Karen Vance hails from a family rich in art. She was born into the sixth generation of fine artists. As a child, in her suburban Chicago home, Sunday afternoons were reserved as "family time." Of her family, Vance said: "My father, David Swartwout, an accomplished painter and sculptor, would give my sisters and me art lessons how to draw a tree in our backyard or draw boats in the water at Belmont Harbor. Or on a rainy Sunday, we would often spend an afternoon at the Art Institute learning from The Masters. In our modest home, art was paramount. We had only original art hanging on our walls; I grew up knowing good artI was surrounded by it," says Vance.
Vance's fine art studies include art and graphics at Northern Illinois University, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Classical Painting at the Village Art Academy in Skokie, Illinois. She has studied under the direction of Burton Silverman, Win Jones, Phil Austin, Michael Lynch, David Leffel, William Reese, Quang Ho, Clyde Aspevig, and the Plein Air Painters of America. Vance is a member of the Art Student's League of Denver and is a graduate of Quang Ho's Professional Studies Class. "Art is a verb," says Vance. It is a continual growing and learning experience." She teaches both watercolor and oil painting workshops in Winter Park, and at various locations around the country.
Vance's landscapes have adorned the Winter Park Ski Posters for the past six years, the 1994 and 1995 Winter Park Music Festival Prints, the Bach, Beethoven and Breckenridge Music Festival Print, and the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre ltd. ed. print. A total of 21 prints have been published from her paintings.
She has had several one-woman shows and is a favorite at the national C.M. Russell Auction and Show, and the Rocky Mountain PBS Anniversary Collection. She was a "Guest Artist" for the Plein Air Painters of America Annual Show and Gala on Catalina Island in 1999 and was invited back for the year 2000.
Her paintings depict the elements of the American West and Colorado, her home of eighteen years. However, "the painting beyond the subject, the dialogue between the visual elements, and the often elusive third level of fine art" is her true quest.