KAREN STEELE: Artist, Teacher, Graphic Designer

I don’t use brushes. When I'm making art I like to use my fingers. I like to dig in and play with colors and textures, to get up to my elbows in paint, glue, and everything else. That's why mixed media is so freeing for me: there are no rules, no steps to follow. I often work for hours on something only to rip it up, burn it, paint over it, and glue it back together again.

I spend my life collecting scraps and treasures to use in my artwork. I love using fabric, postage stamps, cardboard, ribbons, newspapers, origami paper, old maps, wallpaper, and things ripped out of magazines. One of my favorite things to use are the sleeves that coffee shops wrap around their hot beverages. Every cafe has one with a different texture and I use them in almost all of my collages.

I don't use canvases; I construct my pieces out of watercolor paper and cardboard. Because I am constantly reshaping them as I work, I really don't know what form they'll take until they're done. This makes them a bit challenging to frame, but ultimately it makes them feel more personal and organic.

I get my colors by using a combination of oil pastels, watercolors, crayons, and tempera paints. I love colors so much that I’ve had dreams about them. They excite me more than anything else in this world. Recently the colors that have been appealing to me most have been deep browns, rich purples, vivid yellows, olive greens, and bright oranges.