Lora Shelley: www.lorashelley.com
and Lora's Flickr
I first met Lora back when I had my restaurant upstate in the Hudson Valley. Each month, I would feature a different artist and, being the Hudson Valley, there was a lot of great work to choose from!
Lora came in off the street one day, a pretty and personable girl armed with her portfolio filled with beautiful paintings of lovely women in kitchens and restaurants. The work, called "Diner Series" was lovely and perfect for the venue in so many ways.
I reached out to Lora and asked if she would be willing to share some of her work, thoughts and history and I am so happy she obliged!
Lora, tell us a little about what you create:
I consider myself a painter primarily but I explore many mediums.
Paintings, hand-pulled print work, small hand built pottery, 3-D soft sculpture sometimes. I pretty much love all media and want to try everything! But I always come back to my true love, painting. All of these explorations serve to give me a fresh perspective.
Where do you do your creative work?
If you ask my partner, he’d say, EVERYWHERE! But I have a room in my house, which I converted into my studio but I confess I’ve pretty much taken over every other room at different times with various projects. In a basement rec. room I weave on my loom, roll out my small press (which I have put onto a metal cart on wheels). There I make my woodcuts, etchings or linocuts, and also it triples as my sewing room.
I find that I’m happiest when I’m creating something, so I usually am.
How did you get started?
I’ve always been this way. All small children paint and draw, I just never stopped.
How do you define art or creativity?
Good question. I suppose to simplify it — it is a different way of looking at things. Some people have an artistic mind but don’t have a medium or maybe not yet. Some people apply their creative thinking to numbers or scientific research. To a point I believe that maybe we all have that instinct to make something and leave our mark.
What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, where I received my BFA in Illustration. I have not followed that path immediately. I started showing in cafes and galleries after school.
I learned just as much from my fellow classmates and artist friends.
My Junior year I was selected to participate in RISD’s European Honors Program, which was a year of study and travel based in Rome. I learned a lot that year seeing other cultures and having experiences. It was there where I developed my voice as an artist.
What motivates you?
I’m miserable when I’m not creating. So that is a big motivator.
I get inspiration from everything around me, nature, people, books, films. I love getting lost in a movie or a book, both old and new. I love learning about the way the mind works.
Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?
Oh yes! My sketchbooks are what keep me going. I find that if I’m not sketching regularly then I’m not creating in my studio either. They go hand in hand. When I am drawing I’m working things out in my head and developing new ideas.
At one point I was jumping right into a painting without any preconceived idea of what it was to be. But even then I sketched in my books. Now I like to use my sketches as more of a map to the painting.
Is there any particular artworks or artist that surprises you, inspires you or repulses you?
Artwork that is all about technique and has no soul really depresses me.
I would rather view an ‘outsider artist’ or a child’s artwork over strictly technique any day. I admire a lot of self-taught art. When I find a piece I like by an “outsider” artist, it’s always full of surprises, there are no tricks. It’s genuine and real. There are things that can’t be taught, but can be explored within. A lot of it is just letting go but still having control — and not judging your work as you are working which is a tricky thing.
Can you tell us about some of your successes and challenges?
Professionally - I was honored to have a US Ambassador purchase my work twice.
My paintings were part of the Art in Embassies Program in Kinshasa and also in Malawi which was an honor in itself to be selected.
Professional Challenges … well, unfortunately their are always financial challenges for artists. The recession in 2008 hit artists hard.
But successes and challenges come everyday in the studio. Artistically I’m constantly fighting the urge to tighten up, become more detail oriented. But I find my best work comes when I can let go of that control a little and let the painting tell me what it needs.
Who are some of your favorite artists or artwork?
I’m inspired by many artists old and contemporary. The list is endless but to name a few: Gauguin, Bonnard, Munch, Kathe Kollwitz, Charlotte Salomon, Van Gogh, and on and on.
What is your most treasured possession?
I tend to be sentimental about certain items. Especially ones from my childhood like my two Steiff animals that my Aunt Loie gave me. She unfortunately is no longer with us. She had ALS and lived so long and bravely with it. She was a really special person. The tiger and dog were always on her bed when I would go visit. I loved to play with them as a child. So she gave them to me as an adult, before she passed away.
What are you currently working on or have recently completed?
A scruffy little dog, a pet portrait commission. He’s adorable. I am a big fan of animals (more than people at times.) So painting pet portraits is a real pleasure for me. It incorporates my two loves, animals and art. I do a lot of them.
This Summer I got involved with a new museum here in Stone Ridge. It’s a Steiff Museum (also a boutique B&B.) It was a perfect fit for what I was doing at the time. I just happened to be chronicling my collection of vintage stuffed animals from when I was a child, by painting small portrait studies. Nan Bress and Steve Ferri, the owners of The Den, were generous enough to lend me items from their collection.
I borrowed animals all Summer and painted small portraits on wood. About a dozen of them are on display at the museum along with a shelf featuring the animals that modeled for me —‘Lora Shelley’s Muses’ - (Nan and Steve made a sign) which makes me smile.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Depends who you ask. I don’t feel qualified to answer that.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m a vegan and animal lover. I stopped eating meat back in 1985 when I was in High School. I’m not preachy about it (I don’t like it when anyone is preachy about anything). It’s just what I do. I’m the only one in my family so yeah, the Artist and the vegetarian. I guess I always felt different.
I like it when I can use my skills to be part of a greater cause — like donating a custom pet portrait to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, or a painting to raise money for my local SPCA.
Train Ride - mixed media 38 x 32
and some of Lora's pinch pots check out her Etsy shop - TigerHeadDesigns and also contact her for Pet Commissions!