Inspired by the colors and light of the Southern coastal landscape, Karin Olah uses fabric, along with gouache and acrylic paint, pencil, and pastel, to create beautiful, multi-layered paintings. Karin’s subject matter ranges from seascape to abstract expressionism to a dreamy place in-between. She hand-dyes cotton, linen, silk, and vintage textiles to create a one-of-a-kind palette of colors.
Born and raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Karin combines her interest in quilt making, a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, a background in fashion design in NYC, and an ever-growing fabric collection to add layers of texture, depth, and color to her work. She is the 2015 recipient of the Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award. Her work has been featured in House & Garden Magazine, Elements of Style Blog, Charleston Magazine, and American Contemporary Art Magazine. Karin’s studio is near the beach in Charleston, South Carolina, where she has nightly dance parties with her two little girls, husband, and an old Labradoodle named Joby.
Fabric has a load of memories that come with it. It’s something we can all connect with. Have you ever starred out of an airplane window and marveled at how the land looked a quilt? From the patchwork of farm divisions to the meandering threads of rivers and roads to the colorful patterns of land and sea. This is why I paste fabric into my paintings. I am interested in finding metaphorical connections between fabric and subject matter.
My process begins with yardage of white fabric. I hand-dye custom colors and have a floor-to-ceiling textile library to choose just the right shades and textures to go into each artwork. I start with an underpainting, adhere textile layers with an archival rice starch, and then paint and draw in details with acrylics, gouache, and pastels. I repeat this collage process for several layers. From a distance, the painting has a depth in color and texture. Up close, you can see that the brushstrokes are fabric.