Ace of Trades: Karen Mills returns to her roots, artistry

·3 min read
After a varied career, Karen Mills has returned to her roots as an artist. One of her works, still in progress, is on the building at Himebaugh Park.
After a varied career, Karen Mills has returned to her roots as an artist. One of her works, still in progress, is on the building at Himebaugh Park.

COSHOCTON – Sometimes a career path is pretty obvious from a very young age.

“I was always the kid who was eccentric and marched to the beat of my own drum,” recalled Karen Mills. “I always enjoyed art and my parents always encouraged me to create. They first started noticing my talent in grade school as I would win coloring and drawing contests, frequently. And my local art teachers always kept me challenged and encouraged my progression as a young artist.”

Today Mills is, in fact, an artist.

“Art is more than a career for me,” she said. “It’s part of who I am and how I express myself.”

Mills grew up on Denman Avenue in Coshocton, graduated from Coshocton High School in 1993, Kent State University with a degree in arts, then earned a bachelor's degree in communication in the human services from Ohio University.

“My dream was to be an art teacher for the deaf,” she said. “I went to college with that intention. Unfortunately, my practicum and student teaching in the '90s was not a great experience and my major shifted to more of a direction of a human services career path.

“Just because you don’t work in an art-related job,” she added, “doesn’t mean you can’t follow your passion to create and be an artist.”

First, however, there was a bump in the road – and a detour.

“After my final exams at Kent State and moving time,” she remembered, “I realized all of my art had been damaged by moisture in my basement apartment. Art took a back seat for many years, as all of my work from kindergarten forward was destroyed. My career focus shifted, and I worked in child support enforcement with Muskingum County, working my way up to a state level program consultant for seventeen years.”

Then, another turn.

“Art has always been a part of my vibrant life,” she said, “but it was renewed 13 years ago when I met my partner, Brody, and became interested in the tattoo industry. His art inspired me to start creating again. We’ve enjoyed living in many places and immersing ourselves in the art scene. In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I started teaching art and sign language to second and third graders at a private school. We moved back to Coshocton from Maui in 2020, and I’ve made a commitment to create more work.”

People have noticed. One in particular.

“Karen is very unique,” assessed her brother, Coshocton Mayor Mark Mills. “The wheels in her mind are always spinning and she is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. From being fluent in American Sign Language to all mediums of art, she’s the real deal. I’m glad she chose to come back home to share her talent.”

“My style is big, bright and fun – for the most part,” Karen responded. “I also enjoy tapping into the darker side. My style changes based on the medium, the project, and my emotional input to the piece.

“Art is how I express my feelings,” she concluded. “It’s how I release energy, challenge myself, convey a message or just have fun. It always comes from my heart unless it’s a project where I’m forced to ‘color in the lines.’ Most artists don’t like to color in the lines.”

For more information, email Karen Mills at theoriginalkarenmills@gmail.com.

About the series

Aces of Trades is a weekly series focusing on people and their jobs – whether they’re unusual jobs, fun jobs or people who take ordinary jobs and make them extraordinary. If you have a suggestion for a future profile, let us know at ctnews@coshoctontribune.com.

This article originally appeared on Coshocton Tribune: Karen Mills returns to her roots as an artist