417 Home: You have a diverse background in the arts. How did you develop such a wide skill set?
Karen W. Schneider: [I had the] good fortune to be born into a family with a creative mother and a supportive father in Ashtabula, Ohio. My second home was the Ashtabula Arts Center where I hopscotched from ballet to art, to ceramics, piano, theater—you name it, I did it all. It wasn’t just the classes or the skills that I was learning, it was also the teachers and adults who mentored me along the way that truly shaped my life. My father is a consummate storyteller and my mother was a librarian, so books, reading and libraries were also a very formative aspect of my childhood. Poetry became more important to me in my late 20s when I found myself home mothering three small children.
417 Home: When did you become interested in painting?
K.W.S.: I didn't pick up a brush in earnest until I was 52. In 2006, my mother and I were in Los Angeles at the bedside of my dying cousin. I had previously purchased a small watercolor set while in Florence, Italy, with the intent of giving it to Mother for Christmas, but instead, I brought it with me, and gave it to her in LA. But Mother didn't feel like painting; she handed it back to me and said, ‘You paint,’ so I did. Unwittingly, the endless days of hospital boredom got filled with the gift of my mother teaching me how to paint. The colors helped wash away some of our sadness as I was painting.