In October 2008 I featured the forest-inspired paintings of Linda Lovisa as a part of The Festival of the Trees 28 – Art and Arboreality. This year it is my pleasure to present this Feature Artist Interview with Linda Lovisa just a few short weeks after her recent trek on the West Coast Trail. You can learn more about Linda’s work at the Natural Transitions Art Studio website.
JB: Greetings Linda! Thanks for joining us for an interview at Brainripples. I’m a tremendous fan of your artwork. I understand you are a self-taught artist. To start us off, could you provide a glimpse into what first put the paintbrush in your hand, and how you’ve approached your artistic self-education?
LL: Thank you Jade for the opportunity to share…..I have been exploring from a young age. I used to draw all the time, for as long as I can remember. The first time I painted with oils I was ten years old. It all started with paint by number set that I had received as a Christmas gift. I remember it was horses. I loved drawing horses so I decided to do my own on the backside of the board. Much to the dismay of my mother who thought I should have done the paint by numbers! I kept asking her to buy the sets so I could have the paint then one day in the mail I received from my grandfather my first real oil paints in the primary colors. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I only got 5 colors! Where were the purple, brown and green and some of the other blues I liked! Then my grandfather explained that I could mix all those colors with the ones he gave me. It was then I embarked on a journey exploring color! I’ve been hooked ever since……
My artistic education has been one of exploration and admiring other artist’s work that I’ve been exposed to. I had to do a lot of reading about painting because I did not live near galleries growing up so this was my only way of learning. I had a great art teacher named Mr. Leger who used to let me stay inside at lunch to draw. My grandfather was a huge influence as well. He always challenged me to explore different media. The Group of Seven and the Impressionists are present in my work, sometimes they are all there in one painting!
JB: I know that you work with watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, and mixed media, to name a few. What other media do you like, or use, or would like to try in the future?
LL: I have done some soapstone carving. I’ve carved 6 pieces to date and I’d love to find more time to do some more. I’ve also been planning a show that will have three dimensional sculptures reflecting 12 paintings. It will be some time before I can get to this venture but when I do it will come together quickly as I’ve done it so many times in my dreams! There are some days I wake up exhausted because I’ve worked all night! There may be nothing to show for it in the morning but the process is all there in my head!
JB: You’ve lived and painted in many parts of Canada. Could you tell us about the different landscapes/environments that have fed and inspired your craft?
LL: My father was in the Canadian air force so that explains the many places I’ve lived. Everywhere I have lived it’s always been the light on landscape that’s drawn me to my subject. The Canadian Shield, the prairies, the valleys and mountains with forests, grasses, rivers and lakes, they’ve all been there challenging me to paint them.
JB: What places/ecosystems would you like to visit (and paint)?
LL: I’d like to go up north into the tundra. The autumn colors would be incredible to paint. It would be an ecosystem I haven’t explored yet. I’d like to experience the northern lights up there. I’ve seen pictures and they look spectacular!
JB: For me, one of the most engaging aspects of your art is its focus on trees and forests. I like to imagine the places you’ve seen when I gaze at your paintings. If you’ll indulge us, tell us a little about your process: do you scout out trails and make notes of the spots you want to paint? Do you just hike on in with your easel and set up shop when something catches your eye? Do you take photographs and sketches and paint from memory after you explore?
LL: The forest is my favorite place to be so the answer is Yes I scout out trails. I do a lot of thinking things through when I’m there. When I don’t get there for a while I feel something is missing so I make a point of hiking often. Even if it’s not a long trail it fills that void till I can go for a longer hike. I take photographs and my sketch book along. In the past there have been numerous outings for plein-air painting and I love it! I don’t seem to do as much of it these days. I must change that!
JB: I often feel shade and cloud when I view your paintings (this may be a personal bias since I like shade and overcast skies… and rain…). What are your favorite “lights” to work with when creating images? Sunrise, mid-winter, overcast, full-moon?
LL: I have to say mid afternoon and morning light are my favorites. I love painting clouds. It does seem that the days that I’ve been out on a hike, the clouds roll in at some point of another. I’m very conscious of them. I love cloud formations they say so much about the day.
JB: Your paintings are, in a word, vivid. Tell us about color choice and purpose when you create your work.
LL: I didn’t always paint with such strong color in my work though I did start out that way only having the primaries to work with. It took some practice to tone things down. That’s what’s expected of you when you start out. It has to look realistic to be good. So like everyone who starts out painting you fall into this mold of painting everything exactly how it looks. I see the color in nature and I exaggerate it. There were no red trees in my work back then. They reappeared in my work 5 years ago and have since been noticed by many as some sort of trade mark, although it’s not meant to be. Red represents strength and life to me. So there’s always red in my paintings these days.
The urge to paint with just the primaries came to me on a blue day. I took out a fresh canvas and put together a fresh palette of primary colors and regressed into my past. In a matter of hours I knew this is what was missing in my work, Color! I guess I’ve come full circle and still learning!
JB: You recently hiked the West Coast Trail. Tell us about your adventures – what made you pick this trail?
LL: The West Coast Trail had been something I had wanted to do for quite some time. I had heard about how challenging of a hike it was. 77km of west coast rain forest, I imagined it to be mystical and daunting. The trees were a huge attraction to me. The whole essence of the forest I wanted to experience. It took two years to find the right hiking partners, to get mentally and physically in shape for this hike.
