After relocating to the Winter Garden area for her husband’s work, Karen McGowan knew she needed to bring her art studio with her.
Having previously owned and operated an art studio in Louisiana, McGowan opened her new studio, Creative U, in Winter Garden.
“I knew this was a very family oriented area and knew people from this area,” McGowan said. “It’s such a hometown feel in a metropolis.”
McGowan can’t remember a time when art wasn’t a major part of her life.
“I’ve been doing art my entire life - ever since I could pick up a pencil,” she said.
Having gone to school for art, she studied every kind of medium possible - from metalworking to painting. Now, she primarily creates textured paintings. Her specialties are painting oysters and the sound wave of a heartbeat.
“I do quick drawing things,” she said. “I’m an instant-gratification artist. If I can't start and finish it in the same day, I won’t do it.”
She got her start working with children as a preschool art teacher in Louisiana. But after several years of teaching at a school, she decided to break out on her own. She opened her first art studio in Louisiana that featured art lessons and camps but was also known to host painting parties.
“It’s crazy but fun,” she said of her studio.
After moving to Florida, she began searching for a place to open her studio and found a location off of Stoneybrook West Parkway. The location used to house a gym, but after a few coats of paint on the walls and a few days of moving in her art supplies, the space transformed into a bright, open art studio.
McGowan officially opened her doors four weeks ago and is currently working to fill her summer camps. So far, she said she has received positive feedback from the community.
Because she most often works with children, McGowan created her own two-year curriculum for students taking her classes or participating in camps. Her curriculum is all about learning while having fun, she said.
“It’s about giving students young and old an artistic environment, a creative environment and a bully-free environment where they can be the art weirdos that we all are,” she said.
While she tries to teach her students a variety of mediums, there are always some things that are more popular than others - such as sharpies and paints.
“Everyone loves a canvass,” McGowan said.
Having worked with children for many years, McGowan knows that each child has a unique perspective and artistic flair, and she encourages them to explore their creative side - even if that means painting the sky purple.
“They work in different styles, so I try to help them find what works for them,” she said.
Dozens of paintings hang on the walls of her studio. Each one is an example of what clients can choose to paint during a lesson or party - from religious scenes to animals.
McGowan is the main instructor at the studio, but she has two on-call instructors who can lend a hand if she has a class with more than a dozen students. But she generally tries to keep her classes small, with no more than 30 students in a class.
An added bonus to doing art is the therapeutic benefits it can provide someone, McGowan said.
“It’s such a good therapy,” she said. “I am just an artists, not a therapist, but I know it’s good therapy. That’s why coloring books (with adults) are so big.”
So far, the studio has already gotten more attention from the community than McGowan expected, so she’s hoping her studio will turn into a success.
“This is the perfect place,” McGowan said. “It was my dream spot without me knowing it’s my dream spot.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].