Careers in Art: One Designer’s Path


Sunrise Near Cozumel, Mexico, as seen from ship, McCall’s Quilting Cruise, January, 2013. Karen taught a Color For Quilters class on board, along with other magazine staff.

”My work is my adventure.“

– Lilo Rasch-Naegele

So you want to make art and make a living doing it. These days if you look at the employment ads for Graphic Designers, for example, you will realize GD jobs often demand hours of sitting at a computer, working with design software, photography, and even required knowledge of HTML and coding. You can still be very creative using these tools, and a steady paycheck is highly attractive. This is not the only road, though.


I loved drawing and painting so much that my first practical decision when I started out to make a living with art was to become an illustrator. (With photography at the forefront now, in print magazine work, this is not the easy road to finding lots of work. But keep reading…)

After I earned a degree with a Graphic Design/Painting combo, I discovered that visual design crosses all fields and an artist can find great satisfaction in designing a magazine layout just as much as making a painting. In fact, I learned most about design from a photography teacher I had for a year.

romanlayout copy

Typical magazine layout design, with some of Karen’s own photos and quilt design.

Before computer illustration was on the scene, with pen, ink and paint, I illustrated children’s Sunday School stories and workbooks, cookbooks, maps and anything else I could find as a freelance artist. Jobs in publishing later provided a steady paycheck, and I found a wonderful niche working for quilt making magazines. This was perfect, since I make art quilts and love color, as you can see from reading many of these over 400 entries within this blog.


Layout design with quilt designed by Karen, “Colors of India” quilt.

My first love, however, was painting, and to become a really good fine arts painter was always a main goal of mine. A lot of exploration went into this effort, both of media and subject matter. After some success with traditional realism, I discovered my true heart desired to work with my own imagination, and these images looked very different, but more “me.”

olde country

“Old Country”, Oil, 16 x 20″. Karen Gillis Taylor

I met an architect who was opening her own art gallery in town, and when she saw my cityscape paintings, asked me to join her to display my work. I previously operated my own gallery for 2 years, but found it was very time consuming to manage with little time left for painting. So this was a welcome new idea for selling art. I have a great relationship with them, that I don’t take for granted! I have had home art shows too that were successful, and explored showing in Denver and Santa Fe galleries with mixed success.

Mayor Hancock-and-Karen

Karen meets Denver Mayor Hancock who visited her opening of show at Gallery Studio J, in the Santa Fe Arts District of Denver.

What follows now is a showing of my work in illustration, typography treatment and fine arts painting. It is truly a mix of my artwork over the past few years, since I have enjoyed so many projects. Somehow I believe it all shows a connection in terms of color and imagination. Maybe it will inspire you to seek and find your own niche, wherever your heart and hands lead you.

See below for the links to my Etsy shop, and main website, and please comment here on the blog or email me with questions at Thanks for reading and looking at this page!



“Liberte”, web icon for Facebook


Poppy, 8 x 10″, acrylic on paper, made for painting course sample.


Art Games activity sign, illustration with typography


Fashion inspired color and illustration art


“My Airstream”, digital art, Karen Gillis Taylor, 2013


“Early Fall” pencil sketch, example of how I get down ideas quickly on a page.


Working out my feelings in the sketchbook, Karen Gillis Taylor, August 2014


Sunflower photo from my garden, 2013. Photography is a big part of my life in art inpiration.


Congas with Mimi the cat. Music and friends are good for the artistic soul. Okay, maybe not cats.

sunset over water 2

“Sunset Over Water” art quilt, top. 3 paintings below, and “Our Little Town” art quilt bottom. KG Taylor


“Sunset Over Water” quilt in my studio. Published as a pattern in McCalls Quilting Magazine.


Karen’s first original quilt pattern is done!


“The Moon Inside My Cup”, photo, KGTaylor. I love coffee.


“Balconies” idea for painting, new.

2-Birds-w-Moon-8x10 WC

“Moon Birds”, watercolor and digital. KG Taylor

Living By Water

“Living By Water”, 24 x 24″ acrylic, 1700.00, sold


I feel fortunate that my art career has allowed me to create in so many areas: drawing, painting, graphic design, layout, photography, Photoshop work, teaching and working to inspire other artists, students and quilt makers. Some years I’ve made a good income and some leaner years as well. But income growth does not equal creative satisfaction and progress. The two are very different to me. Still, it’s nice when you can see a check come in. That means you can keep making more art!


Etsy art sales site:

email karen at:




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4 Responses to “Careers in Art: One Designer’s Path”

  1. Marie Says:

    Karen, so nice to see all of your different kinds of work throughout your lifetime! Wonderful work with such variety! I am trained as a musician but I also love to create visual art and have worked on quite a bit of different styles and mediums along the way too. For instance, I like to paint but I am most comfortable making quilts. I mostly like to experiment in making art quilts. It’s just nice to see in someone else, that we all have stages of times in life and what comes out of us as a result of study and various interests.


    • Karen Says:

      Thank you Marie!


      • Karen Says:

        And it is nice for creative people to know they can make many kinds of art and not feel pressured to do just one thing they must be known for. I think we grow by experimenting and going down different paths now and then.


      • Marie Says:

        Yes! That’s why it was nice to hear about all the paths you have taken! I have a lot of angst about what I want to do sometimes. This is not my job by any means, but I have enjoyed various visual pursuits as fairly serious hobbies and sometimes think I should choose one thing and do better. Thanks for your confirmation.


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