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From an auspicious start earning her first commission at age 12 and all through an adulthood that included travels to the South Pacific and a career in accounting, Karen Ferrand-Carroll has kept her art talents fresh and is now devoting more time to painting and writing. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Karen Ferrand-Carroll’s profession and her avocation start with the letter A, but this is just about all they have in common. Karen was an accountant nearly 30 years, but on her own time she thought of herself as an artist.
“I was told I couldn’t make a living as an artist and I could always get work as an accountant so I studied accounting,” she says.
Locally, Karen, who lives in Chester, is recognized most often neither as an artist or an accountant but as a part time employee at Adam’s Market in Deep River. Recently, when she dropped off one of her paintings for a show at the Chester Art Gallery, she ran into several people who looked at her and asked, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Karen has often used her art to illustrate the children’s books she writes. One of those books will be featured at the upcoming Trees, Traditions, and Legends celebration at the Deep River Historical Society on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9 from 4 to 9 pm. Appropriately, Karen’s book, called Tree, is about a fir tree that grows so tall and beautiful that it ends up as the famous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.
The historical society event features both family activities and holiday trees decorated by some 18 different Deep River civic groups, ranging from the Deep River Junior Ancients Fife and Drum Corps, and the Girl Scouts, to both the Democratic and Republican Town committees as well as the Fire Department and the Housing Authority. Admission to Trees, Traditions, and Legends is free, but guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the local food pantry.
On Friday night only, visitors can vote for their favorite trees in a number of different categories. Winners will be announced on Saturday night.
Recently Karen was one of the illustrators for Deep River Stories, the book put out by the Deep River Historical Society on fascinating facts and unexpected people associated with the town. In addition, Karen oversaw the layout and graphics for the book.
Karen often looks to the natural world for inspiration for both her stories and her art, but with a special perspective.
“I think I view nature as a child would. Children see the magic; adults outgrow it,” she says.
What’s more, she sees her books as a way to impart gently some of life’s lessons to a young audience. In Little Spider, a story she originally made up to tell to her then-young son, the young spider desperately wants to be one of the other creatures in the garden. At last he realizes that he is special, too.
“The message is that it is special to be you, to be yourself,” she explains.
The book has been nominated for the Geisel Award, named for Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, given annually by the American Library Association for to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished book for beginning readers.
Karen’s version of the Three Little Pigs, which she calls The True Story of Mr. Wolf and The Three Piglets, has an unusual twist. Her wolf isn’t the bad guy. He huffs and puffs because he has a bad cold.
“He didn’t mean to blow those houses down; he became friends with the pigs,” she says.
The message, she adds, is about not stereotyping before learning a person’s story.
Karen, who grew up in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway on Long Island, says she sold her first painting, a sketch of Mozart, to the school music teacher when she was 12. An exhibit she went to on the work of Leonardo da Vinci inspired her drawing. The great Italian artist fascinated her.
“I wanted to know everything he did. I wanted to do everything he did. I wanted to be a Renaissance man,” she says.
She sketched all the time, images of people, of houses, of animals.
“People always want pictures of their pets,” she says.
She painted murals on the windows of a local beauty salon.
“It was better money than babysitting,” she says.
In fact, she is still doing murals. Last year she painted an elaborate Christmas scene on the windows of Adam’s Market.
Karen and her husband Kevin have lived in Chester for more than 20 years, but their path here was not a straight line from the New York area. They lived for several years in Virginia and then moved for 3 ½ years to the South Pacific, to the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. Kevin, a banker, worked for the government of Micronesia. Karen says he remains the biggest fan of her painting.
“The art has allowed him to see a world beyond banking,” she
While in Micronesia, Karen taught at a local community college and became deeply involved in the local art world, chairing the governor of Pohnpei’s Endowment of the Arts Program and co-chairing the Fine Arts Council of the Islands of the Federated States of Micronesia. While in the South Pacific, Karen home-schooled her daughter and the family moved back to the United States when they decided their children, both a daughter and a young son ready for school, needed a more formal educational setting.
Karen has used her experience as a setting for A Husky in Paradise: Hawaii, released last July. The book combines her favorite dog breed with adventures in the South Pacific and she is working on A Husky in Paradise: Micronesia, featuring the dog’s further adventures.
At the moment Karen has a dog named Blue, but her other pets have conformed to family naming pattern. All names start with the letter K: Karen, Kevin, daughter Khristine, son Kraig, and dogs over the years named Kaya, Koyote, and Kody. There were even hamsters called Kyle, all five of them with the same name.
Now that her accounting days are behind her, Karen finally has the time to write and paint.
“I’m at the other end of the clock now. I’m going to start doing my own thing,” she says. “I have so many ideas. My brain is always at work.”
Among the projects she is planning in addition to her paintings are a sequel to The Little Spider, to be called The Little Spider Goes to the Beach, and another book about a very determined housefly, Charlie and the Fly.
Yet, with all the art now in her life, a little bit of the accountant remains. Karen still does all her tax returns herself.
Trees, Traditions and Legends
At the Deep River Historical Society, 245 Main Street, Deep River, on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9 from 4 to 9 p.m. Admission is free; visitors are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the local food pantry.
For more about Karen Ferrand-Carroll’s art, visit visionsbyferrand.com.
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