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Inspiration from an Artist: Lorraine Lawson

With Campbell's multiple art galleries and exhibits, it's no surprise to find an award-winning fine artist living and working locally.

Campbell is a city full of art and culture. From the many art galleries downtown to the monthly artwalk to celebrate its artists, Campbell residents appreciate the culture of the craft.

Campbell Patch sat down to chat with one of the many local artists in Campbell,  Lorraine Lawson about life, her craft and what it means to be an artist.

Campbell Patch: How do you feel as an artist living in Campbell?

Lorraine Lawson: I love Campbell! I've been here a long time—I went to Del Mar High School. I think downtown Campbell is really on the verge of becoming one of the places to visit in the South Bay, not only for food and theater, but art.

It's amazing how many galleries and artists are setting up here. It's really making me happy, because I can see a sort of evolution of the arts scene. Right now, we have the artwalks, too, which have been a very fruitful event for the city.

Patch: Where does your love of painting come from?

Lawson: I was born in Belgium, and my great-grandfather, Gustave Flasschoen (1868-1940) was a painter. I was inspired all my life by his paintings and the stories my mother would tell me.

He had a full-time career as an artist. He would travel to Algeria and Morocco painting horses and the local scenes. I grew up around his work. He died in 1940 but was very active in the last 30 years of his life. His work is in some major auction houses. I have a photograph of him from 1928. It's really inspiring.

Patch: How has your painting career evolved?

Lawson: I've been painting since I was a little girl. I quit my day job 15 years ago to pursue this career—and I haven't looked back!

I was in sales, working with forensic evaluation for attorneys and insurance companies; it wasn't a very creative job—quite a contrast to what my passion has always been. I'm feeling so lucky and blessed that I'm doing what I've meant to be doing all my life.

Patch: Do you encourage other family members to explore painting as well?

Lawson: Yes, my grandchildren! I have a 5-year-old grandson who loves to paint with me. My 2-½-year-old granddaughter is a little young, but I do let her get into the paints every once in awhile. It's very encouraging to see them taking a liking to it.

Patch: You gravitate more toward abstract expressionist work. Why is that?

Lawson: There's a lot more freedom in creating and developing the story than painting, say, a landscape—something so literal.

I love chatting with my audience about the process. The curiosity that happens when people are looking at my work and studying it, trying to understand the thought process in my mind when I was creating the work—that's what's fun about abstract: It's so challenging to tell the story. There's a lot of freedom in the creative process.

Patch: Do you also teach, as many artists do?

Lawson: I just opened my studio right around the corner on Winchester Boulevard. I love it there.

I was in downtown Campbell (in the Courtyard) for five years until about a year and a half ago, but it was too small, and I was finding it very hard to paint and show my work in 400 square feet!

I found this new space and just started teaching there on Tuesday nights. I run workshops about twice a month on Saturdays and Sundays. It's bringing in a lot of new students.

We have creativity classes, which cover a very broad spectrum of art styles. I also bring in guest artists to teach landscapes and abstracts, too. Sometimes the lessons are even as whimsical as doll-making.

Patch: What can people expect from your classes?

Lawson: They cover quite a range. I like to appeal to a broad audience. For the most part, people will say, “I just can't paint or draw!” But they'd be surprised how and what we tap into when we start classes.

It's a very non-threatening environment. It allows everyone to pace themselves as far as what they want to take in and what they want to develop out of the class. Weeknights I take about five students, but my workshops have about eight to 10 people each.

Patch: Being from Europe, do you draw inspiration from other places you visit?

Lawson: Travel can be such a visual thing, so yes, I absolutely get inspired from it. We do travel a lot; we love the hot-weather countries. We just went to Belize. We love the Caribbean; we love Mexico. And Europe, of course, because of my roots there. There's something very cultural about art history in Europe, in general. And getting into that local culture, that's very inspiring in my work also.

Path: What's next for you?

Lawson: I'm going to be doing a huge show at Forbes Mill Steakhouse in Los Gatos in about a month. I'm involved in a few different art affiliations too, like Fine Art America.

I enjoy all of the art festivals. I'm very selective about the ones I choose, because I like to attend and participate in the ones that have true appreciators—the serious art festivals are so special. Each one of them brings something unique.

Patch: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Lawson: Dive in. Don't be afraid. It's a lot more fun than intimidating. Baby steps are fine. Just take that first step, whether it's painting in your own kitchen or taking a class one day a week.

Being an artist means doing anything that taps into our creative side. Writing, singing, painting—so many things are of a creative bent. What Patch does is creative. There's quite an art to what journalists do.

I think there's an assumption that being an artist is harder than it looks. With painting, I believe that if it comes from the heart, it's art. Each of us has an artist inside. I just hope that I can inspire others to pursue their creative dreams as well.

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