Painting Watamu: Finding Inspiration in Paradise

  • 03 May 2015

Karen Laurence-Rowe at Work

Karen Laurence-Rowe is one of the world's best known African Wildlife artists, and she has a home in Watamu where she finds natural inspiration. She says "As an artist, Watamu  hits all those little artistic 'spots' -  bursting with colour, light, textures, subject matter - you name it, you'll find it!"

Karen was born and raised in East Africa. Her family lived a nomadic existence spending much of their time in some of East Africa's most beautiful and unspoiled landscapes – teaming with wildlife and dramatic scenery. She says "The beauty of Africa is ingrained in my blood – I love its untamed and often harsh beauty – its unpredictability. Africa is changing so fast – we are losing so much, I feel compelled to get it down – now – before it is lost forever." She has devoted her artistic career to wild Africa and in  2012, Karen won the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards held at the Mall Galleries in London. She was winner of the Endangered Species category and voted overall winner of this prestigious annual event.

Watamu Beach

Karen is also inspired by the seascapes and life of the East African coastline, from seagoing dhows to villages and deserted stretches of beach. As she explains "Whilst the bustling life and colour along the roads is fascinating to see, it's the nature that draws me in". She has a home in Watamu, where she has created some incredible works of art. She says " To paint the coastline, your paint palette will need to include the full range of blues -  indigo to the lightest aqua.  They bounce off the palest of gold  beaches and are capped by the lights and darks of an ever changing sky.  Cruise round into Mida Creek and you'll need to add to that palette, the yellow,red and golden tones hidden in the green of the mangroves - unnoticed from a distance, but totally beautiful if you venture close.  

Pillar Tomb- Gedi

I love too, the mystery of Gedi Ruins quietly surprising you as they emerge from the abundant wet season foliage.   Come the dry season when the trees and plants thin out,  the ruins seem to claim their place in history as they stand whispering their secrets.  I'm not an architectural painter, but these ruins never cease to fascinate and inspire me.

The Arabuko Sokoke forest, thick with its butterflies and creatures great and small, is still a place not fully explored for me.  But tales of elephants that quietly loom in and out of the trees is another treasure to offer, and an exciting gift for the future... I often imagine what it must have been like early last century - elephants on the beaches... no longer seen, but a vision that needs to be painted!"

Temple Point

It is her concern for the future of wildlife that has led her to work with Artists Against Extinction- a group of artists who are contributing proceeds from sale of their work to conservation. Karen is continuing to capture the beauty of Watamu and has plans to create a new studio at her home. To learn more about Karen and her work visit her website or Facebook page.

If you are an artist or just appreciate the beauty of coastal nature, come and Visit Watamu on your own journey of inspiration.

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