New paintings by Karen Robben, along with her writing and description of the work.

Break Down

I recently finished this painting. It is a scene I captured out in the wheat field observing this crew harvesting this field. As Philip Pearlstein in his figurative paintings would do, I expressed the stress and tension in the body movements of these three men trying to replace a rod in the header of the combine that was sitting there idling as they were trying to get the task done so the combine would be moving again. The older gentlemen has his shoulders raised higher, and the man in the white uniform is bracing his one foot against the foot of the man in the middle whose body is leaning aggressively into the combine. The motion of these three figures expresses the theme in this painting.

This 20″x 24 ” in size with out a frame but it will have a frame on it. The medium is acrylic.

I think this painting is leading me further into experimenting with over-life sized portrait compositions in their own psychological stance.

Rusted Bolt

machinery, farm, memories, nostalgiaI was using tissue paper, folded over newspaper, and a brown paper bag. I was working on changing the surface of the canvas by cutting, folding, and ripping the papers. This was how I interpreted the ground area underneath the “Rusted Bolt.” I used layers of acrylic paint to show the corroded edges of the bolt that was laying on top of some old metal parts. There were rust orange color tones with brown and deep blue in the parts. Grass was growing up between the old parts. This composition is 3’x 4′ in size.



Late for Dinner

labor, work, farm, portraiture, portrait, harvest, tractor, machinery, farmer, wifeI was fascinated with British and American Grand Manner Portraiture of the 1700s at the time I did this painting. This was portraiture done at full-length and in life-size that included settings that conveyed the dignified status of the person.

Here you see my mother-in-law who is standing on a pile of stone posts looking out at a nearby field. In this field, my husband is under the combine repairing a mechanical problem and my father-in-law is waiting anxiously. This is a 3’ x 4’ canvas and she is life-size.

My mother-in-law had dinner ready and they were late. This is why it is titled “Late for Dinner.”

I was in the field with the men when they had a breakdown earlier in the day and I shot photos. I was in the farmyard and watched my mother-in-law climb up on these rocks. When they finally showed up for dinner, she found out they had another breakdown.

Dormant to Harvest

snow, wheat, field, machinery, combine, tractor, winter, farm

This is two scenes painted on one 18” x 36” canvas depicting the stages of growing wheat. The left side shows a scene from just north of McPherson, Kansas with the wheat lying dormant under a blanket of snow and an idle irrigation system. The right is a scene from my brother-in-law’s wheat field. I followed this cutting screw from one field to another.

I was fascinated with the play of light from very bright to dark because of the curves and sharp edges of the machinery. I used color schemes of blue-green and red and green to capture this lighting.