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“An art community like no other”: Karen Henneck and her journey

Karen Henneck (Tayler Stephenson, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Karen Henneck is the author and illustrator of the new children’s book God Gave Me Everything I Need To Be Me.

Henneck is originally from Colorado and moved up to Casper in 1989. Prior to being an artist, she was a floral designer for 21 years. She did not have any fine art experience, but she had participated in different crafts for church events, taught in grade schools, and done murals.

Henneck always wanted to pursue art as full-time outlet, but she never really got the chance. When she suddenly experienced a major health scare, she finally decided it was time. Feeling that it was now or never, she started to pursue her art career, and at 45 years old she went to college.

She attended Casper College and got her fine arts degree. While there, she met many friends and fell in love with the culture of art and the people who support it in Casper.

At the college you get introduced to many different forms of art, but she found her favorite rather quickly: pastels. Henneck says, “I love it because it is a quick medium … I love the way the strokes looked piled with one color on top of another, and how it lets the other colors come through.”

She started out with just artwork and has built up quite the reputation in Casper. She has many shows and is also present at the Casper Art Walks. During the art walks she does quick draws. Henneck hopes that by doing the Art Walks she can get her name out there and encourage other artists.

Henneck says that the Casper Art Walk, which is happening in Casper this Thursday downtown from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., is an important part of this community. She says, “I truly have never seen another community that has this many artists in it. There is just a tremendous amount of fantastic art.”

She continues with saying that, “The neatest thing is that we all are the best of friends. It is so awesome to have artists work together to help each other succeed. It’s wonderful how close-knit this art community is here, in this town, and because of that it has given me the courage to try things and step out, as far as selling my art and getting into different publications. It’s because have had the backing and encouragement of the other artists.”

The first book she worked on was in conjunction with Courtney Crane. Crane wrote the children’s book and Henneck did the illustrations. Together they made This Skin I Am In and the book Ben and Pirate Moon. Through these, Henneck quickly fell in love with this medium of storytelling.

She never thought that she could make something on her own, but with the encouragement of her friends, she gained the confidence to try. Through that friendly encouragement, she finally decided to publish her own work.

She has always written poems and was able to put illustrations to them. Her first children’s book was Something’s Fishy, which talked about what fish would look like if they matched their names.

She wakes up in the morning with poems in her head and has to quickly write them down before they are gone. She then strings them together and imagines what they would look like illustrated. This leads her to her two-to-three-month process of making the children’s book.

Her newest book, God Gave Me Everything I Need To Be Me, features five animals that are afraid of fundamental things in their environments: the duck is afraid of water, the penguin is afraid of ice and snow, the owl is afraid of the dark, the camel is afraid of the desert, and the mountain goat is afraid of heights.

Throughout the book, they begin to realize that they were actually made for the respective environments, and they gain confidence. This book greatly reflects Henneck’s own journey: she was afraid, but then realized she had the tools necessary to be successful.

Henneck starts with her poems and then illustrates them. She is already starting on her next book, Quarreling Zebras, that will hopefully be released sometime in December.

She says that one of the main reasons she wanted to create children’s books was so that she could share art with her grandchildren. She says, “I thought it would be fun to read to them … and encourage them, as they have a lot of art ability.”

You can see her artwork on display at the Art Walk and at Scarlow’s Gallery Art and Coffee. You can get a copy of her children’s books and also view some art on her website at https://www.karenhenneck.com/. Copies of her books may also be obtained by contacting her directly at karenhenneck@gmail.com.