Karen Pannabecker

Artist - Winner of "Best of the Best" for 2018- Carilion Clinic Patient Exhibit
It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, at the age of 54, Karen Pannabecker discovered her passion for the arts and embark on a journey that would lead her to win our “Best of the Best” online contest.
Never dreaming that she had artistic talent, it was a project for her mother that lit the spark within Karen. She built a side table featuring a decoupaged bird, but she daydreamt of having the talent to be able to paint it.  Karen decided to make it a reality and took a friend up on their offer of painting lessons, soon discovering a passion that she believes will stay with her for the rest of her days.
In addition to the lessons, Karen did what most of us do when looking to enhance a new skill, she turned to the internet for help – more specifically, YouTube stating, “I probably spend way too many hours watching videos about art and painting.” She continues to grow her painting skills by trying to mimic the styles she finds appealing during her searches along with taking a few three day workshops in her free time.
As for subject matters, living on a small farm Karen’s paintings mostly focus on the animals that surround her on a daily basis, painting everything from cows, goats, donkeys, sheep and dogs.  Although, she does explore portraiture and still life’s from time to time, Karen finds herself drawn to painting animals more than anything else.
Karen admits that she still struggles with calling herself an artist and was completely surprised to win “Best of Show” at our Carilion Clinic Patient Show, and then astounded to be named the “Best of the Best for 2018” for her work. When we asked her to share her experience with us, here’s what she had to say …
Q. How did it feel to win “Best of Show” for your piece at the Carilion Clinic – Patient Show exhibit? Has it inspired you to create any additional art?
A. I can't even describe the thrill. I had to laugh when I read last year's winner's description of winning because it was almost identical to mine. I had received a phone call telling me I should come to the reception because my painting had won a prize.  That alone, was exciting.  When they got to my category, Intermediate, I thought, ok, maybe I got 3rd place. When they didn't call my name I was getting more nervous, but wholly expected I'd be next. Nope. When they didn't call my name for first I thought (like the last winner) they had put me in the professional category. When they went through all those awards I just assumed they made a mistake when they called me to come for the awards. I shouldn't admit this, but I was a little irritated that they got my hopes up for nothing. There was a pause in the awards for a moment  and then they announced they were going to give out Best In Show. My husband and friend looked at me and I said, "no way". There were so many other great paintings there. Even when they said the name Karen I wasn't convinced it was me until I heard my last name. I felt a bit sick to my stomach and I think I got teary. I felt out of sorts when I was handed the award.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your entry entitled “The Pianist”? What inspired you to create it? What was it about this particular medium and/or subject matter that inspired you? 
A. In the 2 years I've been painting, I've probably painted my husband at least 14 times.  He's a wonderful pianist and I'd been wanting to paint him at the piano, so, being the good sport that he is, he put on a tux and let me take several pictures of him in a dark room under a blue light. I originally called this painting Pianist In Blue, so I'm not sure why I left the blue out for the NAP show. The original photo created such a glow that inspired the broken brushstrokes I used for this particular painting.  This was over a year ago and it was something new I was exploring. I entered this painting in the show because I thought it would be different than what most folks would enter.
Q. How did you hear about the NAP Patient show at Carilion Clinic? What prompted you to enter the exhibit?
A. Last summer one of my paintings won best in show at our county art show. Someone at the reception for the artists told me about the NAP show and suggested I might want to enter.
Q. As a patient at Carilion Clinic, how do you feel about being able to exhibit your artwork in the setting where you / others are receiving medical care?
A. I think this is a wonderful idea. I bet most patients and guests love having art to look at when going to the hospital.  
Q. Do you think that art plays a role in the healing process? Have you personally utilized art therapy?
A. Absolutely!  I can't speak for the viewers of art, but I find the act of painting very therapeutic. If I have something on my mind that's really troubling me I can get out my brushes and within minutes I'm in a different place and any anxiety I had been feeling disappears. I've heard stories and seen films where people with disabilities have made great progress when exposed to art and music, so it makes sense that it could heal folks with all kinds of ailments.
Q. How does it feel to win the “Best of the Best” award offered by the NAP? Did you do anything special to celebrate your win?
A. It's a thrill and maybe a little embarrassing, though I'm glad to add it to my resume'.  I didn't do anything special to celebrate, but I did send my mom an email to tell her. Who can you brag to besides your family? I do want to thank my family and friends for voting for me and, being the insecure artist, I went back to look at the votes and was pleased to see many strangers had voted for me and not just my friends.
Q. Were you surprised by the number of likes you received during the voting period?
A. Mostly just surprised that strangers voted for me. I have wonderfully supportive friends and family.
Q. Do you have any big plans for the award money?
A. Yes, to buy more paint and canvases.
Q. Do you utilize social media (ie: Facebook, Instagram, etc) to promote your artwork? Do you have your own artist website?
A. Yes, I'm on both Facebook and Instagram and that's how I promote my artwork, for the most part. I do have a website, but I don't know how many people see that. 
Q. Is there anything else you would like people to know?
A. It has taken a long time for me to use the word artist when describing myself.  Even this morning when someone who saw my paintings said, "oh, you're an artist", I struggled to say, "yes, I am".  Winning shows like this builds confidence and having more awards under my belt helps me know I'm on the right track.  I paint just about every day and when I'm not painting, I'm probably thinking about painting.
Pictured (clockwise from top left): "Raisa"; Herman"; "Ruth Bater Ginsburg"; Catching Bubbles"; "Breezy"; "Curious Donkey"; "Oscar and Company"; "Spring Feathers"; and "WIld Pony". Click thumbnail to view full size image.
You can also view more of Karen's artwork by visiting @kpannabecker on Instagram.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Catching Bubbles
Curious Donkey
Oscar and Company
Pastel Feathers
Wild Pony