Karen Brungardt: Aiming for the wow factor
Karen Brungardt grew up in the Midwest and doodled as a child, but didn’t take her first art class until she was a senior in high school. That interest led to a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania but few marketable skills. She moved to Fort Collins, Colorado and went to work as a secretary. After a while someone suggested that she could become an insurance adjuster since she had a college education. This led to a move to Kansas City, Missouri.
All the while she continued to dabble with art — mostly oil painting, etchings and pencil drawing. Not yet finding her calling, Brungardt, now married, went back to school for a Master of Fine Art degree. After a year in that program she decided that she wanted to become a physician. More schooling and, in 1985, Brungardt completed her studies to become an osteopathic physician. The Brungardts then relocated to Torrington, Wyoming, where she practiced family medicine for 16 years.
While there, she started taking watercolor classes at the local community college. “They were much quicker with my limited time off and I fell in love with the medium. It’s fascinating — so flexible in how you can manipulate it. I’ll never be a master. A change in the humidity level can change how the paint behaves,” she explained. “But I hope to continue to improve. I’m a competitive person and am always looking to create a wow factor with my work. I want to catch a person’s eye and keep their interest. I want my painting to speak to that person’s soul.”
In 2002 the Brungardts moved to SaddleBrooke, saying goodbye to cold Wyoming winters. A fellow resident introduced Brungardt to SaddleBrooke’s Fine Arts Guild and she’s been involved since then. “I’ve taken classes and taught a few, too. It also provides a venue to show my work — both in the galleries here and in the Guild’s art shows,” she noted. “Getting your work out there helps you improve. I mostly paint for fun, but it’s nice to sell something or to get a commission.”
Brungardt’s advice to beginner and budding artists is to “plunge in and get your feet wet. Take a beginner’s class in a medium you’d like to try. If you like it, you can build from there. If not, try another medium. Once you decide you want to continue, then you can develop your drawing skills and build on the fundamentals.”
“I’m always trying to think of new things and new ways to paint,” Brungardt said. “Colors and shadows intrigue me. Shadows help define shape and color. They can flow around objects. Animals and landscapes are some of my favorite subjects. I do mostly representational work—with some fun stuff thrown in. I work from photos and references, but I don’t want my paintings to look like a photograph. I’m aiming for fun, bold and exciting.” Her current explorations include three dimensional assemblages in watercolor where certain features are built up from the background.