Color: A Love Story
I fell in love with color at the very young age of seven. It was my birthday, and my uncle Howard gave me my first set of paints. I remember staying up all night, completely ruining my parents’ red carpet in the family room and everything that got in the way. But I had a beautiful painting to show in the morning. I felt so proud of myself. My mother was a little upset, as everything around was ruined, by my father beamed. “Look at what our daughter made, a beautiful piece of art.” That was the beginning of it all.
There was something about getting lost in the paint. Something I would love for years to come. Hours would go by, and I would get lost in space and time. I had found my passion.
City Life, oil on canvas by Betsy Karp
Years later, I majored in painting at Syracuse University. I even studied in Florence, Italy during my junior year. At that time, I lived with an amazing Italian family for six months. I fell in love with the European way of life. I admired their love of food, art, and the practice of taking time to appreciate the pleasures of life.
I remember my Italian “mama,” Francesca, telling me I wasn’t allowed to come home from school from Noon to two in the afternoon. That was the time she spent with her lover. (Just think how much happier Americans would be if we lived more like Europeans!)
Lovers in pastels by Betsy Karp
Italy was filled with color. I was fascinated by the foods in the markets, the tiles in the Piazza, the fabrics and beautiful shops on the Ponte Vecchio. My time in Italy ignited an appreciation of the pleasures and essence of life. And color was a part of all of that.
After I graduated college, I painted for a while and exhibited in galleries. I secured private commissions for pieces to be displayed in law and doctors’ offices. My parents and their friends were among my biggest supporters and clients. I enjoyed painting many different things for these engagements – landscapes, still-life pieces – but painting women was my favorite. The essence of women and their sensuality evokes so much emotion.
Shades of Love by Betsy Karp
After a good amount of success with my painting, I found myself very lonely. I wanted and needed to be around people. I wanted to be more a part of the world. The next thing I explored was the art of textiles. I started to design and create fabrics for different companies. My love of art and color was in perfect harmony with what they needed. It was wonderful to see designs become three-dimensional art in fabric. This work required me to travel, all over the world – Hong Kong, Seoul, Korea, Taipai, China, Istanbul, Italy, France, Germany, and London.
I was experiencing life on every level. International travel. Creating. Working with foreign cultures. Experiencing art and delicious, colorful foods from all exotic places. The first ten trips were incredible. I was in heaven and loved every minute. But just like anything in life, too much of something becomes overwhelming. And I began to yearn for my own bed at home and a home-cooked meal in my own kitchen.
I then began to design scarf collections for many different designers, including Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de La Renta, and Bill Blass. I loved how textiles could became a three-dimensional garment that I could not only wear but that others could wear, too.
I went on to create my own private label line called Betsy Karp. I designed all the textiles and garments. I had fabrics imported from Japan and Italy, as well as other countries. Everything was designed with love through my passion for color. They were bright, classic, and timeless. I still wear many of my designs to this day.
My clothing line was in seventy-five stores at the height of my business. These stores were very high-end boutiques located all over the United States and Canada. It was thrilling to see women walking along wearing a Betsy Karp.
Blue Lady by Betsy Karp
Sadly, before my business had the chance to really grow, I had to close it down. After September 11th, a devastating day for the country, close to eighty-percent of my orders were cancelled, and I didn’t have the capital to keep it going. I felt lost and alone for months. I had no idea what to do or how to pick up the pieces. I was immersed in black. I gained a lot of weight. My head was down and so was my spirit.
Then one morning, my doorman, Mickey, told me that he had enough of my negative, self-defeating energy. It was not only depressing me, but it was also depressing him. He helped me see that I was feeling sorry for myself and needed to get out of my own misery. To see I needed to start doing something about what had happened. I woke up the next morning knowing the solution was what I knew.
What I knew was color.
Dancing in the Sun, oil on canvas by Betsy Karp
So I started using color to empower me again, to bring me out of my funk. I chose orange to heal and uplift myself. As I studied the color and its energy, I learned it is the color of the second chakra, otherwise known as the sacral chakra. This chakra is the energy center that opens and infuses creativity, hope, and pleasure into your life. I also learned that orange and its energy is blocked by guilt, which is something I was feeling acutely.
I knew it was time to dig deep inside and find the pleasures of life that I once enjoyed so much. It wasn’t just about having the color around me. It was believing I was worthy of having and enjoying life in its truth and having the courage within myself to feel beautiful and enjoy the essence of sensuality.
I then surrounded myself with orange. Orange sheets, towels, nightshirts, food, panties, and even dishware. Orange became my color. I displayed orange flowers everywhere.
Something profound happened. I started exercising and listening to music again. I was looking at myself and my life in a whole new way. Within a few weeks, I lost the weight I had gained. I walked with my head held high, embracing life and all its challenges. I enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition – also known as IIN – in conjunction with Columbia’s Teacher’s College, to receive a certificate in health counseling.
I started to really appreciate how color was affecting my inner radiance. And I wanted to help others bring out their true authentic self as well. I knew it was time to start using my love of color to heal and help others, as I had started to heal and help myself. I learned more about how color and foods affect our beings, our emotions, and our lives. I literally became obsessed with learning everything I could about color, and color theory, as well as emotions and essential oils. I immersed myself in all of it.
Using what I learned, I began working with private clients, using my knowledge of color to help them break through the emotional blocks they were having in their lives. The seven energy centers in our body, also known as the chakra system, each resonate with a specific color. Chakras are an integral part of our being, energetically, spiritually, and emotionally. Every color relates to an emotion. And once you understand which emotion is blocked, you can use the corresponding color to heal that energy, issue, or root cause of what is holding you back.
I found I had a love and a gift for working with others, especially women. There was something about my energy and how I relate to women. I wanted to help women to perceive their true beauty and to tap into the energy they suppress or resist. This work truly made me happy inside and out. As I was helping them, they were helping me to feel connected to something bigger than myself. It was beautiful to hear people share their stories, their pain, their personal issues, then to support and educate them on the benefits and magic of color. Color can not only heal your body and mind. It can heal your true inner spirit, too.
Love, oil on canvas by Betsy Karp
Now, almost thirty years after I started college as a fine arts major, my life feels like it’s coming full circle. It’s almost as if I am being turned inside out. The inner me is awake and wants to burst out. But the outer shell has trepidation. I’m learning to slowly merge the two through a process of inner work (they call it ascension – and it’s quite a trip!).
Through this process, I’ve rediscovered my painting again. It has been waiting within me, knowing I’d eventually find my way home again to its peaceful cooperation and celebration. My art is something spectacular. There is no right or wrong. It’s mine, and I own it. The colors and energy create a personal vibration for others to experience. The beauty of it is that it’s an expression of my heart and soul, revealing what longs to be seen.
Now, I love painting again, as an expression of who I am, what I want to share. It is bringing forth that authentic energy, revealing my valuable truth. The colors are again igniting my passion. I have renewed that thrill, that excitement of painting for hours, ecstatically engaged in my own world of color. Finding and healing the true essence of who I am. Revealing the true essence of others to them as well. Creating fine art pieces that reveal the sensuality of this celebration called life.
I am The Courtesan of Color.
Betsy Karp is The Courtesan of Color. Former fashion designer, current color consultant, Betsy is an avid traveler who writes about sensual experiences of art, beauty, fashion, & culture. Her art resides in private collections around the world. Find her at Instagram, Facebook & LinkedIn, as well as her website and Fine Art America.
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