December 06, 2023
By Chelsea Reed
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in the shoes of a Modern Master artist? Lori Goll was gracious enough to share a glimpse of her remarkable art journey with me, from the first days of painting to competing in international art shows. Here’s what she had to say in this very special interview.
Q: Where are you from and how does that affect your work?
I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Not necessarily the pretty part of Kentucky. There were plenty of coke and steel plants, barges, and railroads. I don’t really know how that influences my work. I love being out in nature. Walks in the woods, trips to the beach, sitting in the warm sun. My parents took us to the beach for a week every year. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. We had dogs, rabbits, and birds. My parents gave me oil painting lessons as a child and I was often encouraged to draw. My great-grandmother drew a lot for her students, and she taught me how to do perspective drawing at a very young age!
Q: What motivates you to create? Where do you find inspiration?
Beauty. It’s everywhere if you look for it. I want to show other people the fascination, appreciation, and reverence I have for God’s beautiful creations. I want to try to convey the awe I feel when I see a sunrise or sunset, hear a bird sing, see golden leaves in front of a slate blue sky, or look into the soft liquid eyes of an animal. I love visiting farms and try to do so during county farm tours or days out with the Loudoun Sketch Club. And vistas. Meadows, crop fields, the sea, and views from mountaintops. So much inspiration everywhere!
My mother-in-law got me into bird-watching. Since I’ve been using the Cornell Merlin Bird ID App I’ve added a lot of birds to my Life List. I recently had the idea to paint every bird I’ve seen, so I started a series of small bird paintings based on that. It’s a real challenge to paint tiny bird feathers with pastel sticks!
Q: How did you get into pastels? What do you like about this medium?
I’ve painted for a few years with watercolor. With my engineering background I fixated on using the tiniest brushes for details. I decided to try soft pastels to “loosen up” and paint more painterly. But I find that I use pastels pretty much the same way. There wasn’t much information available when I first started using pastels, so I read books, visited other pastel artists’ studios, and just kept practicing. I learned how to use them to create my style and subject matter.
I began to collect more of the pastel colors I needed. They’re quite addictive to collect because the more colors you have, the less frustrating it is to produce work that’s satisfying. Good pastel sticks are almost pure pigment. The colors are beautiful and vibrant. It’s hard to go back to color-mixing with paints. When I create outside, for instance, I can pick up a pastel and swipe it on, then another color, without taking the time to mix piles of paint. So, it’s really about immediacy. And I like the soft, luxurious surface of a finished pastel painting.
Q: How did you decide to add metal leaf to your art?
It was an experiment! I always admired the religious icon paintings with gold leaf. I watched a YouTube video of a graphite artist using leaf in their drawing on paper so I decided to try it. I think I first used it for sparkly water reflections. I experimented with different brands and quantities of adhesive size on sanded paper. I really like the juxtaposition of the shiny metal leaf with the soft dusty pastel pigment. It helps solve the question, “What am I going to do with the background?” That’s something I sometimes struggle with. Also, I want to express the value and dignity of all animals.
Q: When did you enter your first competitions? What was that like for you?
It was around 2008 or 2009 when I first started putting work in judged shows. It’s always a little scary to put a piece of yourself out there and wonder how it will be received. I did local shows at first. I had a checklist of goals. My first solo exhibition was in 2010 in an artist workspace in Vienna, VA. That same year I won a local Plein Air competition and that made me so happy and gave me more confidence. I’ve started branching out a bit now, entering a few national and international contests. I was given signature status in the Pastel Society of America (PSA) last year. I’m thrilled that one of my seascape paintings was accepted into the annual PSA show this year and was chosen from that show to hang in the Butler Institute of American Art in January!
Q: What words of advice do you have to aspiring artists out there?
Art is for YOU. If you’re going to do it, it has to be something that you enjoy doing. For expression, relaxation, whatever. Like anything else, it takes dedication and practice to improve your skills, and unless you enjoy and get fulfillment from the process then it’s something you shouldn’t pursue. Of course there will be frustration along the way. Also, I would encourage folks to seek out artists that they admire, living or passed. Learn whatever you can from them through study, reading, and copying. Take workshops or classes from artists whose work deeply touches you. Visit artists’ studios. Go to art exhibits. Ask lots of questions. And lastly, try not to get discouraged by rejection. This is easier said than done!
The Modern Masters Event: Lori Goll is up for exhibit now at Seaside Art Gallery until December 30th, 2023. See the show and purchase her art online here.
Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes winning content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina. She might not be building sandcastles or swashbuckling with pirates these days, but the Outer Banks beaches continue to keep her young at heart.
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