged her to explore her artistic talent from an early age. Her father was an artist and her mother is a designer and owner of a needlepoint company. Throughout her formative years, Karen excelled in art classes and participated in several art exhibits. As a young adult she sought a more serious outlet for her talent. Not finding the ultimate education for the type of realism she sought, Karen found art related jobs to keep her motivated. Learning to paint with oils was her goal and found that opportunity Austin Fine Arts Classes where she learned a more classical approach. From there, she attended workshops from nationally re-nowned artists and from there began to find her own path in her creative journey.

From her studio in Austin, Karen approaches her paintings with an atmospheric sensitivity combining shape, tone line, and color. The inspiration of her preferred subject matter comes ultimately from the figure. "I have always loved painting people whether in natural surroundings or in a more staged setting." “As and artist, I am very aware of my environment which invites me to be a constant observer. I see potential in everything and my emotional reaction guides me to the specific inspiration. There are different aspects to my painting, for example technical skill, creative freedom and emotional truth. My goal is to create work that guides all these elements in a direction that moves me."

Offspring ‐ Oil ‐ Panel ‐ 30 x 20

Atelier Dojo

916 Springdale Road

Building 2, Suite 106B

Austin, TX 78702

(512) 220-1058

Some of the subjects we discuss:

When we met

Type of painting

Less is more


How you feel

Many layers

This moved me

That’s really me

Model Meeghan

Wallflower painting

It doesn’t end

Capturing a moment

Liking your old work

Striving to improve

Evolving the work

Drawing growing up

The right brain

Modern art influence

Austin Fine Art Classes

Jennifer Balkan

Painting community

Idea for Atelier Dojo


Taking a break

Personal aspects/People

Painting sons

Working with models

Building a composition

It’s all a blur at first

Teaching painting

Encouraging students

You have to want it

Guiding students

Fear and pressure

Piecing together skills

Realism vs. Modern

Connecting to now

Having the skill


Favorite things

Selling work

The business side

Austin/Atelier Dojo

Foundational skills

Dojo Academy

Classic structure

How to get started

Expanded world

EAST events

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Intro music generously provided by Stan Killian

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Episode 75: Karen Offutt

Episode 75: Karen Offutt

Scott David Gordon