Karen Wride fulfils her life-long dream of opening her own art gallery featuring her work alongside her talented daughters
First Class Art is a bright and airy art gallery in Guia featuring eclectic pieces by Karen Wride, from oil paintings depicting scenes from around the Algarve to figure studies from her travels. Aside from her own work, she also showcases the work of her two daughters, who are artists themselves. Previously, she had used this space to teach others with her popular art classes.
Whilst studying Fine Art, Karen soon realised how tough it was to make a living as an artist. She decided to change her degree to the more lucrative sector of Graphic Design and worked in London for many years as a freelance designer before being promoted to creative director and then going on to set up her own design studio.
Ten years ago, she moved to Portugal. On a holiday in Madeira, she met a fellow Welsh artist who had been teaching art classes in the Algarve. Insistent that she wasn’t a teacher, Karen initially turned down the offer to take over his art classes, but she was soon convinced otherwise. Much to her surprise, she came to realise how much she enjoyed sharing her passion with others.
During her classes, she teaches a maximum of three people at a time to ensure that there is plenty of space and so she can concentrate on developing her students’ skills. Her classes are open to all painting abilities, genre and everyone is free to work at their own pace.
Karen believes that anyone can make art, as she explains: “You have to just build the confidence to do it. We are all born with the same ability, but some are less scared than others.”
Over the years, she has watched students pick up their first paintbrush and then transform into professional artists, even selling their own pieces. “Nothing gives me more of a rush than when one of my students starts selling their own work.”
Throughout the series of COVID-19 lockdowns, Karen’s classes were forced to close, which encouraged her to create more pieces to sell. One piece she created was “depicting the joy of life here in the Algarve”. She donated this work to Hospital Particular in Alvor, with the hope of giving patients something to ponder whilst waiting.
In early 2021, she took the plunge to open her own gallery in the same premises as her art classes. Today, First Class Art presents many of her works, including her signature contemporary, impressionist pieces featuring expressive human form.
Although her favourite medium is oil painting, she loves “the spontaneity of a small pen and wash sketches”, and she explains that she is drawn to the unusual, the ironic and the nostalgic. Her creative flair seems to have ‘brushed off’ on her daughters as well. Lidija, a musician, and Bianca, a tattoo artist, also have their own pieces within the gallery.
“Painting makes you see the world differently,” Karen says. “People come to realise how many more colours there are in the world and that helps you see the world in more depth.” After inspiring so many students to create pieces they are proud to show others, it is only right that Karen Wride continues to do so herself, now in her own space.
First Class Art is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm.
(+351) 917 081 893
By ALEX BRENNAN