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Creative Verve - Lori Salisbury

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

An introduction of Lori Salisbury, painter extraordinaire By Dwayne K. Parsons

I arrived at the mountain retreat and home of world-renown artist and sculptor, Lori Salisbury, to conduct this interview and was greeted by the happy young pup, held in restraint by her master. It had just started raining again, but this beautiful secluded acreage was no less pretty. I was quickly ushered into a whimsical fairytale of a cabin through a foyer of large, exquisite paintings to a kitchen table, where she graciously poured us each a fine tea and sat down for the ensuing conversation. The dog quickly became friendly enough to lay its head on my shoe while we talked.

Stepping past the cordialities, I asked, sweeping my hand across the room, “How did all this begin?”

“It began with my Gramma; she and Grandpa Carlson lived above their clothing store and also had a cabin in the forest near Pocatello, where she spent time on the weekends. She loved painting in watercolors and had no fear about letting me try too. I was only 6, and though water colors were sloppy and much too fluid for a child beginner, I took to it like it belonged to me.

“By the time I was a teenager, I was painting in oils and showing at an art show with many other artists. A woman walked up to one of my paintings and said, ‘How did that wolf get there? There are no tracks in the snow!’ I hadn’t thought of that. But I took note and from that point on I painted tracks where they belonged!

“What that person pointed out was a gift, to me,” Lori said. “From that day on, I gave every animal I painted a way in and a way out.”

How many young potentials are destroyed by a casual comment pointing out a flaw, I wondered; but not this lady, who had determined at the age of 6, sitting by her grandmother, that she wanted to be a painter for the rest of her life.

In the presence of her very mature talent, I asked, “How do you achieve such depth in your massive snow scenes; the great expanse in your clouds? These dramatic scenes are so powerfully accurate, so alive and living! How do you do it? I see mountains, clouds, snow, even skies and water scenes, forests and fields … all are dimensionally correct, full of natural tones and right colors: all manifested in the controlled light from an imaginary experience. I sculpt with light and dark shades to create the same illusion in 3D.”

She shrugged, smiled, and explained the impossible task, “The closer the scenes get to the viewer, the darker and more vivid the illusion has to be. It’s a critical understanding that grows in you while painting 2 dimensions from a 3-dimensional world. It’s painting,” she added. “I’ve learned how to build the correct illusions over a long period of painting. It has taken a long time to develop techniques that solve various problems found in painting. How I place the animal is just one of those solutions.”

She’s not mimicking anyone. She is not painting from photographs. She doesn’t paint to please other people. She paints to bring out the inner dimensions of understanding herself and the world around her. This unique approach has given rise to an indomitable spirit where only she can please herself with the result.

“I am painting from my heart, not trying to please anybody.” When she explained that, I recognized the source of the intrigue that brought me to her paintings in the first hours of discovery. “I’m just bringing the night dreams and experiences I have to the canvas … sometimes over a long stretch of time. I may get a vision of what to paint, but many times it evolves during the process. I’m not painting for other people.

“Maybe it’s a latent need others have, but I paint for myself. I have to please me, and that makes me diligent. A story painting, like some you see here, may take years to come out. Dreams are never predetermined. They just happen. And that is what brings most of my art to canvas and clay. But yes, I do see the image in my head before I start.

“One thing I realize is important is that we are the only protectors of this environment for the next generation. I get really involved in every aspect of protecting Mother Nature and the wild animals that inhabit the natural realms. It’s what my work is really about: protecting nature and the many lovely creatures that live in it.”

It’s obvious when you listen to Lori talk about her work not being predetermined, because it certainly is not. She does not paint from an outline. Her images are born in the emotional, sometimes wise center of her being. They come from a place where she sees and feels these paintings.

“I’ve owned galleries in Rocky Mountain National Park, in Southern Colorado, and in places like that, along with artists of similar interests,” she explained. “Our work changed the outlook of a lot of people. We did fundraisers for wolves and injured birds of prey, so many people became more sensitive and outspoken in recognizing the beauty and the vital importance of its many creatures. My favorite quote is: ‘We have not inherited this Earth but are borrowing it from our unborn children’ by Chief Joseph Chasing Horse.

“I haven’t done that now for quite a long time, probably got a bit burned out from all the shows and attention they required. I was raising three daughters by myself during most of that time in Colorado. But I was painting to bring awareness to the natural world, painting about the importance of balance in the natural world.

“Right now, my art is teaching the fine art of style and knowledge. I have much to give too. I already have retreat cabins in the woods, with parklike pathways and trails established. And I believe more cabins are coming. I want to be the host of an artists’ collective and hold week-long retreats. The cabins would be the night quarters for artists who come here. I can even host music and writers’ retreats the same way. It’s all art!”

