An Interview with Artist Laurie Salmela

I met artist Laurie Salmela at a woman artist’s retreat. The keynote speaker, she encouraged women of all ages to express their artistic selves. I found her supportive, energizing, and very, very talented. She’s agreed to an interview with me today.

ANA:  I saw photos of some of your work in paint, and collages. Then I enjoyed the work you did at Celebrate Yourself! in clay, expressing the female form. Tell us about the mediums you use, and why and how you choose them.

“Calhoun Sails”  plein aire watercolor

L Salmela: My degree is in drawing and painting which is the main focus of my art. I use whatever medium calls my name on a given day, frequently combining them before a work is completed. I work in the traditional oil, watercolor, acrylic,but have an obscene cache of alternative art materials from which to choose including such things as the lowly crayon, highlighters, Sharpies and totally non-art materials on occasion – whatever seems right at the moment. What I choose depends on what materials catch my attention, where and the conditions under which I am working and  whether I have specific plan for the work.

“La Mesa Santa del Remedios” 

If I am working out of doors or traveling on one my art adventures I usually use watercolor and drawing materials for ease of transporting and logistical necessities. The focus is then about recording the place and experience so is more on the figurative side.  In the studio I work in oil, acrylic and whatever else I have there and becomes focused on the media and expression – what’s inside my head rather than without and thus becomes more abstract. My collage work comes primarily from old or failed work remade , hopefully retaining it’s original inspiration with the addition of some new.

I have also worked in clay and assemblage and enjoy both but I  run a “clean” studio (a figure os speech rather the actual state of the studio most of the time!) where I rent some spaces to other artists, so the grubbier art forms need to be done elsewhere to protect their interests. This necessitates that I take only occasional forays into these realms away from my studio at the Northrup King Building.

ANA:  Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Do you go looking for it, or does it find you?
“Sun-washed Playa Caribe, Akumal” 

L. Salmela:    Inspiration finds me.  I am always open and I never have to wait.  I only have to choose from the multitude of inspiring stuff that comes my way. It can be something I see, in my head or in the world ; a phrase from a book;  the title of a song; the sky… I am easily inspired just by the process of making art  and often feel that urge to paint just walking into the Northrup King Building and smelling all the creativity that resides there!  Just looking at and handling the tools and materials is enough to get me started. The act of doing, alone, can be a powerful inspiration. I may think I am going to paint something in particular upon starting, but  it will change in the process without  my notice or permission!  The only time a enter the studio with a hard and fast plan is when I have had a request from a client.

” Images of Balam Ek”

ANA:  Some authors create every day, others write only when inspired. What methods do you find the most successful and productive when creating art?

L. Salmela: I try to make time each day to do some kind of art making even when I have a full day of teaching just to keep the juices flowing even if its just some crazy drawing from stuff in my house! I often find those little things more engaging than some of more “serious” work, perhaps because they are more playful and were made only for me. I do find the studio atmosphere to be the most satisfying though, as the atmosphere seems so charged with creative energy with the “stuff of art all about the place!

ANA:  I understand you create artwork for book covers. Children’s books, especially, sell best with illustrations. Would you be open to authors approaching you with ideas for cover work? How would they contact you?

“The Bird Hour” 

Salmela: I have had a number of diverse “art jobs” over the years.  The very first was painting two wine labels for Northern Vineyards.  I have curated many exhibitions for the Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota, two of which featuring only art about shoes! In the mix, I have done a book cover for a text book with Greywolf Press with bits of drawing in the interior and also some small pieces for a poetry magazine.  I am always up for a new adventure and would love to do more. If anyone is interested in collaborating in this way they can contact me by email through my website: Writing is alot like painting but creating the images through words.  I think it is much more difficult to do in words and those who can accomplish it deserve our utmost respect! I am always thrilled to find authors whose writing is so beautifully descriptive that feels as though they are painting a picture for the reader. During one of my stays in Mexico, I painted a series of small works from a book recommended to me by a friend that was so rich with imagery relating to Mexico and the sea, that I felt compelled to paint what I was seeing from her words!

ANA:  Do you have any upcoming projects or shows? Where can we see some of your artwork on display?

“Free at Last ” 

Salmela: I am always working on something.  Currently I am preparing the Minneapolis Arts District yearly spring studio event, ART-A-WHIRL.  The Northrup King Building that is my art home is the largest venue on the tour by far, with over 250 artists under one roof!  Its quite the affair with live music, food trucks in the parking lot, last year roller girls as hostesses and best of all, masses of great art.  I invite all to stop in for a visit.  Just take the elevator at door F to the fourth floor and you’ll find me in NKB Studio/Gallery 425.  Stop by for my famous home made salsa and  my fresh baked bread too.  We believe in keeping up the strength of our clientele!!! Again this year MTC (NKB bus stop is 14th and Central Avenue)is giving away free bus passes for the weekend on their website and there is free trolley service to take visitors about the district once they arrive. We are all busily getting our studios in order and finishing and framing our latest work. 

“The Glebe”

I am also working on creating some visual lesson aids for my four, lifelong learning programs using my ipad and keynote app to help the deaf and hearing impaired participants understand some art methods and concepts that, I feel, they have been missing.

Besides the above mentioned  programs, I teach in my studio as well and hope to have my summer schedule out by the big Art-A-Whirl event and it may seem crazy early, but I am working on setting dates and starting registration for my next Akumal Art Adventure/Painting in Paradise trip.  Every year I take a small group to Mexico to learn to travel journal using watercolor.  I rent a private villa on the water with pool and gardens for a week of fun and art adventuring.  

You can see photos of past trips on my website or my studio facebook page: NKB Studio/Gallery 425

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