New Hampshire artist Lori Woodward’s warm, welcoming landscapes invoke the peaceful feeling of an afternoon drive through the lush countryside of the East Coast or a road trip through the desert of the American Southwest.
I had the opportunity to talk to Lori about her work and the origins of her passion for art.
Jason: How did you get your start in art?
Lori Woodward: I got my start at the age of four when I attempted to improve an original oil painting my mother owned with crayon. After all, I wasn’t allowed to draw on the walls. Seriously though, like many artists, I took to drawing at a young age. My mother raised three kids on her own; I was the youngest. We didn’t have money for art supplies or lessons. One Christmas, when I was 10 years old, all I asked for was a Walter Foster book, “How to Draw Dogs”. I copied every dog in the book with a number two pencil on loose-leaf paper, and I was hooked on drawing from that day on.
J: Are there other artists in your family?
LW: Although I didn’t grow up with my father’s family, he and my grandfather were both graphic artists who worked in New York City. Surprisingly, neither my brother nor my sister pursued art, although I must say my sister and brother showed a lot of natural ability as youngsters.
J: Did your family encourage your art?
LW: Yes, my mother was quite supportive, as was my aunt, whom I spent a lot of time with. She painted as a hobby and often made her art supplies available to me.
J: How much art related education do you have?
LW: I have a degree in Fine Art Education from the University of Arizona. That said, I attended college in the late 1970s and there was little, if any, academic instruction at that time.
I’ve learned most of what I know by taking workshops and seeking mentorships with artists whose work I admire. For the last 15 years, I’ve painted as a member of the Putney Painters, whose mentors are Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. I couldn’t have asked for a better academic education than what that experience has brought me.
J: What is your medium?
LW: My first artistic “language” is the medium of watercolor. I’ve always been attracted to the luminosity of it. In college, we were required to take 2 years of oil before we could enroll in a watercolor course. I grudgingly waited and worked in oil, but watercolor was my true love.
Since that time, I’ve worked in both oil and acrylic. I began working in oil when I started working with galleries in the late 1990s.
Today, I prefer acrylic because it can be applied both transparently, for a watercolor effect, or opaquely, resembling an oil painting. I really love the fact that acrylic dries fast.
J: Describe your style and subject matter
LW: For most of my adult life, I’ve pursued realism. The Putney Painters, under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik, paint portrait, landscape, and still life – all from life. Likewise, I have painted all three of those subjects, and have painted them pretty well, but if I could only paint one thing, it would be landscape.
J: How did you develop your style?
LW: I’m not one to necessarily work in the style of my mentors – I’m sort of a rebel that way. I want to develop my own way of working. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to write for American Artist Magazine publications since the late 90s, and one of the highlights of those “gigs” was writing for Workshop Magazine.
I actually got paid to go to workshops and observe demos from living masters.
I pretty much take what I like from each instructor and supplement what I’ve learned from them with studying artists from history.
J: What drew you to your subject matter?
LW: When I was a young child, I had asthma. My mother, on occasion, drove from our home on Long Island (NY) to a clinic outside of Manhattan. She was a nervous driver, and much to my delight, she took the beautiful parkways into the city rather than the expressway.
During those excursions, I was mesmerized by the trees, hills and old stone bridges. I’d imagine myself exploring the fields and hillsides while looking out the car window.
So, I’ve always been attracted to natural places. I’ve also lived in California, Arizona and New England – each of those places has beauty. I especially love visiting the national parks.
J: What do you feel is unique about your work?
LW: This is a difficult question to answer. I admit that because I paint representational landscapes that there are hundreds of other artists who work similarly. Lately, I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring ways to set my work apart from the crowd… not in a contrived way, but working to find my natural bent.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with slightly more contemporary designs. What I’ve learned from that experience is that whether the painting is realistic or impressionistic – design is paramount.
J: When did you sell your first artwork?
LW: In highschool, I had a crush on a boy who was one of three brothers. We were part of a group of friends, and I drew all three brothers’ portraits in pencil. Their mother bought each for $5.
J: Are you a full-time artist?
LW: I have been a full-time artist from time to time. That said, I’ve been busy as a writer for American Artist Magazine, Fine Art Views, and I also volunteered as an editor for the Portrait Society of America. I became known for my blogs more than my art. Now that I’m no longer writing for other companies, it’s my time to return to my artwork.
J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?
LW: I worked with galleries from the mid 1990s until around 2002. When I started getting more writing gigs, I had to pull out of the galleries. Having a regular instructional column in Watercolor Magazine was a huge boost to my exposure, and I got paid to write those articles. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I did a lot of outdoor art shows in the 1990s – new gallerists saw my work at those shows and invited me to join their galleries. Most of my sales came from self-sales after I left the galleries. I was artist-in-residence for the month of February at a luxury B&B in Tucson for over a decade. Many of the guests bought my work, and several of them bought additional work from my website.
J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?
LW: I really have never had many challenges selling when I’ve had a body of work to sell. I love selling artwork, either my own or anyone else’s. I’ve even managed a couple of galleries when the owners were away. So, I guess I don’t really have any of the usual challenges. I’m socially comfortable and like educating potential buyers, and enjoy cultivating relationships with buyers.
J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?
LW: Selling at the B&B. That was the most fun. The owners are friends, and I ate breakfast with the guests each morning and set my paintings out near the communal breakfast table. I really got to know these folks – many of them returned at the same time each year. I’m still friends with some. I also enjoyed selling at outdoor shows. Of course being able to spread out magazine articles that displayed my work in print (and having authored a Walter Foster book) really helped to give my buyers confidence.
J: What other jobs have you held?
LW: After marrying and moving from Tucson to New Hampshire, I worked for a major computer company for 10 years. I loved that job – I’ve got a bit of geek in me. I worked on campus in food service while in college and waitressed for several years. Working in food service gave me a real appreciation for the people who do those jobs full time. It’s hard work.
J: How much time do you spend in the studio on an average week?
LW: Not as much as I’d like to. Really, I’d be lying if I said it was more than 15 hours at this point, but I’m determined to change that.
J: Do you have a daily routine?
LW: No set-in-stone routine to speak of. However, my best hours for focus are from early morning until about 2:00 pm. My best art is accomplished early in the day. I can run errands and catch up on less intensive work in the late day.
J: How much work do you produce per month on average?
LW: When I was working with galleries and doing summer outdoor shows, I produced 5+ paintings per month. Now that I’m no longer writing, I plan on getting back to that amount, or even more.
J: Who is your favorite artist from art history?
LW: I have many, but the first one that comes to mind is William Trost Richards. He painted in both oils and watercolor, but his watercolors are my favorite.
J: What are your interests outside of your art?
LW: Meeting and visiting with friends in real life, taking weekend excursions with my husband. I enjoy walking outdoors, vacationing in beautiful places, and I like painting on fabric and then quilting those paintings.
J: Thank you, Lori. To see more of Lori’s paintings, visit http://loriwoodward.com.