Students watch Karen at work

By Andrew Webster

Professional artist and software engineering manager at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon: Over the past several years, Karen Doyle has worked to juggle these two seemingly opposed career paths, spending her vacation time at plein air painting events or workshops, and painting several evenings a week from life in her home studio. Recently, however, she had the opportunity to completely mix and mash the two when she helped to bring plein air painting and an art exhibit to life at Nike, Inc.

In partnership with her Nike Technology co-worker Justin Lacche, and with the sponsorship of the NIKE Talent Development department, Karen Doyle assisted in bringing an exhibition by employees for employees together quickly. Justin curated and Karen directed, creating flyers and wall label templates, and communicating to the artists that their work could not just be displayed, but for sale.

Twenty-three Nike artists stepped forward in a matter of days to bring in professional work for the first ever contemporary art exhibition at Nike by employees and contractors. The work was up from October 23-November 17. October is National Learning and Development Month, and this was timed to coincide with all sorts of learning events at the company. It was a first annual event, with potential global reach for Nike athletes and designers to showcase their paintings, photography, and sculpture.

Karen explaining setup, reflection at Nike headquarters

As a part of Learning and Development Month, Doyle was asked if she could teach art classes to her colleagues. She jumped at the opportunity and quickly put together two classes, one on “Alla Prima with Oils” and one on “Painting Outdoors: Plein Air Painting for Beginners.” Employees registered through an HR-sponsored learning portal and were invited to join in:

“Karen Doyle, a Nike Software Quality Manager and Fine Artist, will introduce you to painting en plein air (French, meaning painting outdoors). What’s it like to paint outside on location? You may have painted in your studio before, but what do you need to consider in order to paint outside? Karen will share her Plein Air set up and discuss why she loves to paints outside. This will be held outdoors, weather permitting! We will meet outside main entrance to Pre-Hall. Final set up location will depend on weather. Bring notepad and pen.”

The class was conducted outside on a beautiful fall day on the Nike campus overlooking a lake and Japanese garden. She inspired nine strangers to try plein air painting, explaining her set-up, tools, and process, and completing a demo within the lunch-hour session.

An Instagram post by Karen Doyle

Karen also hung several of her plein air works in the art show, and was pleasantly surprised to sell one of the pieces she painted at the 2016 Plein Air Convention & Expo in Tucson to another Nike employee. A reception was held in conjunction with a training event, and many employees have been through to see the show.

Alla prima oil painting class at Nike headquarters

Here are some testimonials:

“I couldn’t be happier that the response to the art exhibit has been amazing! Since the first pieces went up, folks across Alpha Force, Driving Force, and beyond have been telling me how much they love seeing the art, how it’s transformed the space, and they delight in discovering how many talented artists are among us. This is truly a special event, and we look forward to making it an annual one!

“Many thanks to all of you for putting in the work to deliver and display your art. Special thanks to Justin for making this all possible! His willingness and ability to quickly pull all of you together and curate this whole thing with help from Karen in ONE WEEK has been tremendous!” — Chris Kirsch Mahaffey

Sale of “Pusch Ridge Red Glow” at the Nike Lead Art Exhibition

Karen’s class was so well received, inspiring the students who attended, that she plans to offer more classes in the spring when the weather warms up. Done on everyone’s lunch hour, this is free to all involved, a true grass-roots effort to bring plein air painting to others in an everyday setting.

Karen is an impressionist living in Beaverton, Oregon. Her artwork can be found at, on Instagram as Karen paints, and on her Facebook fan page, Karen Doyle Fine Art.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.


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