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Sutton to be featured artist at show

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy has chosen Karen Sutton to be the honorary chairman for its 33rd annual Art Show and Sale coming up this month.

Sutton accepted the honor in June of being the featured artist for the show, where she will display more than 50 original paintings. She is still working on finishing her inventory before the Sponsors’ Reception in a little more than two weeks.

Sutton has been participating in the NSA Art Show and Sale since 2007, and this is the first time she has been asked to be the featured artist. She was thrilled to accept because of her love for the show.

“I was so impressed with them the first year I did the show,” Sutton said. “They had accidentally damaged a painting of mine, and they insisted on buying it. It was a class act.”

Sutton’s paintings are focused on still life featuring florals, fruits and landscapes, though when she began to find a love for the arts, she started with horses.

“When I was 9 years old, I found my mother’s art supplies, and I got really interested,” Sutton said. “I found this ‘How to Draw Horses’ book by Walter Foster, and that’s why I drew horses at 9 years old.”

Her mother supported her artistic talents and would regularly date her drawings and paintings. One of the first drawings her mother found of hers was a simple horse and a topless male on the back of a song sheet for “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

From that moment on, being an artist was Sutton’s dream, and her mother made sure to support her talent.

“As soon as she recognized my ability, she would gift me art supplies. All I had before was a No. 2 pencil and a pad,” Sutton said. “My mom bought me art pencils, pastels and charcoals.”

Quickly after getting these supplies, Sutton realized her favorite thing about painting — playing with the darkest darks and the lightest lights.

“I loved the dark and the light. I love the drama of it,” Sutton said.

Still life painting quickly became her passion one day when she was 12. Her parents quickly grounded her and sent her to her room after catching her smoking a cigarette, and they did so under the assumption she would be miserable.

They were wrong.

“I grabbed three apples and a patterned dishcloth and painted them in my room,” Sutton said. “I had the best day painting.”

Her mother promptly hung the painting in their kitchen, and now that both of her parents have died, she now has it hanging in her home.

Most of her artwork now resembles what she did that day in her room. Sutton works to create emotion from something as simple as a flower or even a lemon.

“It’s about taking the mundane and drawing it for someone to appreciate it,” Sutton said.

Being an artist was still a fairytale dream for her as a child, and that dream carried her into adulthood. Sutton became a secretary, but that never felt quite right to her.

“From day one, I only wanted to be an artist,” Sutton said. “I can type like the wind, but every day I felt like an imposter.”

It wasn’t until she was 45 that she was able to quit her job and pursue her true passion.

Now being an artist is Sutton’s full-time job, and she is enjoying every minute of it. For her, it is a never-ending vacation.

There will be more than 150 artists featured at the Art Show and Sale, and there will be more than 100 volunteers helping to arrange the paintings around the Lower School.

The Sponsors’ Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25. To attend the reception, a sponsorship form must be turned into the school no later than Jan. 16.

The opening ceremony for the NSA Art Show and Sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Main Campus Lower School Lobby. The show and sale will continue until Feb. 3. It is on view from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, and 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays at the school, 3373 Pruden Blvd.