(Image: "Farm in Winter, Cobbs Bridge Road" by Lois Strickland)
Pownal artist Lois Strickland was born in upstate New York and has moved around quite a bit: she lived in Texas, Nebraska and New Hampshire, and during the summers her family would make a “mad dash” to her father's homestead in Cannan, Maine. She remembers those times being among her fondest. Lois says that “art is a way for me to capture and share with others what speaks to me, their response completes the process.”
When did you first realize that you were going to be an artist and when did you first start making art?
I was in second grade, and my mother purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica sets—the BIG ones and the junior set. I can remember looking in them specifically under “A” for art. There were color images of the most famous artworks. Rembrandt stood out for me, his dark brown portraits. Also, my father painted on the side. But paint was expensive and so I did not use the real materials. Maybe sometimes if my dad was cleaning an old pallet he would let me play with the left over old paint. My interest definitely started early. I remember drawing in elementary school, and during church my mother would give me a pencil and paper to draw and entertain myself. I always looked for opportunity in school to use art and became the person other teachers and kids would come to for drawing posters or doing back drops for school programs. I was not encouraged to make art my vocation, but did use my creativity for many years working for L.L. Bean in product design and development. I left that career to pursue art full time in 1996. I have not regretted that decision.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature and form, both natural and man made. Changing atmosphere, light and seasons on the land.
Is (was) anyone else in your family in the arts?
My parents were creative in many ways and both of them could paint. My father painted more than my mother did.
(Image: "Granite Slab Shore" by Lois Strickland)
Are you self-trained or did you go to art school?
I am self taught. One of the most influential teachers was an older woman that offered free classes after school when I was in 6th grade. We had specific exercises and the color wheel was very well done. We mixed colors all the way down to the various shades of gray. Learning that gray was not made from black and white—that there were green grays, red grays, blue grays, yellow grays—was a really interesting thing to me. I still use that training the most, understanding color and how to mix it. I wish I knew who she was I would like to have thanked her. Other than another class in high school and reading various art books about artists, process and materials, observing art in galleries and museums, I am self taught.
Is the process of creating your art long or short?
It depends. Sometimes a painting just seems to almost paint itself. Other times it takes months to complete. I used to worry about that, but I came to realize that neither is right or wrong, it just is what it is. I learn from each painting. Each one is unique and different. While I have a process, it is not set in stone. Each painting has its own way of developing to the end.
Tell us something about your work.
It is realistic and impressionist in style, simple images that I am attracted to for various reasons: beauty, light, shapes, feeling and forms.
Do you have a subject matter that defines you as an artist?
I like to paint land and waterscapes, but probably woods, trees and skies are often subjects of my work. I hate to limit myself though as I also like roads, fields, people and structures.
(Image: "Country Road, Freeport" by Lois Strickland)
What makes you stay with a particular subject matter? Why are you drawn to it?
Sometimes it is hard to say or explain what draws me to a particular subject. I am just attracted visually and internally to particular scenes, compositions and forms. I like to do a number of images in the same vein and I may have as many as 15 paintings going, with 4 or more per subject matter. I work on a painting to a certain point and move to another and back and forth between the various paintings and subjects. I need a break from one subject matter and this keeps the process energized.
How do you stay motivated?
Spending time in new and familiar environments and places that I love and am attracted to. Also, while I don’t do it often, going to museums and galleries or looking through a book of an artist that I admire. Paying attention to everything around me. There are so many interesting images everywhere. I find it more difficult to shut off the side of me that is interested in art. That does not mean I am constantly painting. But I am constantly considering everything around me visually. Thinking about the shapes and colors and light and how I would paint it. Taking it all in, thinking about it and storing it for future reference.
What have you been working on lately? Are you experimenting with anything new?
Actually, cleaning and organizing my studio and thoughts. I am just getting myself back together following a very intense year battling ovarian cancer. Over a year ago I began the diagnosis process, surgery and in the fall/winter I was in chemotherapy. I just could not do my work at all. Contemplating ones mortality and dealing with the physical and mental side effects of the treatment was all encompassing. I am just finally get out from under it all and very excited to be interested in painting again. I am organizing my thoughts and going through images and deciding what directions my work will take. I think I will be working on those places I love and know, that have been there in good and tough times and bring me comfort and meaning. We will see as I have some ideas, but once I get to it, it could all change. That is the magic and mystery of the creative process.
(Image: "Fog Dance" by Lois Strickland)
Has your medium changed from when you first became an artist?
