Karen portrait NJ web

Karen A. Johnson is a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI), and the Nature Artists Guild of the Morton Arboretum.  She exhibits regularly with both Guilds and recently had a solo exhibit at the Oak Park Conservatory.  She has also exhibited with the American Society of Botanical Artists at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, the Olbrich Botanical Garden in Madison, WI and at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL.

She has bachelors’ degrees from Iowa State University in biological illustration and entomology, the study of insects.  Karen has done the majority of her color work in watercolor, gouache, acrylic and pastel and her black and white work on scratchboard.  Her realistic depictions of flowers and insects are done on a variety of backgrounds ranging from plain to abstract.  She also utilizes the computer to make her paintings available in cards and calendars.

She has done illustration work for a variety of clients including: Iowa State University entomology and veterinary departments, Organic Gardening Magazine, Horticulture Magazine, the University of Illinois Extension Services, Plant Nanny, and Ball Horticultural Company.  Her artwork is included in private and corporate collections.

Currently she teaches pen and ink, scratchboard, and insect illustration classes at the Morton Arboretum.  Exploring polymer clay sculpture in the form of jewelry is her latest foray into depicting insects and plants in an educational and artistic way.  Texture, color and the interesting shapes of insects inspire her.  She hopes that these wearable creatures and flowers will inspire people to take notice and care for what’s around them every day in nature.

Sketching on Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Sketching on Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Artist's statement:

"When I discovered in college that I could combine art with science, I was thrilled.  With my science background, I could more accurately depict the animals and plants in my artwork.  I've always been fascinated with the smaller details of God's creation, especially with the variety of insects and the beauty of flowers.  It is my hope that my paintings and sculptures will inspire people to look more carefully around them at the wonders that God has created, both large and small.  All of my paintings are fleeting moments that I have observed and captured so that I could share with others the wonder that I still feel when I observe the intricacies of God's nature."




As the new “owner” of “Take Flight,” I couldn’t be happier with the design, the professional way it falls when I wear it, the comfort, the reasonable price for all the hours to make it, the interaction with you. You’re a class act; keep doing what you’re doing.  Rhonda Nass

I commissioned a necklace from Karen based on a piece that I admired on her website. It was a pleasure to work with Karen. She kept me updated at every step along the way, with descriptions and photos, and provided useful options.  Her attention to detail, color, and design is excellent. Her "artistic eye" and craftsmanship are superb!   Thank you for making a piece of jewelry for me that I am excited to wear!  ~~H.B. Maryland

Thank you so much for doing a magnificent job on the butterfly metamorphosis artwork. It turned out much better than I envisioned. Took it in for framing immediately after class.   Nancy Martin