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Meet Karen Schwan of Art in Awe in Mundelein

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Schwan.

Karen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a visual artist in the Chicago area. Under the business name of “Art in Awe”, I work to create paintings that hint at my awe of this beautiful world. My art style is influenced by traditional Japanese illustrations, Christian art throughout art history, and beauty in nature. I first received schooling in art from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN and Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. My journey with painting religious art began five years ago when my parents asked me to create art for their church. I said yes, not yet aware that this “yes” would lead me to what I believe I am called to do.

I remember when I first painted a painting of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Creating art is hard. Coming up with the image in mind and drawing to make it look like that image, it can be difficult and frustrating. This time as I drew Mary, there was such a peace that came over me. I was so grateful for the peace and recognized it as a gift from God. When we are following what God is asking of us, He seems to gift us with some assurance. My whole body felt this assurance as I watched my hand carefully draw the lines of Mary at the time of her pregnancy.

Inspiration for my art comes from living, from seeing ordinary moments in life where I notice grace, from my children’s beautiful faces and curiosity for life, and from my own deep desire to know and love God. Through my art, I hope people’s spirits are stirred to seek out the love that God has for each and every one of us.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely not been smooth. Studying art, I had no idea what I was going to do with it and had the fear of not being good enough. In graduate school, I switched my focus from visual art to the theater arts, studying Scene Design at Northwestern. I had to figure out where my strengths were and my weaknesses. After a year and a half in an intense graduate theater program, I felt my spirit struggling and longing for the more introverted form of art, painting.

Today, the struggle lies in finding time while being a mom of four young kids. First, I am a mom and a wife, but I know I am not supposed to ignore the gift given to me, the gift to create. Finding the time actually surprises me. I paint at very sporadic times; early in the morning, nap times, or a day when my husband helps and takes the kids somewhere to play, leaving the house a bit quieter.

Art in Awe – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
“Art in Awe” is about art that points to God. When I was trying to come up with a name or debating what to do, it felt awkward to have my name in the title, even though I am the one making this art. I do feel like this isn’t about me as much as it is about putting more beauty into the world that reflects God’s beauty and His grandeur. This is about Him. “Art in Awe” is about bringing more human thought and mind to His mind.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My definition of success has drastically changed since I first started selling art through “Art in Awe”. If I didn’t make much money over what I put into a fair, I felt like a failure. But then I started to notice, at each event that I did, there would be one or two individuals that you could tell, they were really spiritually and emotionally moved and touched by my art. Now, I see that as the measure of my success, reaching even just a handful of spirits. I am not supposed to do this to make money. I was given the gift freely, the gift of art, so I am to give it back to others with an open heart.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: artinaweshop

Image Credit:
Karen Schwan

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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