Since I began doing art full time I have used acrylic and that is where I seem to stay. I have done a bit with water color and gouache, but like the versatility of acrylic.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Take time to just observe places and things around you. Take it in. Get to know your world. Pay attention. Life goes at such a fast pace, everything is edited to short, fast and disconnected images. I think our brains are craving the luxury of just really having time to rest on the visual around us. Stop, sit, and gaze about your life. Think about the colors and light and shapes. I think I have learned the most by doing that. Don’t feel you need training, just do it. Spend time at the easel doing the work. You can get books and take classes too, but I feel sometimes if you do too much of that you then end up painting like the teacher instead of finding your own voice. Just do it till you come up with something that you like. Paint to please yourself first. Hang it up and live with it and you will see things you want to change. Then, at some point, it will come to a good conclusion and at that point you can share it with others.
What kind of comment do you despise the most when overheard at one of your openings?
The bottom line is that I work on the painting until it pleases me. I of course appreciate when others like my work. I am, after all, trying to sell my work and make a living at this. So in that respect I need folks to be attracted to my paintings. On the other hand, I am not naive enough to think everyone will like everything or even anything I paint. So while it has only happened a few times, I dislike it when folks will take time to seek me out and share advice with me on how I could improve a painting. I am tactful and do my best to explain that I “paint 'em like I see 'em”, that everyone has his or her own “voice”, and that I paint in a way that I visualize it, until it meets my expectations. I also try to explain that I do not expect everyone to like all my work. Art is like music and I don’t like all music equally, and even when I like a particular musician I may not like all of their songs. Basically, you paint it and see it your way and I will see it and paint it from my perspective—that is what keeps art and life interesting and unique.
(Image: "Sunflowers on Gold" by Lois Strickland)
What kind of comment pleases you the most when overheard at one of your openings?
“I really like this painting—I think I have to buy it!” Probably the comment that I like the most is when they say how I captured the feel of a place so perfectly, that it reminds them of a place they know and love. I like it when I see people stop and really look at a painting which catches their eye, and draws them in, because it is familiar to them or there is a connection or feeling they get. They don’t have to say anything really, I like it when they just spend time enjoying the work.
How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
Oh I am sure that I could do better. That is the difficult side of being an artist. It takes more time than one thinks. I do as little of that as possible. It is important and can be a good and enjoyable thing, meeting and connecting with people for example. I am lucky as my career prior to doing art full time really helped me. I worked in product development for L.L. Bean for 16 years and I had to develop new products, have samples made, price them and present them to folks for final decisions. I think that process is similar in what I do now. I make sure I have my work framed, priced with all of the paperwork and images together when I'm presenting it. However the filing and accounting side of things could use a bit of improvement. I know how to do it, it is just something I can put off, so I do.
Do you have any outside interests other than art?
I like sailing and motorcycling. Outdoor activities, camping, walking/snowshoeing in the woods and on the country roads. Hanging out with friends and family.
Are you disciplined about your creative process (in other words, do you treat the process like a job, where you keep particular hours in the studio), or are you more spontaneous?
I am pretty spontaneous. I probably should have more discipline and set times, but life, chores and responsibilities often distract me. I also find that there are certain seasons that I do better at painting than others. Like winter, after the holidays through early summer. That is generally my most productive time. I am trying to open up other areas of the year, for example late summer and fall.
(Image: "Sunset Over the Woods" by Lois Strickland)
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
That is something I don’t like to contemplate. The winter with chemotherapy was that sort of time. I actually have had a hard time getting back into the process. It was like the artist in me was taken out by the toxins of the treatment. It was my husband and others who had faith in me and people calling to ask about my work that restarted it for me, as my health and mind returned. I have to say that art is not the most important thing in my life. People are the most important thing in my life. On the other hand, I have always had art in my life. If I could no longer paint I would probably step into being an admirer of others' creativity. But then every time I do that I am inspired to do my own work. This is a difficult question. Art and creativity is an integral part of who I am—it is how I think, see, do, cook and experience life.
What's the best part of being a full time, working artist?
Spending time observing and seeing everything, capturing and preserving images to share in a way that keeps them viewable for a long time.
What's the worst part of being a full time, working artist?
Worrying about money—finances and the times of self doubt. Should I be doing this? Am I really good enough at it? Why do I think it is important to do this and am I pulling my weight?
Do you have any upcoming shows?
I am working to replenish my inventory and will be seeking new opportunities. Although not for sale, reproductions of 10 of my paintings are to be a part of an installation of artwork on South Main Street, in the City of Auburn. They are hoping to complete the project and have an opening in September.
The chart below shows the growth of our online publication traffic (nb of visits as well as the nb of unique visitors) since our official launch in Spring 2008. Data provided by 2 independent sources.
Traffic: Portland (18.5%), California (11.7%), Midcoast Belfast to Rockland (9.7%), Brunswick/Freeport (9.5%), Augusta/Lewiston (8.5%), Bangor/Orono (8%), Massachuset (7%), New York (5.6%), New Hampshire (4.9%), Pennsylvania (2.3%), Bar Harbor (1.5%)
Demographics: Female (62%), No Kids (67%), Affluent (55%), Graduate and Post Graduate Level (65%)