The Oya Arts Story

My Name is Karen Caldwell and I am a self-taught artist originally from North West London. I have not always been an artist, in fact I am a sociologist and hold a MSC in Sociology and Race and Relations.

 I have spent the last 20 years in the corporate world combining my discipline with artistic-based learning techniques to develop transformational business strategies for a wide range of organizations. 

I specialize in artistic-based team-building activities, ranging from paint and prosecco nights to painting jigsaw workshops. I run a range of programs based on Wellness, and Employee engagement.

Global Presence

I have been lucky enough to sell my artwork and deliver my programs  around the globe. My aim for he next few years is to turn this map Oya Orange!

How it Started

 I am inspired by both the history of my heritage and my gender. Though I was born and raised in London, I spent much of my late 20s and early 30s living in Barbados. This eclectic experience has played a huge role in the development of my work.  You are struck by how complex your identity becomes when you have your feet in both camps. Whenever I am in the UK, I feel distinctly Caribbean, to the point where I notice my difference on a daily basis.  Yet, when I am in Barbados I feel surprisingly English against the backdrop of  Barbadian(ness) that surrounds me. It’s a fascinating space to occupy, and it inspires my paintings.  

Black art has always existed. It just hasn't been looked for in the right places. You don't paint what you see, you paint what you feel.

Romare Bearden

My work explores the beauty and complexity of the African Diaspora and is inspired by the time I spend living between Barbados, the UK, and the USA. This blessing allows me to express the plurality of my identity through a postmodern lens.

My artwork delves, shifts, manipulates, interrogates and pushes the boundaries of identity in a post-modern world and examines how they relate to the African diaspora from a feminine perspective. I paint with a purposeful range of colours, which have all been specially chosen to represent certain elements of my ideologies. 

In my work, I use an Afrofeminist lens to tell a story, raise awareness and create conversations about issues affecting the African Diaspora. Bright colors are abundant, as are beautiful black female leads, sometimes embodying strength, sometimes exhibiting vulnerability, and at times presenting the subtle middle ground where many see as a no go space for the black woman.  Throughout my canvas, I hope to clearly and effectively convey her story in a variety of ways and across a range of topics.

The Inspiration Behind My colours

I paint with a purposeful range of colors, which have all been specially chosen to represent certain elements of my ideologies. Watch the video below to learn the story behind my work.

Art Classes

I run a range of art classes from pop up paint parties, to sip and paints to free online events. Check out the testimmonals below and click through to read more. 

Having never painted before I was nervous about attending a class, but it was absolutely fantastic and I will definitely return! Karen made me feel very welcome and gave me lots of confidence and expert advice in such a relaxed, creative atmosphere. I am so pleased with my finished painting and thoroughly enjoyed the session.
Lauren Sheehy
Unighted Kingdom
My and my daughter have done 2 sessions now and have throughly enjoyed them. The time goes so quick and Karen is a great teacher. We had never painted before and our paintings have turned out great, we are so pleased with. I didn’t use canvas to paint on as I thought it wouldn’t be very good so just used a4 paper. I’m going to use a canvas next time. Looking forward to the next one.
Connor Mulholland
I've always been interested in painting but I assumed it was something difficult. Oya Arts has showed me that anyone can learn to paint. She is patient, thorough and very encouraging. At first I honestly wanted to give up because everyone in the class seemed to be more advanced, but she pushed and encouraged me to keep painting. Thanks to her I have an art piece that I can be proud of and a new hobby!
Kerline Dorcely

So Who Is Oya?

Oya is one of the most power West African Goddesses (Orishas)

A Warrior-Queen, much of Oya’s power is rooted in the natural world; She is the Goddess of thunder, lightning, tornadoes, winds, rainstorms and hurricanes.A Fire Goddess, it is Oya who brings rapid change and aids us in both inner and outer transformation. Oya is the protectress of women and patron of feminine leadership. Fiercely loving, She is wildly unpredictable, passionate, fearless, sensual and independent.

My art just like Oya, is here to evoke  challenge perceptions, stereotypes and promote self love and care.