Karen Rothman was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. After graduating from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, she spent a summer studying woodcut block printing at the University of North Carolina. She briefly worked in the insurance industry before discovering her passion for art education. She completed courses at the Massachusetts College of Art to become certified to teach art in the Massachusetts public school system.
After a fulfilling career as an art teacher at the East Somerville Community School, her focus shifted to her own artistic pursuits. She has taken courses in color and design, figure drawing, mixed media, monotype printing, and abstract painting at such art institutions as the Massachusetts College of Art, DeCordova Museum School, New Art Center, Danforth Museum School, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.