Color ‘explodes’ in new art exhibit

Denise Hartse
Star Staff Writer

Artworks by a former Broadus resident will be on display at the WaterWorks Art Museum (WAM) from Sunday through Friday, Nov. 10. The exhibit, watercolors by Karen Nisley Knutson, now of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is titled “Dreaming in Color.” 

A free opening public reception will be Sunday from 1-4 p.m. in the WAM, located west of Miles City at 85 Waterplant Rd. Refreshments will be served.

“Karen grew up in this area, so we’re hoping there’s a great turnout for the reception to show support for a local artist,” said Dixie Rieger, executive director of the WAM.

Knutson, who is the daughter of Broadus residents Dan and Susan Nisley, will be in Miles City to attend the reception and to teach a 3-day class in watercolors. She teaches watercolor and acrylic workshops nationally and her goal is to teach in every state before she retires. 

Her class in Miles City runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. For more information about the exhibit and/or class call the WAM at 406-234-0635.

A painter since 1985, Knutson grew up on a ranch near Broadus and attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Her husband, Dick Knutson, and she have been married for 43 years.

Knutson began her painting career with traditional subjects and gradually moved to a contemporary painting style. According to the artist, this show is meant to involve the viewer and invite him or her into the Knutson’s thought process.

“Her use of color is amazing,” Rieger said. “This one-person exhibit explodes the gallery with color.”

In a news release about her paintings, Knutson wrote that she believes strongly that any painting, whether it is traditional or abstract, starts with robust design. She also believes in starting each painting with a design sketch where one of the values should be connected throughout the picture.

Each of Knutson’s paintings usually has a light pathway that is related. There are several groupings in this show where she has used the same design, but utilized three different painting styles from the one design sketch. Knutson invites viewers to explore the process and pick a favorite.

According to Knutson, she paints watercolors because she loves their free and wild qualities, forcing the artist to adjust to their many moods. 

For the past few years, Knutson has added collage and acrylic to the art media she uses. She said these produce textures and color discoveries. Her paintings are sometimes entirely abstract, and many times she adds realism to her works, which make them very recognizable.

“She loves abstract, but she puts bits of realism in a lot of her paintings,” explained Rieger. “She puts enough realism in her abstracts that it makes her artwork unique.”

Knutson wrote that she likes her paintings to be different than the “normal pictures.” She wants the viewer to take a second look while being drawn into the canvas. 

She has won many awards, and her paintings are featured in Splash 6, Watercolor Magic. She was featured in Watercolor Artist magazine as “Ones to Watch” in the December 2016 issue. 

“When you view her art, the abstract and color interests you while the realism in the picture invites you to look deeper,” Rieger said. “Her paintings look complex, but when you look into them, they engage your mind.”

(Contact Denise Hartse at or 406-234-0450.)