Meet Karen Leo, Real Life Mom

Karen Leo is a fellow West Village public school mom and artist.  Our children are the same age and our daughters both have pixie blonde hair.  We said "Hi" in the hallway, maybe a little chat or two on the playground, but I never had any idea that she was such a talented artist and just bursting with tactile creativity.  Then we went to her son's birthday party and realized that everything there was made by her...the cake, pinata, and even party favors were like sculptures. I asked Karen about her work and was finally introduced to her other in all forms that is colorful, hilarious, and not taken too seriously by the artist herself.  Then it came out that she was a Golden Gloves boxer!  Who would have guessed?! It goes to show, how sometimes we only see another "mom" when we're at the playground and meeting in between our busy schedules to just enjoy our children. 

I was super excited when I commissioned Karen to come in and spruce up the Pretty Pushers office with a group of illustrations atop a couple of room separators.  The enamel painted on plastic is beautiful and brings the room to life.  When I asked Karen about her choice of random backgrounds for the preggo sketches, she said "It's like the random journey your pregnancy takes you through."  She's got that right.
Here are some questions I asked Karen about being an artist and mom all at once! You can visit her land of talking boxing gloves and other video characters at her website, Kleoville.

You are an artist of many mediums... everything from painting to sculpture to video.  Have you broadened in that sense since you have had children?  I remember your Star Wars cake and pinata at your son's bday party last year...did he inspire icing sculpture for you? I had not had much in experience in fondant cake sculpture or Jabba the Hutt pinata fabrication before kids, this is true! It is a real pleasure to make things to order for small, strange minds. The most fun we have had is with costumes, and the kids have come up with some great challenges for me. My daughter wanted to be “Stairs with 5 Spooky Eyes” for Halloween when she was 3, and when a 3 year old comes up with a nuts idea like that you better figure out how to bring it to life! I have become good at making soft structures out of foam and improved my general MacGuyvering skills thanks to her great imagination. She was “Lettuce, Knocking on a Door” 2 years later. I get very little sleep in the month of October, but I am grateful for my kids’ task-mastering. They have pushed me to think about making things in a more collaborative way and for a more theatrical purpose.  

Do you make a schedule for yourself to work creatively?  Or do you just work whenever you have a random spare moment? My scheduling is disastrous! Every time I try to get structured it lasts for a very short period of time. So I grab every spare minute I can get and try not to waste it, though I generally get productive bursts when I am facing a deadline. I look forward to making some real progress in the fall when both kids are in school full time.  Wish me luck!

Can you work with your kids around, and have they taken interest in art themselves? I remember maybe one or two times when the kids have drawn alongside me when I had work to do, and that felt amazing. I am generally not very productive when I have 2 young kids in my care! Both of them make some nice drawings and we enjoy group projects on occasion. This past weekend we made a very cool map of an imaginary solar system together. 

Where, ultimately, would you like your work to be seen?  What is your dream showcase scenario? I think of myself primarily as a video artist and these days video is anywhere and everywhere.  I am hoping to produce a mini web series by the end of this year, so that is a modest, immediate goal. Dream scenario? Maybe to produce something short and strange for a cable network, or to go back in time and just do anything on “PeeWee’s Playhouse.”  


Stay tuned, we're posting pictures of Karen's Pretty Pushers work on Pinterest later this week!

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