Observing the paintings of Amy Karnes, several are currently displayed in threes sections in Gallery 101 in Marion, the viewer can see what is important to the artist.
From yards away, the viewer can tell that the paintings depict Kansas — quiet farmhouses in a sea of golden prairie, children playing in fields of wildflowers, rolling plains swathed in purple and red at dusk, and children carrying buckets from a barn, completing their chores.
The images are uniquely Kansas because that is where Karnes painted.
“Most of it is wrapped around growing up in Marion County,” Karnes said. “I’ve lived outside of Marion all my life.”
Marion is home for the daughter of Charles and Annora Goering. Living with her large family — six brothers and sisters, in the country inspired her work.
“A lot of it goes back to my roots,” Karnes said.
She graduated from Marion High School in 2004. She studied art at Pensacola Christian College under Brian Jeckel; she received her master’s degree from the school in 2008. While Pensacola is her home, very few images of Florida appear in her art.
On a second look at Karnes’ paintings, the viewer sees moments of familial interaction frozen on the canvas.
One has a mother picking flowers for her 4-year-old daughter in a field of green. Another has two young brothers chuckling as they give a baby goat a bottle.
Family is an essential value for Karnes; many of her models are brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Karnes’ sister Annie and her daughter were the inspiration for the mother-daughter scene, “Summer Discoveries.”
The children featured in many of her paintings are nieces and nephews.
Karnes said she would not be an artist if not for the support her family, especially her parents. Besides being willing models, Charles and Annora fostered a love of art by taking Karnes to galleries. They also kept the dream of an artistic profession alive by paying the bills for college.
Karnes has been married two and half years to Nathan Karnes, originally of Sauk Center, Minn. They met at Pensacola Christian.
“He’s my biggest fan,” Karnes said.
She paints full-time and travels with Nathan on his truck-driving route across the country. They plan to stop and pitch her artwork at galleries in Wyoming and throughout the western U.S.
Home and family are values to Karnes as a person; a closer look at the paintings reveals what is important to Karnes as an artist.
Many times, she chooses an image or idea because it will be difficult to paint.
She has an impeccable ability to show the emotion and grace of a single moment in a painting. “Dainty Hospitality,” a depiction of a young girl sitting at a tea table feeding an infant doll, exemplifies this skill.
Karnes developed this talent by painting with people live in front of her, instead of with photographs.
“That’s the way you’re supposed to paint,” Gallery 101 owner Jan Davis said.
Often painting outside, Karnes uses changing light, shown with strokes of white added to the blonde hair of model.
“It keeps the brain active,” Karnes said of the changing conditions involved in outdoor painting.
She will make exceptions to painting live for children, using a multitude of photographs instead. Karnes is drawn to children because their softer facial features make them more difficult to paint accurately.
Karnes is dedicated to realism in her art. All of the people in her paintings are depicted as life-like and vibrant as Karnes could achieve. However, Karnes is increasingly becoming impressionistic with the backgrounds. In one instance, she muddled a wheat field into a fuzzy blur of gold, brown, and orange.
Davis, who was Karnes teacher in elementary school, said she believes her former student will keep heading in an impressionistic direction. She also believes Karnes, only in her mid-20s, will only expand her present talent.
While her artwork is already showcased in prestigious American Galleries, Karnes greatest coup of recognition was having a painting featured in “Salon International” Art Magazine.
“Even as an honorable mention, its very difficult to get in that magazine,” Davis said.
“With an open house at Gallery 101 Dec. 11, Karnes enjoyed updating people she had not seen since high school on her current activities.
Constantly moving forward with her art — she said if she does not paint every week she feels rusty — Karnes may have to work harder to look back for inspiration.