In the Studio with Karin Olah

Hey there! We are excited to give you a peek into Charleston-based artist Karin Olah’s studio today. Karin is known for her iconic beach landscapes and abstract mixed media paintings. She uses fabric as a signature collage element in her paintings, while also incorporating acrylics, gouache, pastels and aqua crayons. Enamored with quilts from her childhood in Lancaster County, PA, fabric became the inspiration and creative portal to her work. 

“I love working with textiles – both the process of hand-dying my custom colors and selecting from vintage textiles. One of my favorite fabrics to use is seersucker – it’s southern, it’s preppy, it represents summer, and the stripes create movement in the composition.”

When we asked Karin what a typical day looks like for her, she said her family is usually up before the sun { even though Karin herself is not a morning person! }. After her 2 daughters head off to elementary school, she starts her day with exercise – yoga or barre and then a long walk with their labradoodle, Joby. They listen to the birds and stop to smell the flowers, which helps Karin get into a positive mindset for work.

“My commute is 14 steps from the back door to my studio cottage. I have a routine: start painting, layer fabric, cup of tea, check email/social media, and repeat. Once a month, I dye a batch of white fabric with specific colors for a commission or whatever colors are turning me at that time.”

It’s paintbrushes down and full-on Mom mode when her girls return from school at 2:30. If she’s lucky enough to have childcare, she’ll work until dinner or even bedtime. Karin listens to dance music and stays on her feet most of the day; she exclaims that, “Working in the studio is my favorite thing to do and so a 12 hour day, for me, is a great day.”

“Often an idea comes to me in my dreams. I have wonderfully vivid and color-drenched dreams. I’ll sit up in bed to sketch out the composition while the memory is still fresh. Then, in my studio, I’ll winkle together a sort-of vision board of photographs I’ve taken, magazine inspiration, interior designer flat-lays, and images of my previous paintings. I draw the composition on the canvas in pastel or pencil. Next, I paint the boldest color / the main theme of the painting. With slight variations of that same color, I brush on layers of transparent acrylic glaze or scribble with aqua-crayons and pastels. In my process, there is a bit of subtraction, too. I remove paint and sand the canvas to reveal layers and history. Then, I arrange fabric and begin the tricky and time-consuming process of adhering the fabric with an archival rice starch. Suddenly, the texture factor comes together with the painted composition. I work on 4 – 6 pieces simultaneously which gives the collection a cohesive look and allows for drying time between the layers.”


thursday, june 13th :: 5-7 pm

Join us for a hands-on workshop event to celebrate the release of new paintings by artist Karin Olah. Click below to snag your seat while they last!

>> $95 <<

In this class, we’ll use the landscape as our jumping off place to create a painting with fabric. Karin will guide attendees through a playful process to envision a landscape and create a work of art to keep. Whether working from a recollection of a favorite place, a dreamscape, or from a photo, we let intuition take over. Attendees may bring fabric bits that remind them of a warm memory (a cutting from a family member’s clothing, a wedding dress hem, grandmother’s curtains, or that awesome fabric you fell in love with at a store and never figured out how to use it). No experience in painting or quilting is needed – this class is fun and easy for all! 

Karin’s new collection of abstracts that will be released at the workshop is somewhat introspective. She has looked back at her personal favorite paintings from the last decade and reinvented them. By zooming in on areas and creating larger geometric fields, this new collection focuses on the intersection of 2 or 3 blocks of color… like she’s obsessing with only one patch on a whole quilt. But by giving all of her attention to that one patch, she’s exclaiming how important the relationship of those colors are together. Vibrant with soft, neon and subdued, saturated color with peaceful moments. Life is more interesting with contrast!