FLY has been a long-time fan of abstract artist Lori Mirabelli, admiring her colourful & energetic work at the various outdoor art fests, gallery showings, etc. across southern Ontario. So many artists have suffered during the Covid-19 lock-down of galleries, cancellations of all the popular art expos and festivals, but Lori has kept her head down creating more paintings and posting them on her website “gallery” for potential buyers & collectors.FLY had the opportunity to chat recently with Lori via email & social media, asking her about her work, her inspirations and how she’s handling the lack of personal contact with art lovers and gallery owners….and this is what she shared:
When did you first realize that painting could be a career choice?
I realized I could be a professional artist back in 2008; I had just finished my University degree with a major in Psychology. The Fine Arts program allowed me to take a few classes even though was not majoring or minoring in the arts program. The two courses Painting 1, 2 and colour theory changed everything for me. It was also the first time I had ever tried acrylic paints. I fell in love immediately. Our focus in the Painting 2 course was Grisaille Renaissance technique. I don’t know what it was about acrylics except that there was an instant connection, I felt as if I had been doing it my whole life. The professor who taught the course took a keen interest in me and made me promise him that once I graduated from University, I would continue to pursue a career in the arts. I kept that promise and continue to explore the acrylic medium.
Immediately upon graduation, I began painting abstract art. I felt it was important to continue painting to improve my process and develop a style unique to me, but what I realized was art supplies are quite expensive. To solve that problem, I tried to find a place where I could list some of my paintings for sale with a modest price. My only objective at this time was to be able to sell a few paintings so I could purchase more art supplies and keep painting. Through my research I found a website called etsy.com, which I’m sure most of you know by now, but back in 2008 Etsy was just in its infancy and the market wasn’t yet saturated. I remember the day I made the decision to list my first painting for sale online; I felt so exposed and that the world was going judge me harshly. It was a challenging process to press the button on my mouse to list that piece for sale. To my surprise, 2 weeks later that painting sold to someone in Western Canada and it was at that moment when I thought OK this could be possible; a career in art was within my reach. From that day on, I focused on how to continue moving forward and pursuing a career in art. I’m so very grateful for that painting course, my Professor and the woman who purchased my first painting on Etsy; they gave me confidence and the push I needed to believe a career as a painter was a possibility for me.What prompted the change from realism to abstract painting?
All my life I had been a sketcher; my favourite was drawing trees and faces. I was quite good at ink and pencil drawings. When I enrolled into the painting course in University, we had an opportunity to explore the 3 main mediums, water, acrylic and oil paints. I fell in love with Acrylics. The versatility of this medium has kept my focus; I felt like the possibilities were endless. Painting Grisaille style in the second half this course showed me the layering process. I think because I was already a sketcher this came easily to me and I wasn’t feeling challenged enough. Abstract art, I quickly discovered was a whole other ball game. It feels like a never-ending puzzle that I’m always trying to solve. I was an instant fit.
Who are your own favourite abstract artists and why?
There are so many artists that I admire. Some of them would be Rothko, Motherwell, Clifford Still, C Y Twombly and Mark Bradford.
Rothko for his use of colour, size, and his void of influencing the viewer on his work.
CY Twombly for his use of size and mark making techniques. I could get lost in his scribble technique.
Robert Motherwell for his dedication to the series Elegies to the Spanish Republic which was initially inspired by the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The size, scale, and his need to capture it exactly as his intended.
Clifford Still for laying the groundwork for the Abstract Expressionist movement, and he is also made a shift from representational to abstract painting.
Mark Bradford for his complete down to earth style and telling it like it is. I loved that he paints on paper that he acquires from old billboard signs in his home neighbour and, of course, his large-scale grid-like abstract paintings.Earlier this year, you were involved in a very unique theatrical event, Sunday in the Park with George produced by Evan Tsitsias, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Eclipse Theatre Company. Please tell us briefly about this ground-breaking collaboration.
It certainly was a ground-breaking collaboration for me, and I was so nervous. I met Evan at Riverdale Artwalk in 2019, I was there exhibiting my paintings. He explained that he was doing a re-staging of the play “Sunday in the Park with George”. Instead of having the character (based on the artist Georges Seurat) actually paint, Tsitsias, wanted to incorporate a live painter. He wanted abstract art to capture Seurat’s emotions, and told me he knew I was perfect for the part when he saw my paintings, especially the one titled Oh Those Baby Blues, a 40-inch by 68-inch acrylic painting on canvas. Music is very important to me when I create my work and he was able to recognize that there was a musical quality to my work.
I created a whole body of work for this theatrical endeavour. I wanted to be able to merge Seurat’s style with my own geometrical style and create something that would be uniquely pleasing to the eye. I practiced this style over and over while listening to the soundtrack of Sunday in the Park with George; it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I loved listening to all the actors sing. They were an incredibly talented group of actors and I was so honored to be a part of the whole experience including rehearsals.
During the Covid-19 isolation, how have you changed or adapted your daily creative process?
I thankfully haven’t really had to adjust much. As an artist, I tend to be a homebody and somewhat of an introvert so staying home and being creative is pretty much how I lived my life pre-Covid-19. About the only change I’ve made is adjusting my routine to ensure that I’m incorporating more online marketing as all this year’s summer shows have been cancelled. I want to ensure that my work is still being seen, so I am focusing more on my website, social media platforms and exploring other marketing opportunities. I thankfully don’t have trouble creating pieces of work when times get stressful; I find it just enhances my ability to create. Making art is my safe zone, my protection – a place where I can go that’s safe from everything and just let myself be in the moment. I’m thankful that I have that ability, I know other artists are struggling to compartmentalize what’s happening and how to move forward in a time of a pandemic. I focus on the future, I still have plans, set goals, it’s how I keep my sanity. With so many annual art shows being cancelled and galleries closing until further notice, the public has no access to a personal experience with your work – how does this impact your art sales and/or commissions?
I think it’s hard to comment right now how it’s going to impact sales and commissions. So far, the online sales have been good, and I’ve been able to land 2 commissions. Whether that will continue or not, I don’t know that, we’re going to have to just see how this plays out and in the interim, I’ll keep focusing on online marketing. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to pull through and do OK this year.
Any advice to other artists about being productive and keeping a positive, mindful attitude?
My advice would be just keep trying to create, eventually muscle memory will take over and you’ll be able to make some beautiful artwork. I think it’s important to continue to set goals for yourself, have things that you want to strive for. Remember to put one foot in front by taking the steps to attain the goals you set for yourself. Not only will you feel productive, but you will be taking charge and control of your situation.
Important to note that with so many people being out of work right now and socially isolating they have turned to social media. A lot more eyes are seeing Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest posts, so make sure that you’re working your social media apps everyday. You may not get the sales now, but the more eyes on your work, the more sales down the road. I also love the phrase; this too shall pass.I have lots of ways of how you can follow my news and my work. You can subscribe on my website www.lorimirabelli.com where you can see my current art for sale, upcoming shows, as well as, I am working on a blog where I share how to further your art career and other things of interest. You can also follow my work on social media:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and candor with FLY’s readers, Lori. Readers are encouraged to visit Lori’s website and browse her online gallery of works currently available for sale. As soon as life gets back to normal (?) Lori will invite art lovers to her studio in downtown Toronto, and watch her social media for news about future live shows where her work will be featured.