Karl Mårtens was born in San Francisco in 1956, and grew up in Drottningholm, outside of Stockholm. At the age of 16 he moved to Switzerland and from there to Canada, and eventually back to San Francisco. After 24 years away from Sweden he returned at the age of 40.

Nature studies, with a special love for birds, have been Karl's main interest since childhood. He has been drawing and painting birds for as long as he can remember. As the years have gone by his style has changed from extremely detailed paintings to the present, freer style.

The background for Karl's style has its roots in his deep interest for the forms of meditation found in Zen Buddhism. Getting to know oneself through attention to thoughts and emotions, and to accept the fact that we will never be fully in control of our lives, are some of the thoughts he has found important. This way of thinking is not only reflected in Karl's paintings but has resulted in his holding workshops in Zen calligraphy where participants get to practice identifying their emotions, resist planning and then express their emotions on paper with Chinese ink on calligraphy paper.

 - When we paint from our true feelings, we all paint something beautiful.

Karl paints his birds from memory, using watercolor and charcoal on hand-made paper.

 - I look at a bird and a specific expression or posture, which particularly expresses the personality of the bird, sticks in my mind. Then I paint ...