Artist Laura Levitsky - AIC Interview

Canadian nature artist, Laura Levitsky, has gained acclaim for her spectacular depictions of the natural world. Inspired by her surroundings in British Columbia, Laura paints from a depth of knowledge and passion. An outdoor enthusiast, she travels frequently to research her subjects in their natural habitat, believing that there is no substitute for personal experience. She became self-published in 2003, and by 2014, became recognized as one of BC’s representational wildlife painters with awards from Provincial and National organizations such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, BC Wildlife Federation, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Question:
When did you realize you had the need to create and develop your skills?
Answer:
Since a very young age I can remember I have always had the need to create - paint, draw, build, design, sew, bake, grow, cut, tape, glue, nail.......if it can be made I will make it! Of course painting and continually developing my skills as a painter has always been what I am most passionate about, including my love for nature and wildlife being the focus of my pieces.

Question:
How do you know when your art is complete?
Answer:
I usually have to leave a piece for a couple of days, sometimes a few weeks, to walk by it, look at in in different light, etc., to make sure I feel like it's done. I honestly feel I could work on a piece forever as I feel I am continually growing as an artist and continually visualize things in so many different ways, my imagination is always moving things around. When I am satisfied with my piece I usually feel a sense of completion and a feeling of reassurance, at which point then signing my name finalizes it all!

Question:
Where do you gather your inspiration from?
Answer:
I remember at the age of maybe 10, while on a family camping trip, I ran back to our campsite to grab my camera to capture a chipmunk. Of course when I returned to the spot where I first spotted him he had scurried off, but I was driven, and went so far into the forest I was temporarily lost. That story is still with me today and I have a constant desire to walk into a untouched forest and wildlife habitat of any kind. It's not just where I find my inspiration....it makes my soul happy.

Question:
Where do you typically create art?
Answer:
First I create art in my head during a hike, a kayak, or on one of my photo shoots. Then I take my ideas and put them together in my tiny little studio in my home. Sometimes, when I'm still deep in thought working out a composition, my husband catches me drawing in thin air in odd places like the car.

Question:
Right now, what is your medium of choice and what is your favourite subject matter?
Answer:
Right now my favourite medium is acrylic. I like to mix in other mediums such as gouache and pastel depending on the effect I want to accomplish. My favourite subject matter is the wildlife I see on my excursions, hikes and in my own backyard. I love old and rustic things from old milk cans, rusty nails in a weather aged fence to old barns and rusty abandoned cars.

Question:
All artists at all stages of their career want to try something new, what other medium or subject matter do you see yourself experimenting with?
Answer:
I have tried basically everything out there and always come back to working with acrylics. Just the same as I tried working more loosely with larger brushes, more of an impressionism style, but at the end of my trial painting I was painting the treads on the bottom of my subjects shoe as his cast his rod into a river. I even tried the open acrylics which are supposed to mimic the blending qualities of oils but I found I am too comfortable with how to make my medium work that a new medium on it's own just frustrates me. I will however, add other mediums into a painting depending on the effect I am trying to achieve. All in all I work best in my comfort zone with my medium and style, and I'm good with that.

Question:
Continuing education, do you partake and if so what did you learn?
Answer:
I am a self-taught artist but love to read up on and study other techniques with same and other mediums.

Question:
Have you ever taught a class or done an artist talk? If so, what did you talk about or teach? Can people sign up for your workshops and how?
Answer:
It is my number one question, but I do not teach at this time.

Question:
Have you ever painted en plein air? What was the biggest hurdle for you? Environmental challenges, wildlife, people, weather?
Answer:
No I have never painted en plein air but do field sketches quite often. I have a sketch book and pencils in my camera bag. I feel en plein air is a good study technique for capturing colour, mood and blocking in shapes.

Question:
Do you do commissions? If so, what is your process?
Answer:
I do not do commissions at this time.

Question:
What is your favourite art related quote?
Answer:
I don't really have a favourite art related quote. I'm not sure where I heard this from but love the thought - "there are no mistakes in nature". It reminds me to be free when thinking of compositions, and to not feel confined and restricted to the form of some things which can be difficult to remember with the realism style of art.

Question:
Do you have a favourite artist and what do you like about their art? Have you ever met them?
Answer:
One of my favourite artists is Carl Brenders. I am amazed at how he covers every square inch of his paintings with such detail, not missing one single blade of grass, and never forgetting all the extras on a forest floor such as pebbles, pine needles, and lichen...it's all there. I also admire his use of natural colors. Another one of my favourite artists is Terry Isaac and I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. On a completely different perspective....one of my favourite pieces of art is "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt.

Question:
Did they inspire you to pursue a career as a professional artist?
Answer:
Yes my favourite artists definately inspired me, but my inspiration to pursue a career in art came long before I know who they were. My first inspiration was actually my Dad. I stumbled across a simple sunset painting he did that was tucked away in the basement. I still do not really know what it was that struck me, all I know is I was amazed...it was beautiful...and it was inspiring to share a talent with my Dad. Another person that inspired me to pursue a career as a professional artist was Saskatchewan artist Henry Ripplinger. I actually went to school with his kids and I remember going on a field trip to his art studio in his home. I was in awe....and I was definitely going to have a studio of my own like that someday. And lastly, Robert Bateman, a common household name when I was growing up. His work was the first realism style I admired.

Question:
What is most challenging to you when starting a new project?
Answer:
The most challenging to me when I start a new project is the composition, everything after that is free sailing...or should I say painting. I find with nature there are endless possibilities and when you have the power to rearrange things, it's hard to settle on one idea. I usually narrow it down to at least three different views for a composition before I finally settle on one. It even comes down to making a decision on the size of the painting.

Question:
What advice would you give to an artist starting out?
Answer:
Advice I would give an artist starting out would be to never be afraid to try new things and if your work is just hanging on your walls...then no one can see it. You need to get it out there. Also, don't let anyone tell you what to paint or how to paint. Always listen to yourself, that allows you the freedom to paint passionately which will always directly reflect in your work. Painting isn't just about just painting either, you need to be creative in establishing your own career, marketing, shows, etc.

Question:
What keeps you going forward with your art in this very competitive industry?
Answer:
There are three main factors that keep my going forward. Firstly, it is my love for it. I find I'm missing something if I'm not creating something. It's an expression of freedom I thrive on....I don't know....it's hard to explain. My family, who are my biggest fans, proud of every painting I produce and remind me to stay focused on my next goals. And, of course all my customers, who truly are the ones who keep me inspired. I feel honoured when someone loves a piece so much that they need to take it home to admire it. I am truly grateful.

Question:
In your studio, right now, what is your most important tool that you would be lost without?
Answer:
Besides all the obvious tools, an important thing I have in my studio that I would be lost without would be my music. It helps me get lost in my space and it feels like sometimes I'm just sitting there singing while my hand paints a picture.

Question:
What is your favourite piece of work you have created, thus far?
Answer:
My favourite piece of work is the American Robin. I always say there are two main subjects in the one since it was the stump he is perched on that I fell in love with first. I love the weathered wood with all it's colour and character, the bent nail and rusted chain. It's just peaceful to me.

Question:
What is the most well received piece of art you have created?
Answer:
The most well received piece so far is "Spring Chickadees". Two chickadees on spring blackberry bushes. I've been told it's the shape and the colour, and of course who doesn't love chickadees.

Question:
Do you have a favourite gallery or museum that you visit?
Answer:
I don't really have a favourite gallery but I love to check whatever one might be along the way...from here to Mexico.