, Muskogee, OK

September 11, 2013

Artist enjoys unpredictability

Some of her best-loved watercolors are ‘happy accidents’

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Accidents happen — and that’s just the way Karrel Stevens likes it.

Some of the Tahlequah artist’s brightest watercolors have come from what she calls “happy accidents.”

“What makes watercolor so lovely is the way you can move the water around on paper,” she said. “You can pick up the paper and let the water run. You get some happy accidents.”

People can see such “accidents,” as well as Stevens’ more intentional “life paintings,” through October at the Muskogee Art Guild, 315 Court St. A public reception for Stevens is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Guild.

Stevens said her “Rainy Day in Rome” is an example of a happy accident. Droplets and swaths of blue suggest rain around Roman domes.

“It just gives it a flowing atmosphere,” she said.

Another work, “Coral Reef,” was inspired after Stevens put Plexiglas on the painting, done on a waterproof paper known as Yupo.

“When I lifted the glass, I got some neat formations to make the coral,” she said.

“Fireworks,” also done on Yupo, got its spark after Stevens spritzed the painting with water.

“These happy accidents can never be repeated,” she said.

The Tulsa native, 66, started painting about 40 years ago, when she was expecting a child. She said she took decorative painting classes and dabbled in oils and acrylics.

She began experimenting with watercolors 20 years ago and found her passion.

“It’s very unpredictable,” Stevens said, explaining that a painting could look different depending on how much water is used and how the pigments are used.

The unpredictability feeds her desire to experiment.

“I’ve just been experimenting with different techniques and different styles of doing things,” she said. “The process is to loosen myself up. I tend to be very detail-oriented and I’ve been experimenting with different techniques and washes (the light first layer of color) to see what the paint does.”

The bold red splashes of “Cockerel” are another example.

“I just started splashing color and I decided to make a rooster out of what I saw on paper,” she said.

The concentration of red led her to make the rooster’s magnificent comb.

“I just added details — the bill, the eye, feathers,” she said.

Muskogee Art Guild Gallery Manager Liz Wells said Stevens offered a class on the color splashing “and we just had a ball. We learned about washes and how to use them.”

Stevens does detail-oriented work.

Her painting, “Security,” is a street scene featuring a little girl cuddling on her grandpa’s lap.

“I was in a restaurant in Estes Park and I saw them outside,” Stevens said, referring to the man and girl. “I snapped a photograph, but they got up and left before I could talk to them. I decided I wanted to paint the scene.”

Stevens said she likes to travel and often uses photographs as references.

“I tend not to limit myself to one subject matter,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is florals, but you can only do so many flowers. I also like seascapes and character paintings.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

If you go

WHAT: Public reception for artist Karrel Stevens.

WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Muskogee Art Guild, 315 Court St.

Meet Karrel Stevens

AGE: 66


EDUCATION: Central High School, Tulsa. Attended Oklahoma City University and the University of Tulsa.

PROFESSION: Watercolor artist.

FAMILY: Husband, Ben Stevens; one daughter and one son.

CHURCH: First United Methodist Church, Tahlequah.

HOBBIES: Reading, travel, painting.