Working Big: Karen Hertz-Sumnicht Large-format art delights corporate clients and art lovers alike



Karen Hertz-Sumnicht worked in the arts all her life. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from St. Mary’s College, Indiana, she taught arts to K-12 students for two years while starting a frame business in Appleton.

Now called Avenue Art & Co., the company provides bespoke frames, sells art supplies, and selects and installs art for businesses and organizations such as hospitals. She runs the company largely remotely and has cut her role to around half because she focuses on her own painting.

Hertz-Sumnicht works primarily in oil after taking an oil painting course with Wendell Arneson at the Peninsula School of Art a decade ago. And although she has also attended cold wax courses, she keeps coming back to oil.

Her work with corporate clients may have given her a taste for working big. For business, the smallest pieces are 60 x 60 inches and can easily reach 36 x 48 inches and larger.

“They are good sized pieces,” said Hertz-Sumnicht. “You print on everything from aluminum to acrylic to bamboo, and there are several other types of funky substrates that you can print on.”

Part of corporate art is more like branding than fine art. She works with an artist in Minnesota who is designing pieces that work with the company’s marketing messages, and Avenue Art is handling part of the installation.

“I’ve made a decision” by Karen Hertz-Sumnicht.

Seven years ago, Hertz-Sumnicht and her husband Steve bought a house in Sturgeon Bay, and now it’s part of Sturgeon Bay’s newest art venue, the SÅŒMI gallery at 45 S. Third Ave. It’s a collaboration with Popelka Trenchard Glass, whose main production studio and gallery are just one block away on 2nd Avenue.

Although the SÅŒMI gallery Only opened this spring, Hertz-Sumnicht says that it has already sold 10 or 12 items.

“I wasn’t planning to sell that many so I was like, ‘Oh, I better go,'” she said.

She also received six orders from the Trout Museum of Art’s Made to Order fundraiser.

“The museum displays your work of art through a page on its website,” explained Hertz-Sumnicht, “and someone can come and see the website, check prices, and request a piece [that’s] four feet by four feet. “

The museum receives 50% of the sales price, the artist keeps the rest. An order came from a couple who have already started collecting their work and are building a new home in Baileys Harbor. She visited the house to discuss concepts for a four by four meter painting with buyers. Another request came from a Hoosier colleague for whom Hertz-Sumnicht is planning a painting of cornfields that will be four feet by 16 inches.

“A lot of my work revolves around edges and boundaries and boundaries,” she said. “One thing leads to another.”

As with many artists, her style is evolving, and recently she’s been working on simplifying it.

“It’s Too Nice Out” by Karen Hertz-Sumnicht.

“Not so many shapes, not quite as much texture,” says Hertz-Sumnicht. “Sometimes I struggle with it because then I don’t have the feeling that it’s finished.”

When it comes to working big, it slows down. A bigger piece conceptually takes more time, and it can spend days examining work in progress before deciding what needs to happen next.

“And that’s something the two artists I’ve mentored with said, ‘slow it down,'” she said.

A big advantage at. to be SÅŒMI is the presence of colleagues. Hertz-Sumnicht likes to see her pictures from a different angle, which is why she often shows her work to Stephanie Trenchard or Melissa Resch, who, in her opinion, get good reviews. Or she shows her daughter, who has a degree in films from Bard, a piece to hear her opinion.

Hertz-Sumn’s most unusual tool has been borrowed from large corporations: Microsoft PowerPoint. Instead of using the sometimes mocked presentation tool for its intended purpose, she uses it to record the steps of a piece.

“I take a picture of the painting and then email it to me in PowerPoint,” says Hertz-Sumnicht. “Then I have the entire progress of the painting and can watch it change. From time to time I say, ‘I probably should have left it alone sooner than I did.’



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