Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Karen Valley: The “artist’s artist”

Arts | March 20th, 2019

Karen Valley - photograph by Joyce Hinrichs

Hidden away in the tiny North Dakota town of Lefor I find Karen Valley, an author and an artist. She is without a doubt the artist’s artist. Her soul is art, talent and words. Meeting her is a true experience in finding a soul so full of art. At 85 it will never find a stopping or retiring point in her life. It is, she says, what she needs to do.

Quoting Karen, “It is a gift from God and you must use it and so I do.”

Among her authorships she draws coloring books. They have titles from the Bible; ‘Foxes have Dens’ coloring books, ‘Observe these the lilies,’ etc.

Tell me how the coloring books got started, I ask her. She tells me her story.

“Originally when I started these coloring books I had an association with the state of Wyoming. Because of the oil at that time the new young people from other states who came in to the schools did not know one animal from the other. I must quote, ‘They didn't know the difference between a badger or a milk cow!’

“I took my wildlife ‘Foxes Have Dens’ coloring book in to the state folks and immediately they wanted to take the coloring book into the teachers at school, and to include them in tourist stops around the state.”

She went on to say, “They published the book. A year later, I discovered I was only given ten cents a copy for these coloring books! It cost me eleven dollars to produce each book, and the state only gave me ten cents a book! I also did a coloring book on bears for the state. These books have 58 pages of coloring and sheets between the coloring pages so you can trace your own pictures. When Wyoming printed the ‘Foxes Have Dens’ books they changed my cover and called it a wildlife coloring book. I want people to see the animals as they really are, natural. I don't do Walt Disney style animals. No! The title is ‘Foxes have Dens.’”

Karen now has this coloring book available at Mott's Grapes and Raisins but before she would allow them to be sold she had all the covers returned to the way they should be. They are now the beautiful soft green covers with fox footprints designed into the covers and of course are titled, “Foxes have Dens,” as they should be. To this Karen says, “I don't want to be rich or famous, I want the animals to be natural as they should be.” Our conversation turns to horses, to which, of course, gets my complete attention, being a devotee of the animal myself.

She goes on, “I draw horses, even in my dreams.” Here she shows me a coloring book of horses. I drew my coloring book called Horses in Fantasy. I draw the horses from my own imaginations; some are horses with butterfly wings. I haven't had it published for selling yet, but I am working on it. Horses in every category. I took a trip on a sheep wagon caravan sometime ago and that is when I learned that the leather rigging for each horse had to be in different sizes, you know people, they need different size rigging. It fascinated me so much I had the Wagon Master take pictures of the horses and their rigging’s.” I see she is working on painting those horses and their rigging's on her work desk right now as we visited.

OK, I say, Karen, let's talk about you, and when you decided your calling was writing, painting and illustrating? She takes a deep breath and tells me, “When I was about four years old. I never figured out why I had to take algebra when I knew I was going to an artist. I knew I was an artist, it is a gift, and when I went to college I took every course they had in art and writing. Asking her if she had to choose between doing her art or her writing which would she choose, she answered both. 

“They go together because I illustrate my books. They go hand in hand.”

In meeting Karen, I find there is so very much more to her story. I will need to go back for her family story, her experiences in Wyoming and, I repeat, so very, very, much more. She is the true meaning of the words “the artist’s, artist.”

This stopover and the visit was supposed to be just about her coloring books. Just as a teaser, a mere bit from her life: Karen used to draw the cartoons for the Cheyenne paper. They paid her little, so after a while, she asked why. She was told it was because she did not have a college degree in such work. So, need I say, she went back and got that degree. Taking her degree she returned to the powers that be at the newspaper and asked for her pay raise. This time they told her, now with the degree, they could no longer afford to pay her!

Recently in:

Alicia Underlee Nelsonalicia@hpr1.com A midnight wedding ceremony at the Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead on August 1, 2013 was more than a romantic gesture. Eighteen couples made history on that day by exchanging vows in the…

Need more events? Check out our July 2024 and August 2024 calendars. (They're cleverly split up to save you some scrolling.)MaySpring CrowsNow - June 28, Spirit Room, FargoForty artists display works centered around a crow theme.…

Need more events? Check out our July 2024 and August 2024 calendars. (They're cleverly split up to save you some scrolling.)MaySpring CrowsNow - June 28, Spirit Room, FargoForty artists display works centered around a crow theme.…

Our opinion: Has Fargo lost its cool?By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com On April 24, The Forum reported that Zandbroz Variety would be closing its doors after 33 years, and the announcement hit like a ton of books. Upon hearing…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comIs It Possible to Move from a Tent on a Sidewalk to a Garage in the Sky? There have been wealthy people who added a car elevator to the mansion for their Bentleys so they could unload groceries…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.com Musicians in the Fargo-Moorhead area are often supportive of each other. They will attend each other’s shows, collaborate on projects, play as openers for each other, so on and so…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

By David L. Newellhistory@nd.gov If your Spidey senses are tingling, it may be because Marvelocity: The Art of Alex Ross is coming to the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. The traveling exhibition, developed by the Bess…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Jim Fugliejimfuglie920@gmail.com I am an old man. I have been a politics junkie most of my life. I have been involved in many campaigns, but have not run for office myself. Each time someone has suggested I do that, I tell them…