Karen Usborne is a London based contemporary artist and an author born in 1941 in America. She is the daughter of Wodehouse scholar Richard Usborne. She was greatly influenced by abstract expressionism which originated in the USA, particularly in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. During the time when this style was in the hype, she did not expose herself to be one of them. She still considered herself as a minority. Despite this, she was watching these artists showcase their identities with their own styles in abstract expressionism.
Long before, she had always been an admirer of Pablo Picasso. He was one of the established abstract expressionist artists famous for body action style. She tried to imitate his art and style. However, she failed to emulate the same output as Picasso. Even then, she did not stop admiring works that belong to this movement. Later on, she adapted her own style in abstract expressionism, which is, playing with contrasts and portraying her visions.
Karen Usborne did not become an abstract expressionist immediately. Considering herself as a minority in this style in art, she explored different art styles. The exploration of Karen Usborne with abstract expressionism happened recently. In her ripe age, nobody ordered her to do anything anymore. In effect, she had more time to do anything she wanted. It was during this time that she enjoyed making art deeply as she played with contrasts, and involved her visions in her art. She took pleasure in playing with sight, light and perspectives. She probed into the deeper context of things, infusing concepts of light and distance in her works.
Abstract expressionism has interested her in the past although it was only recently that she became entirely abstract. In her words she resisted it “while it was in vogue” since she enjoys “being in the minority”. Now in her 70s, the artist’s passion for art has not died out. In her words she has begun “these paintings this year in a fit of energy” and continues to create more artwork in her unique style. Her art represents her love of contrast and playing with vision. She believes that artistic expression transcends our sensory awareness.
She was educated at Cranborne Chase sister school of Bryanston and studied Art and History at Oxford in London. She was first distinguished as one of the Bloomsbury artists when she partnered with Mel Calman, who later became her second husband. Mel Calman was a British cartoonist for several known establishments such as Daily Express, Sunday Times, The Times, The Observer, and The Sunday Telegraph. Karen Usborne worked with Mel Calman for Sunday Times. Later on, together they established The Workshop Gallery in Lambs Conduit St in London, where they sold a both rough and finished art work. In the 80’s she exhibited at the Royal Academy and her work is held in collections all over the world.
Art for Karen Usborne has always been a part of her. She started painting even at an early age. She began drawing as soon as she knew how to hold a crayon. During that time, she was suffering from dyslexia. While she had difficulty in reading letters and distinguishing their sounds, she enjoyed figures and drawings. It was the start of her becoming an artist. In the early years of Karen Usborne as an artist, she used to accept works ordered to her by several clients. During the time when she had exceptional energy, she explored several forms of arts. She became an author and wrote several books. She was also a known author and illustrator of several children’s books, magazines, and publications. In addition to her artwork, in 1985 she published the best seller My Passport to France. Elizabeth is another one of her literary works. She is best known as a children’s author and has illustrated a range of magazines and publications.
Karen Usborne identifies herself now as an abstract expressionist. Her arts are reflections of her sensory awareness. She believes that the decisions of man are interior and mostly beyond awareness. She refers to this unconscious part as Freud would call it. She delves into these aspects, and looks beyond the surface. While she still values the aesthetics of art, she is more concerned of the deeper aspects. For her, creating paintings involves the play of color, line and space. “I hugely enjoy making arts whatever the subject matter is. Most often, there is no subject matter in them”.