Innovation in tough times is not uncommon, but it is abundant in the hearts of many creative people like Lori. This is a woman who raised three daughters during most of her advancing early days of art and did it all from being a persistent, never-give-up artist. That’s part of the road to mastery.

In the beginning, for Lori, there were plenty of people who advised otherwise … she should get a job. But that’s almost an insult to someone who, from the age of 6, knew for a fact where she was going in life and never wavered from the vision, never hesitated, never considered failure. She knew who she was, and she knew where she was going. The rest of the challenge was just getting there. Is it any wonder why she loves an appreciative audience and has many long-time, loyal and lasting friends from her lifetime of pushing the dreams forward?

As an artist, Lori shares she loves the isolation of a private place, “a studio of solitude” as she refers to her home in the woods. For her, it is the sanctuary that gives light to the dreams and experiences and understandings she so needs to express. “All I hear up here is the songs of the birds, the breeze through the needles and leaves of the trees, and the creek that flows through my property. If I’m going to be inside, I want a big room with large windows that allow nature to come in and be part of me and whoever else is here.”

When she realizes that her efforts have contributed in a positive way to the advancement of understanding the importance of preservation of the natural realms, she is most happy with her journey!

Regarding where she works as a painter and sculptor, she says, “My work environment is very important. I can’t and won’t paint in a basement, not even a closed room or office. I need to be up and out, outside under a mosquito net if necessary.”

But then she adds, “Funny, the weather affects me. I get motivated by weather, the full moon, the drama found on stormy nights and sometimes days. If it’s sunny and warm, I just want to walk and be in the mountains and play in the sun. Good weather is less motivating for me than the drama of storms and night skies.”

One of her paintings is that of a baby bear. She describes it as “a happy little bear watching the butterfly, titled Heaven on Earth. It’s a three-part series. “I like to take what I’ve done in some of my paintings and bring them into the 3-dimensional reality of sculptured portrayal, featuring Geronimo, the Baby Bear and the Butterfly.”

In her yard, the three paintings that make the story of Heaven on Earth are replicated in a large 3-dimensional sculpture.

“Adding sculptures of some of these paintings became a curious method for marketing, as it brought, of course, a much higher dollar to the sale of a specific story painting,” she added.

Her incredible painting of the Native American warrior came from an old black and white photo. She brought him to life in the bright red colors and blacks that make him truly stand out. The Native from the Cosmos, she saw him first in her imagination. Lori lived in Montana during that time and was drawn to the Crow Indian Reservation and its people, where she came across that old photo.

“When I asked where his people came from, he pointed up and said, “We are Pleiadeans, a people from the stars.”

Thus, a fine arts painting of the Indian brave was born from a personal experience. This is an example of the “Creative Verve,” the title I’ve given this article. It is the immediate, almost wild intuitive response to a treasured moment of experience, where an artist sees beyond his or herself into a vision that manifests a far more complete and lasting expression of a perceived reality. It is the animated spirit of an interaction that manifests into a lasting image where doubt does not exist. It is Creative Verve that ignites a painting, that brings into the imagination a vision that first must come forth, and second, be put to canvas, and perhaps stretched into a 3D sculpture in clay before being solidified in time by casting it to bronze, thereby preserving a moment of realization for many generations to ponder.

“The paintings are like my children; I don’t want to give them up,” she admits, “but I know they also have their own journey, like that old photo, which came to life for me.” In my mind, as the writer of this interview, a master artist of uniquely painted stories like Lori Salisbury justifiably commands a high price for her work, not only because some of it does take years to accomplish, but also because her unique expression is full of story in many samples. Like a star athlete, she deserves what she’s achieved.

Lori’s engaging exploration of art, and its means to life, is a story of a very fine artist who started uncommonly young, thanks to the influence and encouragement of “Gramma Carlson,” her most influential mentor. Lori’s life should be a movie of a woman who overcame many obstacles found along the way, overcoming by holding on with a fierce focus, like a Crow warrior, like a Pleiadean, regarding the purpose of her journey: that being primarily to help others become aware of the precious state of our natural world. To this, Lori Salisbury has blossomed into a storyteller whose canvases have established a lasting effect toward the preservation of our natural world, helping people realize the living reality that exists all around an otherwise often indifferent humanity.

“We all have a responsibility to our children, and all generations that might follow, to preserve what is wild and free. Let the artists of the world paint their visions out among the stars. We are like the Pleiadeans; I feel sometimes I am from the stars also. We are stewards, and the works of our art emanated from our hearts.”

Artists like Lori Salisbury have a very real purpose for the world; they awaken us to things we never thought about. They are born for it. We should laud them, listen to their stories, analyze their impressions and think about their statements. And we should support them as well.

We are stewards, after all.

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