Finding Focus in the Calm Places

It was January of 2011 and I was struggling with where I wanted to take my art and my art career. I had been making Judaic artwork using some powerful graphic synthesizer programs. The goal was to print images to silk to make prayer shawls. The technology was new and expensive, and over the course of a year and a half, I found the whole process too frustrating to continue.


So now I find myself lost and unfocused. I am at the end of that journey. I’m out of a job, a job that I invented. I feel betrayed by the very thing that feeds my soul and gives me great comfort. For many months, I tinkered with various software programs looking for something new to do. I revisited prior projects to see if new insight would advance them to the front.


Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Erythrina On Fire."
Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Erythrina On Fire.”

One day, I made the inspirational leap to use photographs with the math-based software that landed me in a place where I was able to regain my focus. So much so, that I have been concentrating on this series for almost six years, creating more than one hundred, forty pieces.

In the artwork Erythrina On Fire, I have constructed a large swath of smooth cream color against the very busy orange structure of the reflected flower. You can see in the animation of the piece how I altered the colors to give the viewer a place to rest comfortably in a calm place amid the surrounding chaos.



Cochlear Calla Lily Spin

It has long been a goal of mine to make my artworks move. I get a chance to go deeper into the trance-inducing nature of my kaleidoscopes. I also have the opportunity to show the audience how my work is constructed.

Cochlear Calla Lily is constructed in very few parts. I was taken by the simplicity in form of the subject blossom and wanted to reflect that feeling in the work. There is a simple background layer and a central hub. There is a large wreath-like motif and four corner doodads.

Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for Cochlear Calla Lily

The most complex part of the piece is that main motif—a twelve-layered repetition of a single image. When I give my artwork movement, I can show how these distorted and reflected calla blossom dances into place around the wheel.


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Hidden Jewels

I live in the lovely bedroom community of Altadena, California. We are nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Pasadena (think Rose Bowl/Parade). The area used to be fruit orchards, mainly citrus. But many other fruits were grown and hybridized here at the turn of the last century. In 1908, the land I live on was subdivided into the Historic Highlands Tract and sold as housing plots. The area now hosts many Craftsman houses, one of which I am fortunate to live in.

When we moved in, the yard was a mess. There were still several large citrus trees, many varieties left over from the orchard’s glory days. In addition, we inherited a most magnificent pomegranate tree. We didn’t know how special it was at first because it was so overgrown. When we cleaned up the brush and gave our trees a good pruning, we discovered the most amazing gnarled trunk imaginable.

My wonderful old pomegranate tree.
My wonderful old pomegranate tree.

Concentrating on the outward appearance of things can shield us from hidden beauty inside. This once ugly treasure of a tree is now in full fruit. We share the harvest with our friends, as well as assorted squirrels and insects.

Adorn Your World With Pomegranate

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Gaze Into The Crystal

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what is in the future. But the world out there is looking a little bit scary. I open up my computer and am bombarded with news of a world gone crazy—politics, gun violence, climate issues, terrorism, race, greed, corruption and more. My Facebook feed will give me nice things to look at, even beyond cute kitten videos and baby’s first steps, but I still have to wade through the muck of frightening stories. The internet is a hard place to find peace.

Animation showing the base image and layers of Magnolia Focus

I create art on my computer. Each of my pieces represents hours spent in competition with Tweets and updates and news. My calendar reminds me to make blog posts (like this one). Banners flash across my screen letting me know I have a new communication. The whole world screams for my attention.

It takes steely self-control to actually make my art. But once I begin, once I have really dived into the crystal display, magic happens. The lights blinking for my attention melt away. I find total focus. Hours go by without me even thinking once about the latest poll numbers. Amid the noisy outside world, I am able to channel inner calm and create with abandon. I am transported into a state of total focus, of joyous celebration in the act of creating.

So now, you are reading this on your device desktop. I am begging to be the distraction in a small slice of your day. The irony is not lost on me. But it is my dearest hope that you find my artwork and animations more peaceful than the news and more relevant than puppies in flower pots.

Magnolia Focus_merch

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Summer’s winding down with “Twig.”

Summer’s winding down with “Twig.”


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Pop Goes the Fuchsia

How exciting when the fuchsias began to bloom. Wild vivid colors. Crazy fairy skirts with spindly legs. And they POP! Yep. The waxy outer layers of the fuchsia bud holds a pillow of air to protect the delicate ruffles inside. When gently squeezed, the buds will pop. You can hear it.

Animation showing the base image and layers of Fuchsia Enfolding.

Timing is key. If I let the buds sit too long, the outer skin will have thinned and there will be no pop, only a sad split. Even worse, sometimes the shell will tear. But a successful pop is to be savored. There is a tiny startle at the burst, a satisfying tactile sensation along with the perfect popping sound.

If I reflect on why I enjoy this so much I am taken back to my five-year-old self, totally involved in the simple joy of completely enjoying the sensations of playing with a flower.  I am reminded to take the time to reconnect with that innocence. I get near this boundless joy when I explore and exploit the inner workings of nature in my kaleidoscopic artworks.

Pop. Pop. POP!

Fuchsia Enfolding Merch
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Yummy Vegetables

It’s been a little over half a year since I have started eating only plant based foods. Yes, that means I’m vegan. Most of my meals now start with fresh vegetables. So these pea pods were probably about to be be combined with some mushrooms for a tasty stir fry.

Base image for Sliced Pea Pods
Base image for Sliced Pea Pods

Look carefully and you will see my favorite santoku knife in the upper right corner. These snap peas were too beautiful to just eat, I wanted to make them into art too. So before they made it into the pan, they made it into my camera. Of course, from there, I spun them kaleidoscopically!

Sliced Pea Pod_animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

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Naming A Piece

In the Court of the Crimson Queen

When I go to a gallery or museum, I first scan the piece for its visual impact. I might look at composition and color or acknowledge the artist’s cleverness. I then go in close to look at the details and technique. And before I take a step back to review and enjoy the art, I will glance at the title. This can give me an additional glimpse into the artist’s thoughts and expand my understanding of the work. In some cases, the title is the only thing remaining in an artwork, as in Lawrence Weiner’s 1969 conceptual piece A wall pitted by a single air rifle shot.

In The Court Of The Crimson Queen art & base
In The Court Of The Crimson Queen art & base

I find that naming art draws upon my creativity just as much as making it. I want to give my viewers a hint to what they are looking at. In most cases, I will use the botanical or common name of the plant that is my subject matter. But rather than leaving it at an identification, I try to spice it up with a bit of wit. This piece could have easily been titled Pink Rose No. 1; that would help people look for things like rose petals and structure. But using the title In the Court of the Crimson Queen adds even another dimension.

King and the Color Crimson
King and the Color Crimson

The title of this artwork is taken from the seminal Progressive Rock number “In the Court of the Crimson King” (King Crimson)—with a gender change. The piece was not created with that in mind. While working with this rose image, I found shapes that reminded me of very feminine slippers and of a fierce guard, maybe from the palace. Without the yellow dot embellishment, this piece is almost monochromatic in the red and pink area. I’m thinking that the word “red” isn’t very feminine or fierce. A quick trip to the Thesaurus gives me “Crimson.” The regal slippers and royal guard say “Queen.” A quick flash to my rock-n-roll past gets me to my very clever title!

Crimson Queen merchandise
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