How a Painting is Born — The Curious and Contagious Nature of Inspiration

Karen Espig -
5 min readAug 23, 2021

Cadenza - Chroma and Timbre — Inspired by a composer, inspired by a painting, inspired by a musician practicing on a beautiful September afternoon.

“Cadenza — Chroma and Timbre”, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 x 1.5 inches, Karen Espig, 2021

I have a full-time day job, but that is not what I define as my work. I am an artist. Painting is not a hobby or something I do in my spare time; it is my chosen work. It does not yet pay the bills, but it gives me joy and purpose.

I would like to guide you through the evolution of my newest work, Cadenza – Chroma and Timbre.

This particular work arose from a mutual inspiration. The subject, Margin Alexander (a New York-based composer), had discovered an image of mine on Instagram and contacted me to ask if he could highlight it during a performance of his. I immediately gave permission, as I appreciate new creative opportunities, and admired his novel approach to creating a performance piece during the pandemic, when live performances were not possible. The painting that had inspired him was Autumn Sessions.

Reference photo and finished painting — “Autumn Sessions”, 30 x 24 x 1.5 inches, oil on canvas, Karen Espig

I, in turn, saw an opportunity to collaborate further (and virtually). I asked Margin if I might paint a portrait of him playing piano and use his music as a soundtrack for the making-of videos. He resoundingly agreed.

I reviewed all of Margin’s videos until I found a composition that inspired me. I took several screen captures to work from, and began the painting in January 2021. Each time I worked on it, I recorded it and then created time-lapse videos. There are 11 videos in all; from the blank canvas to the final work.

Each time I worked on the painting, I listened to Margin’s piano compositions. You will find many on Apple Music and Spotify; I encourage you to check them out.

I began with a blank gallery canvas, in this case 24 x 36 inches. I did not do preliminary…



Karen Espig -

I am a contemporary figure painter. I am also a Canadian Expat currently in Albania. I write about expat life, relationships, and online dating.