Local painter brings Grand County style to Crested Butte

Grand County artist Karen Fletcher enjoys painting in the green forests of Crested Butte during the town's Plein Air Invitational that took place from Aug. 11-13.
Karen Fletcher/Courtesy photo

Karen Fletcher, a fine art painter from Tabernash, recently traveled to the ski town of Crested Butte, bringing some of Grand County’s beauty with her. This August, Fletcher’s paintings were chosen for exhibition in the Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational hosted by the Shaun Horne Gallery.

“Plein air” painting (French for “outdoors”) is done outside, emphasizing natural light, airiness and the artists’ impression of the nature around them.

At the invitational, Fletcher volunteered with the Shaun Horne gallery team to hang the show, participated in early morning plein air painting, experienced her first Quick Draw (painting a finished work in just three hours) and enjoyed the camaraderie of her fellow artists.

“It was amazing to be part of this epic art event. I was humbled to have my work hanging alongside paintings of such a high caliber,” Fletcher wrote in a news release about her experience.

Fletcher brought her painting “Majestic Peaks” to the invitational. The painting is on display at the Center for the Arts Crested Butte.
Karen Fletcher/Courtesy photo

The news release stated that the invitational, held every three to four years, includes 20 of the biggest names in landscape and Western art. This invitational included widely-recognized painters such as Bill Anton, Josh Elliott, Dave Santillanes and Kathie Odom.

The event also had over 100 open artists, including Fletcher, who visited Crested Butte and submitted original paintings. Fletcher and other talented artists were juried in, or selected by a judge to participate in the invitational.

“The painting timeframe began June 2022 and lasted right up to the opening reception, allowing artists to execute at their own pace and across seasons,” the news release explained. 

The invitational then culminated in an exhibit and sale from Aug. 11-13, at the new Center for the Arts Crested Butte.  Artwork is also available for viewing online at

Fletcher had four works juried into the show; “Majestic Peaks” sold and “Just Past Emerald Lake” remained on display at the Shaun Horne Gallery. “Majestic Peaks” features epic, snow-covered mountains; “Just Past Emerald Lake” showcases Rocky Mountain National Park’s popular lake.

The organizers of the invitational will also preserve the artists’ work on the page.

“In a coffee table book produced afterwards, we will document this moment within America’s current unprecedented bloom of directly observed painting,” Shaun Horne wrote on the invitational’s website.

Many of Fletcher’s paintings reflect the serenity of Grand County. She works in a variety of mediums to capture nature scenes.
Karen Fletcher/Courtesy photo

About the artist

Karen Fletcher is a local painter working in acrylic, oil and gouache. A bit of a world traveler, she was born in Hawaii, lived in the West growing up, then throughout the U.S. and Germany before settling in Tabernash.

Fletcher works to capture the sense of a place, the spirit and personality of an animal and the beauty of light and shadow. She spends time with sketches and small studies before painting her larger works, and incorporates a variety of techniques, from alla prima (painting all in one session) to layering and glazing. Her subjects of choice are influenced by active pursuits in the Rocky Mountains and Utah deserts, her childhood love of horses and growing up as a rural farm kid. 

Although she started out as a studio painter, Fletcher has embraced plein air painting in order to better understand and convey the true beauty and subtlety in nature. She has studied with Scott Christensen, Judd Mercer, Dianna Shyne and Jed Dorsey. 

When she’s not painting, you might find her camping, waterskiing, hiking, Nordic skiing or trying to grow whatever the chipmunks won’t eat during our very short Rocky Mountain summers.

View Fletcher’s other work at or on Facebook and Instagram @KFletchArt.

Plein air painters step out of the studio and into nature’s most beautiful areas. Crested Butte is full of streams and pine trees, with towering mountains surrounding the town.
Karen Fletcher/Courtesy photo
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