Karen Lee Mungarrja: Top-Selling Indigenous Artist & Art Prize Judge

Bluethumb welcomes top-selling Indigenous artist Karen Lee Mungarrja to this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize judging panel. Read on to discover Karen’s key to finding success as an artist and what she considers an award-worthy entry. Don’t miss out on securing your share of $100,000; enter free before September 11.

Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 judge and top-selling Indigenous Artist Karen Lee Mungarrja.

From Singing Teacher to Visual Storyteller

The passion for art has woven its way through Karen Lee’s life from a very early age. She fondly recalls the days when, as a child, she learned the basics of drawing from her aunt, who was a talented watercolour artist herself. Even as she pursued a career as a singing teacher, the yearning to create art simmered quietly in the background.

‘Can You Hear Me Calling’ Songlines by Karen Lee can be purchased online.

In 2016, Karen found herself at a crossroads in her life. She had been studying music, but the demands of a growing family and a business made it practically impossible to attend a physical campus. Fueled by her long-standing love for drawing, she pursued a Fine Arts and Visual Culture degree. The journey to a career in art was not without its challenges, often stretching into late nights of dedicated work.

Reflecting on her artistic evolution, Karen shares, “My art is always evolving as I work at combining an interest in the connection between memory and landscape. Using the research of Aboriginal history and stories from my Elders, I endeavour to create artworks with multi-layered meanings and contemporary stories that can connect with a wider audience.”

Karen Lee

‘Emu In The Sky’ 1 Aboriginal Dreamtime Story by Karen Lee is available online.

A Tapestry of Narratives

Karen Lee’s artistic process begins with a spark of inspiration, often ignited by something visual or a deep emotional connection to a story. “I am continuously inspired by stories from family of their life on the mission,” says Karen. What fuels her creativity, in particular, are the stories intertwined with the memories embedded in the landscape. These narratives come from various sources. Karen says, “Those told to me by Elders, those I have read, and those that I hold are all individually and collectively a part that underpins my art.”

Karen employs digital drawing as a starting point. This method is advantageous due to its speed, allowing her to swiftly combine composition and colour to grasp an immediate sense of her idea. She then experiments to see if it will translate through physical work. Her experience and intuition have honed her ability to discern the potential of an idea within a short timeframe. “There are many that don’t work, but these unsuccessful ones lead to creating artwork that I love.”

Want to read more about Karen Lee’s journey to success? Click here.

Karen Lee’s Key to Success

When asked what advice she would give to emerging artists seeking recognition in the industry, the top-selling Indigenous artist draws from her own experiences and encourages artists to “Work hard using whatever time you have and say yes to opportunities; they lead to more exposure and experiences that will help you grow your art practice.”

“Never stop learning about your craft and your business, and don’t be afraid to reach out to artists who have been successful and ask questions,” says Karen. 

‘Marra’ Feel’ 11 by Karen Lee is available online.

Karen acknowledges the inevitability of moments of self-doubt but encourages artists not to be disheartened by them. “Be brave, experiment and explore – it’s how you find what makes you unique,” encourages Karen. Moreover, she emphasizes the need for realistic expectations, especially for those embarking on their artistic journeys. “Be realistic; if you’re just beginning your art journey, remember as you continue to grow and evolve, your audience will also.” 

“Bluethumb has been pivotal in the growth of my career as an artist,” says Karen. “It has not only given me the platform to sell my art, but the exposure has created the opportunities to work in the commercial and corporate sectors, exhibition opportunities and, of course, this amazing experience as a Judge for the Art Prize.”

When evaluating the finalists for this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize, Karen expects to be particularly drawn to artworks that exhibit well-balanced compositions and narratives conveyed in distinctive and captivating ways. Whenever her curiosity is piqued, she will undoubtedly feel a strong desire to explore the inspiration behind the artist’s work. Karen elaborates, “I’ll read and scroll through artists’ bios and social media to learn more about the finalists.”

View this week’s curation, Judges Picks: Karen Lee Mungarrja, to get a feel for this top-selling Indigenous artist’s unique taste. Time is ticking to get your Bluethumb Art Prize entries in before September 11! Click here to enter Australia’s largest art prize today. 

The Secrets of Home Styling with Chris Carroll

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *