Laurie Wonfor Nolan turns the idea of a reclusive artist toiling over her masterpieces in a gritty studio right on its head. Laurie, who does happen to have a gritty urban studio overlooking the Speed River in Hespler (Cambridge), often chooses to create her work in public spaces – with an audience.
She calls it live performance painting. She’ll set up a large canvas on stage alongside musicians and paint them during their set, becoming a dynamic part of the performance. The painting is completed when the show is over – no do-overs, time-outs or days of perfecting the piece.
It’s a risky way to showcase your art but for Laurie, part of the thrill is not knowing how it will turn out. “The performers, the music, the sound of people around me and the vibe of the venue are different every time,” she says. “That’s the exciting part for me and the audience. I think they appreciate seeing how a painting gets made and how it can capture a moment in time.” She sheepishly admits this kind of commissioned work also means she gets to be part of the band – and who doesn’t want to do that?
Laurie has painted at other events where she immerses herself in the crowd: dinner parties, chefs cooking in a kitchen and even TEDx Waterloo. She also welcomes musicians and models into her studio to capture them in action without the distraction of a live venue – for both them and her.
While public art fills her desire for collective creativity, she splits her love equally among live performance painting, still life and ‘plein aire’ landscapes (meaning painting ‘in the open air’). She views each of these as “live” works as she paints directly from the source, regardless of the subject matter.
A true artist, Laurie delights in the feeling of paint between the brush and the canvas, and how swaths of colour side by side can evoke emotion. She shares that passion with students in her studio and at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts. Her classes include life drawing, still life and ‘Fearless Painting,’ which she calls an art empowerment play date for grownups. While the teaching helps to keep her studio going, Laurie says, “I love being around other painters and helping people find their creative voice.” She adds, “I truly believe it’s not what you paint but how you paint it. Even a garbage can be beautiful if it’s painted with passion.”
P.S. Laurie’s favourite topics of conversation: dogs and art history (or better yet, talking to dogs about art history).