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An Eye for Art: Carroll County art teacher fulfilled by act of creating

Karen Peck is a local art teacher who teaches at Linton Springs in Sykesville near where she lives.

“When I was in elementary school, I filled up my coloring books so fast that my parents said they could not buy me a new book every day. So, my dad brought home that old time computer paper with holes on the sides for me to use for artwork. I drew the pictures from the coloring books on the paper,” Peck said.

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“Then I started drawing things around my house. I drew a Big Mac and the layers of the Big Mac. I was obsessed with drawing. Everywhere I went a piece of paper became something to draw on,” Peck said.

“Linda Nordling was my elementary art teacher at Freedom,” Peck said. “I admired her as a teacher and many years later would work side by side with her at Linton and take her place as the full-time art teacher upon her retirement, she was a tremendous mentor to me.”

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She had Richard Owens as an art teacher at Liberty High School. “He pushed me a lot and was a very important part of my growth as an artist. I took every class available in high school and I was Owen’s teacher’s aide, so I was there a lot.” Peck said. “I liked drawing with pencil and charcoal. I also loved art history and hearing the stories about the artists and their lives.”

Karen Peck, art teacher for Carroll County Public Schools, is pictured with many of her pastel paintings.
Karen Peck, art teacher for Carroll County Public Schools, is pictured with many of her pastel paintings. (Lyndi McNulty/Courtesy Photo)

When she graduated from Liberty High School, she attended Maryland Institute College of Art for a year. Peck took the foundation classes and it opened her up to different things she did not have in high school. She learned about print making, sculpture and watercolor.

After her first year at MICA, Peck decided to attend Villa Julie (now Stevenson University) and graduated with an associate degree and went on to study at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College). Peck studied watercolor with art professor Wasyl Palijczuk. “I loved him so much. He made me fall in love with watercolor,” Peck said. Peck liked to watercolor barns and snow.

She also took Dr. Julie Badiee’s classes in art history. She enjoyed the funny stories Badiee related about the artists and took all the art history classes available.

She graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree in art with a minor in education.

Peck landed a job with Carroll County Public Schools teaching art Winfield Elementary, Manchester Elementary, Carroll Springs and William Winchester. She taught basic elements of art, line, shape, form, color and texture. She taught for the four elementary schools for three years.

“At Carroll Springs art became a therapeutic tool,” Peck explained. “Back then it was called the Education Center.”

Next, Peck took a position at Piney Ridge Elementary School where she taught art for 10 years. She is now at Linton Springs where she has taught art for 10 years. Peck loves to teach the children about artists. Peck likes to teach the students that famous artists were normal people with everyday problems but that they had a passion for art. “I also love it when kids doodle on their papers,” Peck said.

Peck enjoyed doing watercolors as an artistic pursuit. She took classes in watercolor at Carroll Community College. She also taught watercolor, herself, in the Continuing Education Department. Peck likes the freshness of watercolor painting and the light that comes through the paper. She also found it technically challenging, because if you make a mistake, it cannot be corrected.

During the past year, Peck transitioned to soft pastels. “I love it. When COVID started, I started doing pastel paintings every day. It is dry pigment. I have over 150 paintings I have done since March. I do a lot of landscapes. Right now, I am doing barns with the snow.” She paints mostly from photographs.

When Peck and her husband traveled out west this summer, she took her pastels, although she warns that pastels are difficult to transport because they can break. She enjoyed painting plein air (outdoors) with pastels at Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon.

“Since childhood, my art has been something that has given me purpose, a sense of self and a connection with something deeper and unexplainable in life,” Peck said. “Whether it is painting, drawing, crafting or teaching art, I feel most fulfilled when I am involved with the act of creating. I believe we are all meant to create in some way. To bring something into being from nothing is an amazing process to me. I watch children do it in art class and I am always in awe of the possibilities. When I am painting, I truly feel like something magical happens and I am relinquishing control to something so much bigger than myself as the artist.”

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“I cannot imagine my life without my art; it is such a part of who I am,” Peck said.

Peck is an exhibitor at Offtrack Art. She also has her pastels for sale at Design of Mind in Sykesville. She takes commissions. Her Facebook page is called KarenPeckFineArt. She can also be reached at kepeck31@gmail.com.

Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.

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