I didn’t take my first art class until my last semester in high school. My teacher saw some real promise in my work and introduced me to the world of art possibilities. More than just paintings, art was also design, magazines, books, film, cards, shopping bags and more.
After that class I changed my plans from being an English teacher to becoming an artist and won a small scholarship to Ringling College of Art and Design where I majored in Illustration.
My art career has been quite varied and I spent 30 years as an Art Director, gallery artist, advertising artist and book designer/illustrator. My husband, seeing how burned out I was struggling with my perfectionism and constant publishing deadlines, suggested I try something different. So I took a portrait-sculpting workshop and discovered my love of sculpting. When I picked up clay I found it was love at first squish.
After years of trying to paint things to look round, with volume and form, I simply moved the clay under my fingers and it WAS round, with volume and form. I seemed to instinctively understand the scale, proportions, balance and musculature of my subjects but in reality my 30 years of drawing and painting were being manifested in a new medium.
While taking a figure sculpture workshop at Brookgreen Gardens, I shipped my nearly finished sculpture back to my studio. The armature came apart in transit and the ruined clay sculpture rolled around in the box – becoming cubism instead of realism. Had this been one my paintings, I would have been devastated over the lost work and in dread at recreating it. Never before had I realized how much work and stress went into each painting and how I the finished works always fell short of my expectations.
Yet my reaction to the shipping disaster was simply disappointment that I had wasted good money in shipping. Even more curious was the lack of a knot in my stomach at the lost hours of work or the worry about even trying to replace it. Instead was the quiet knowledge and confidence that I could simply sculpt this piece again as good, or probably even better, than before. And what’s more – I was happy to do so.
That is when I realized that I now valued the process of sculpting - finding the forms, balance, proportion and giving the work meaning and a story more than the finished work itself. It was liberating to be free from worry of the final product and more focused on the act and meaning of creating.
Armed with this revelation I re-sculpted the piece from memory and enjoyed the process even more the second time and “Waiting on the #9” was eventually cast in bronze.
It has been a few years since my switch from paints to clay and I have been learning about armatures, different clays and the collaborative nature of casting works in bronze. While the bronze process is long, laborious and expensive, the joy of expressing myself in expressive swirls of fingerprints and tool marks in clay makes it all worth it. But realizing that after 30 years I have finally found my medium and my voice is, quite simply, priceless.
This is Week 18 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Lori’s story today! To see more of Lori’s work or connect with her, please visit the following links: