We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Hochman Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karen, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?

There is an old family story that when I was a baby, my brother could only color when I was napping because I would eat the crayons. From the very start, I wanted to ingest the colors. It was my grandmother who saw my talent as a visual artist. She nurtured that talent by providing me with museum visits and art classes. She taught me to sew and knit. Starting in sixth grade, I discovered a love of mathematics, which reached a peak with high school geometry. And while I didn’t end up pursuing numbers, that love of a patterned and orderly world has been a part of my artistic endeavors as an adult.

My work in graduate school (Art Education) took shape as a curriculum I called “Geom-Art-Ry”, geared toward junior high school students constructing the five Plutonic solids using only a compass and ruler. We then used assorted art materials to embellish the flat designs before cutting and gluing them into 3D form. Teaching, though, wasn’t for me.

After grad school, I married my college sweetie and raised a family. While pregnant with my first child, I translated my affinity for mathematics into a lifelong collaboration of my art with computers and the various software that would shape my practice. I bought the first Macintosh computer as soon as I could get my hands on one. Even with the very rudimentary MacPaint program, I could see the possibilities in the visual language of point and click computing.

Over the years, I took continuing education to learn about early versions of Adobe Illustrator, PageMaker (now InDesign) and Photoshop. With this knowledge, and a lot of self-teaching, I launched a desktop publishing business where I created newsletters, fliers, and posters for organizations I was a part of, mainly the kids’ schools and our synagogue. As a sideline, I had a small business making dress-up items for kids and funky hats for all ages.

Around the year 1999, several things happened that advanced my artwork beyond graphic design. First, and maybe most important to my venturing into the world of being an Artist, was my kids were now in high school and I found myself with more time to create artwork for its own sake. Secondly, technology was becoming more affordable. I bought a digital camera, which allowed me to directly import photographs into my computing. And then I found modular graphic-synthesizer software that shaped the direction of my work going forward.

Synthetik Studio Artist gave me the ability to create virtual paintbrushes that interact with information provided by a source image. I can even use this process with video input. U&I Software’s ArtMatic Designer gave me the tools to distort and reflect my photographs to fabricate layers for my kaleidoscopic mandala work. My creative explorations in this field have also led to projects involving prints on fabric married to laser-cut wood elements, as well as purely digital forays based in line, shape, and movement. I have recently begun experimenting with resin as a way to bring my 2D work into the third dimension.

Playing in the digital realm and experimenting with textures and media fill me with joy and purpose. In a world of increasing digital over-stimulation, I enjoy the irony of using the computer not to succumb to the frenzied demands for my attention, but instead as a tool to create peaceful, focused, and beautiful artwork.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I find it hard to categorize my practice as I venture into so many different areas of computer-based art. In my main body of work to date, I’m not sure if I’m a photographer who manipulates on the computer or if I’m a computer artist who uses my photography as a basis for the work.

For the last ten years, I have been translating nature, mainly flowers, through this digital lens. My personal meditations take you inside a world of balance, patterns, and visual trickery. Many versions of a distorted and reflected image are woven together to create precise visual symphonies in the form of multi-layered mandalas. Each piece holds a unique energy tied strongly to subject. Right now, I am adding cloud imagery and taking the work from being in the round to bilateral reflections in a more landscape-like presentation.

I have another form I work in that I call Art + Tech. I am still using a reference photograph or pattern, but here, the work stops looking like photography and more like painting. I use graphic synthesizer software to create custom virtual-paintbrushes. I adjust settings of endless parameters that react to a visual reference. Virtual brushstrokes are applied one by one based on information from the photograph, such as shape, color, orientation, and luminance. In this process, I’m not limited to using photographs for reference and can venture into a world of totally algorithmic creations. Results can mimic natural painting styles or come off as purely graphic. This work also lends itself to animations where the painting process is applied to hundreds of frames to become time-based living artworks.

It hasn’t always been easy to find an audience for digital art. I have so many people who look at my kaleidoscopic work and then pull out their phone to show me the things they have done with an app. While I am very generous with my comments, inwardly I am thinking how very different and more complex my work is compared to things created from an app. I think there is a misconception that digital art is instant and easy. Each of my mandalas represent days and weeks of tinkering to attain the balance and energy I feel is necessary to call a piece finished.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m quite the homebody and rarely like to venture onto the LA freeways. So if a friend is visiting from out of town, I think we would visit museums and botanic gardens near my Altadena home. There are three spectacular botanic gardens within a ten-mile radius:  Los Angeles County Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, and Huntington Gardens. Each of these places brings a different esthetic, with the bonus that each have art galleries as part of their offerings. We could also go to the Norton Simon and the Pacific Asia museums. As plant-based vegans, my husband and I prepare most of our meals at home, so a visit to the Saturday farmers market would be on the itinerary. As a splurge for a visiting guest, we might go to Sage Bistro or Real Food Daily for a special meal. But mainly, I think we would spend time in my spacious back yard and catch up with each other.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Without the support of my husband I couldn’t devote the time necessary to develop and create art. So my first shoutout is to Neil Brown, I love you so. Guiding my art career and helping me find a community is Kristine Schomaker and her team at Shoebox PR. In the three years I have been in her orbit, my work has gone from being exhibited in coffee shops to museum exhibitions. Through her programing, my connections into the Los Angeles art world have grown exponentially.

Website: https://www.hochmanbrown.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hochmanbrown/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenhochmanbrown/
Twitter: Twitter https://twitter.com/HochmanBrown/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenHochmanBrownArtist/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/KarenHochmanBrown
Other: https://www.vimeo.com/hochmanbrown/

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