The hike was as challenging as said by the material when you read about it. It took us six and a half days to complete. At times the trail pushed you physically to the limit of your endurance and mentally as well. Every step was potentially an injury if you were not careful. Allow me to describe the trail ~ mud, slippery moss covered balance beams made from downed trees that stretched over marshy areas and ravines for 35ft or more, more mud, up and down into ravines on a glazed clay trail, straight up series of ladders, some more than 200 rungs, ladders climbing cliffs up to 3 stories high! I have never thanked God so often for roots! They were your handles and foot holds throughout difficult parts of the trail. Suspension bridges and cable cars crossing rivers and ravines were also part of the trail. Then there were the beach crossings that had to be done while the tide was out. The beaches consisted of silky sand, sandstone shelves, boulders, serge channels, loose pebble and high log jams that needed to be lumbered over. When you couldn’t get down to the beach to travel you were faced with more mud, ladders and board walks. The boardwalks sound like they might be a dream but they were moss covered and slippery and many were in dire need of repair. Mother nature had taken over rotting the braces to the boardwalks making them very dangerous. The daunting aspect of the hike was reality for 77km! Mystical it was, every bit as I expected and more. Other than the ocean roaring it was the quietest forest I’d ever been in. I have to say it was eerie at times, dark and when the streams of light would pierce through the dense forest it was heavenly. It was breathtaking in so many ways it’s hard to describe.
I can add my name to the list of many who’ve endured the trail. Some hikers we met had hiked it several times. The incredible beauty and the challenges bring them back here time and time again. After the hike I said “I’ve completed it and have no desire to do it again”….. but as the weeks have gone by the idea has revisited me. It’s pulling me back there like a magnet as if to say “you are not done here yet”. It will be sometime before I return to the West Coast Trail. What a journey! There are two more trips to the Monashee Mountains waiting for me before I go back.
JB: Speaking as a fellow artist who relies on solitude and forest surroundings for clarity, could you share a little about your artistic vision? Your bio talks about “intensifying a fragile moment in nature or everyday vignette so that the busy people may pause for a moment to reflect.” Tell us about what brings you to this goal as an artist.
LL: I find today’s society is so caught up in go, go, go. It’s a chance for me to pull them back and get them look at the simplest of things. I will often paint things that most people would just walk by and perhaps never notice. It could be the complexity of a plant or a tiny mushroom, a moment of light on the landscape or the colors and shapes in the sky that are so often taken for granted. My goal is to bring it to their attention through my paintings, opening their eyes to seeing.
JB: What’s new in the Natural Transitions Art Studio? Could you tell us about some of your current and upcoming art projects and exhibitions? Where can people find your work online and in-person?
LL: What’s new? Well, I have several paintings at different stages that I’m working on. It was a busy fall with several exhibitions and a day at the Kokanee salmon festival demonstrating. It’s always lots of fun chatting with people about what you are doing and of course answering the questions about color! People can find my work in Kelowna, BC at my studio on Jennens rd. or on my website: http://www.linda-lovisa-canada-art.com.
JB: I see that you teach workshops. When and where can artists find you teaching?
LL: I teach workshops in my home, outdoors and in recreation centers. I usually have workshops scheduled different times of the year. I’ve taught for different art groups in other communities. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over the years. If anyone is interested in having a workshop for their group they call me at 1-250-768-9679 for more details.
JB: You recently worked with Learning Through the Arts (LTTA). Would you tell us about this program and your projects?
LL: I’m happy to say that I’m back with the LTTA program! It’s an exciting way of teaching the core subjects such as math, science, social studies and language. It’s a program that was developed by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It’s proven students have different learning styles. It involves all the art forms music, visual arts, dance and theater. That’s what’s so fantastic for the students and the teachers. I’ll be working with the students in elementary schools in Kelowna this fall. It’s so exciting to be back in the classroom! For more information on LTTA visit their website at: http://www.ltta.ca.
JB: Who are your favorite artists, and/or which artists/styles do you like to look to for inspiration?
LL: This is a difficult question………..I have many favorites, too many to name. As I mentioned earlier my inspirations are the Group of Seven and the Impressionists. It’s the loose brush work and spirit that shines through that attracted me to their work. I was taken with the Group of Seven when my grandfather took me to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa when I was 14. I couldn’t believe how big some of the paintings were and the brush strokes didn’t mean anything till you stepped back! I remember thinking I could never paint that big!
In my work it is just that I strive to achieve, a sense of spirit, without losing the freshness in creating my own interpretation of the landscape.
JB: Are there other artistic media (besides visual) which you enjoy, or would like to try?
LL: I love all the art forms. I have to say if I were to choose, it would be music. I love to listen and paint to music. To be honest, there is no time for me to focus on another art form so I’ll let my two sons do that for me. I have a son in Vancouver who’s a professional drummer, composer and another son who plays guitar beautifully. So I’ll just sit back and enjoy!
JB: What are some of your favorite successes as an artist?
LL: There are so many! Success can be measured in so many different ways but the fact that I’m still doing what I love is a huge success!
JB: What advice would you give other independent artists?
LL: If being an artist is your passion then go whole heartedly. It will show through in your work. It’s a tough road no matter the art form and it’s worth all the bumps. Your successes may come in small packages or big bundles don’t lose sight of what’s in your soul. There’s a reason things happen the way they do, be patient. Above all never stop learning and be yourself!
Linda, we thank you again for joining us. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of your creations inspired from your travels on the West Coast Trail!