Q&A With Artist Karen Cochlovius

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself… where you’re from, what you do?

Karen CochloviusBorn from a German father and British mother, I have always only thought of myself as South African. For twenty years I was an exploration geologist, a rich experience that still gave me quiet time to pursue drawing and writing.

I joined writing workshops and finally got the confidence to start writing my first novel – Desert Varnish – which was published in 2004. Then unexpectedly, I became seriously ill with an undiagnosed disease and I took a few years to recover thanks to an excellent doctor I eventually found here in Cape Town. Once my health returned, my priorities changed. All I wanted to do was paint prolifically. It became more than play, it became a passion. Painting is meditation for me, it’s a time to empty my mind of worries and fill it with line and colour.

Q: How long have you been painting?  Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?

As a child I always attended art classes and took art as a subject at school. But I moved away from it when I had to focus on a science degree and then geology. So I would say I have only been painting for the last ten years. I have been to classes and enjoyed them for a limited time… but ultimately I have learnt I prefer to paint alone. I am influenced by various painters and paintings but have no formal degree in art.

Q: How would you best describe your art style/genre and what is your preferred medium?

My medium is oil on canvas. I would call my paintings unique, vibrant and colourful, often with an undercurrent of adventure. Some are very emotive, others decorative. I don’t really like the word ‘’genre’’, it tends to box creativity. If there is a theme, I would say many of my pictures create a sanctuary, most of them have no people in them and the viewer is often protected by shadow or branches in the foreground so they can observe without interruption. I think quite a bit about composition and line and distort perspective to draw the viewer in.

 Q:  Where do you draw inspiration from when painting?

Often travel, when you come across some unexpected scene that fills me with elation. That is why even though I am African, my paintings can look quite Mediterranean. I am also inspired by my local environment of the Cape Peninsula. Natural elements intrigue me for weeks on end, and I get quite caught up attempting to paint, rain or mist or cloud. Natural elements always call me, trees have great presence to me, as do rocks, mountains and seas. Each painting feels like a story to me… often the name of the painting comes to me first and then I paint that place – often inspired by a real memory and then stretched by emotion and play.

Q:  Do you have a colour that you favour most and why?

Oh that is easy; green. Why I don’t know. Perhaps because it represents plants and nature. But it calms me more than any other colour. Green is lush and abundant, soothing and hopeful.

Q:  Could you share your Secret Indulgence with us?

Travel really and visiting art museums around the world and discovering artists I never knew existed, or re-discovering artist I had heard of but never seen their work personally.  Barcelona was one city that blew my mind – all those Catalonian artists, so famous there, but not necessarily world renowned. When I see art I can relate to, I feel such excitement.

Q:   What is your favourite current décor trend?

Honestly. Can that be called a trend? But surrounding yourself with things you love that have personal meaning makes you a happier person. I have little watercolours from my mother that would never be my personal taste, but because they come from her, I incorporate them into my studio in the best way possible.

But if I need a more grounded designer reply I would use the words ‘’clean space’’. I don’t like clutter. I like big open rooms, with a lot of light and essential furniture.  Millions of tiny little things freak me out. I think better in emptier spaces.

Q:  Tell us five things on your Bucket List…

Two of them are ticked off; walking over a glacier and up onto the lip of a live volcano. So three left;

If I say this without ego, I would like to see one of my art-works unexpectedly in a hotel in a foreign country

I want to see more of the world, preferably with my husband as my travel companion; New Orleans, Chile, Peru, Budapest, Mexico… the list goes on, the more I see the luckier I am.

And I would love to work with elephants. Can I have one? Please. Just a little one.

Q: What do you have on your bedside table at the moment?

A collection of Samuel Beckett’s works, a National Geographic, and a book about the artist Egon Schiele. Oh, and of course, my spectacles, without which the rest is useless.

Q: Where do you exhibit / sell your work?

I sell art-works of my paintings on my website. I have an expert photographer who takes pictures of my paintings in high resolution, prints them out on the high-quality artist canvas, protects it from UV rays, and voilà… it gets couriered to the client in a rolled format which permits them to select a frame of their choice. The customer also has the opportunity to choose the size and amount they want of any art-work. These art-work are so detailed, one cannot detect the difference between it and the original painting.


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