Meet an Innovative Artist: Kara Young

Kara Young makes delicate, intricate pieces that reflect her passion for nature. Here, she outlines her transition to making fine art, and what creative growth looks like.

Artist Kara Young in her studio.
Artist Kara Young in her studio.

Tell us how you got started as an artist.

After years of working as a clothing designer, feeling like an artist but not really feeling satisfied, wanting to be a real “fine artist,” and living with my partner Wolfgang Gersch (a professional artist and muralist from Berlin), inspired my desire. With his encouragement and support. I looked around for an apprenticeship to change my direction.

After searching out a number of possibilities in San Francisco, I chose Leo Hobica. He is a mixed media / handmade paper artist and I loved his work. We worked together for 1 1/2 years. During this time, he encouraged me to create my “ true“ fine art–what was truly my own artwork that would satisfy the deepest part of my soul. I learned so much about integration, refinement, composition and the art of mixing mediums!

After these 1 1/2 years I launched out on my own and started doing shows such as the American Art & Crafts Council Shows, which are wholesale and retail. I was discovered by a number of galleries across the country, one of which I still work with, “Taos Blue Gallery“ in Taos, New Mexico. Sue Westerbrook the owner and I have worked together for over 23 years.

What’s the best thing about creating art work on commission?

The best thing about creating artwork on commission is the chance to create larger works than I normally do. The challenge is to stretch myself creatively and to resolve the technical issues which helps me to expand the process of how I create my art. I feel fulfilled after the completion and these challenges make me grow creatively each time.

A mixed-media piece by Young.
A mixed-media piece by Young.

What do you love best about the medium/media you work in?

My work is mixed media and I love this art form. It affords so many creative opportunities and directions. There is no end to what can be created. My work is very mixed media.

I create the panels for my work out of handmade paper that is poured and dried to 1” – 1.5” thickness. It is very strong and very lightweight.

The materials I use on the surface of the paper panels consists of pigmented joint compound, cement, copper leaf, fired and patinaed copper, acrylic paints, beeswax, and dry colored pigments. This technique is called encaustic.

I love to make different textures and crack surfaces, which I explore and refine. The encaustic technique and beeswax deepens the richness of the colors. The fired copper pieces which I burn in a wood burning stove become the jewels of my work. They create the personality of each piece and are the signature of my artwork. They draw the viewer deeper inside the work! I love the fired copper because of its unpredictability when I am firing it. Each piece is completely unique and alive and has gone through the fire of transformation itself.

What is your greatest source of inspiration for your work?

The greatest source of inspiration for my work is clearly nature and the visual effects it creates. Visiting ancient ruins, colorful rock canyons, searching for petroglyphs and aged cracked walls and doors in beautiful old cities such as San Miguel de Allende, are my source of inspiration. My work is about witnessing how this passing of time affects the appearance of surfaces in the world around us and I express this artistically in contemporary ways.