Princeton Blog

Artist Spotlight: Lori McNee

Lori McNee lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Central Idaho, where she derives much of her inspiration. A native of California and raised in the southwest, Lori cultivated an interest in art and wildlife during her childhood. Although she studied art in college, Lori considers herself self-taught. While her children were young, Lori began an art career as a wildlife artist. She illustrated for organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Wolf Education Research Center, various trout and duck stamps, and books. Today, Lori’s broad spectrum of artwork includes elegant still life and poetic landscape paintings in both oil and encaustic wax mediums, which often incorporates birds or other wildlife.Lori’s paintings can be found in prestigious galleries and museums throughout the United States, as well as in juried national & regional exhibitions.

1. What inspires you?

Primarily, I am inspired by nature. My work is influenced by my childhood memories, from the mountains where I now live, and from my world travels, and the feelings I experience when in nature. Whether it is a landscape, still life or an encaustic painting, I respond to the effects of color, light and atmosphere on the subject. Often metaphorical, my paintings echo the delicate balance between nature and man. 

2. What mediums do you work with regularly and why?

When my kids were young, I primarily painted with acrylic paints because I didn’t want my kids and pets exposed to the toxic fumes of traditional oil paints and solvents. At that time, I was a wildlife artist and acrylic paint allowed me to create the fine  details like feather and fur. In the 1980s, my mentors Robert Bateman, John Seerey-Lester, and Vivi Crandall also preferred acrylics. However, I got bored with painting tight details and longed to try oils, but didn’t want to use solvents. In the 1990s, I finally made the leap into oil painting when solvent-free, water-mixable oils came on the scene! Now, I am a proud Ambassador Artist for Cobra solvent-free oil colors by Royal Talens. These professional grade oil paints have helped me progress as an artist. Ironically, at times I also paint with encaustic paints which are toxic! However, I have added a huge ventilation system in my studio which helps mitigate any fumes. I use my Cobra paints to color the wax which helps to create beautiful, transparent passages. Painting with wax is both liberating and challenging. 

3. Explain your creative process.

For creating landscape paintings, my process begins out in the field. I love to be outdoors either hiking or skiing. I use that quiet time in nature to create new works in my head. I am also a nature photographer and a plein air painter. I often paint small field studies which I use along with my photographs to create larger studio works. 

My still life paintings are also inspired by nature. They are a juxtaposition of nature-made and man-made objects and most always include birds or butterflies. I have an extensive vase collection from my many travels. I set up the actually vessels with lighting next to my easel and I work directly from life. I use to keep specimens for accurately depicting the birds, but now I use photographs. Sometimes my still life compositions are about color, or at other times about a subliminal message. I generally tone my canvas to knock down the white. then I block in the big shapes. Once I build up the painting, I oftentimes use glazes to make color shifts. I love to paint “light” which is done by using warm against cool colors. 

4. Do you have anything exciting coming up that you would like us to share?

Already my art schedule for 2019 is filling up! Currently, I am busy painting for my upcoming gallery exhibition at Kneeland Gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho. It will hang from March 1 – April 15, 2019 with the artists’ reception on March 8th, 5-8pm. Then, I dash off to New Zealand for a plein air painting adventure. In April I will be participating at the Plein Air Convention in San Fransisco. Then in May I return to Giverny, France where I teach my epic weeklong plein air painting workshop in Monet’s Garden. July, I bounce back over the pond for an invitational artists’ retreat in Brittany, France. My August consists of the annual Kneeland Gallery Plein Air Exhibition, and the Wood River Valley Studio Tour. At the end of October through early November, I return to Lucca, Italy to teach my Plein Air Painting Under the Tuscan Sun workshop! Phew! (please visit my website for more information about my workshops)

5.  How did you begin your career as a professional artist, and how has your career evolved?

My art career developed during my children’s nap time and between loads of laundry! I began my art career as a wildlife artist during the 1980-90s. I illustrated for organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature conservancy, the Wolf Education Research Center, various trout and duck stamps, and books. After discovering water-mixable oils, I made the shift from wildlife art to still life and plein air painting from life. Once my kids were a bit older, I could focus on a professional career. Since 2000, I have been a gallery represented artist. In 2009, I began my blog ,and I also discovered Twitter. My blog became very popular, I quickly became a social media influencer, a social media branding expert, and even one of the Top 100 Women in the World on Twitter! This new twist to my career propelled my art business to a new level. Since then, I have written or contributed to approximately 10 books including my own title, Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee – Painting Techniques & Professional Advice published by North Light Books. I have also made few instructional social media and painting DVDs including, Luminous Landscape Painting with Water Mixable Oils with Lori McNee published by Liliedahl. Besides this I have been a keynote speaker at the Plein Air Convention, Oil Painters of American National Exhibition, and the Impressionists Society to name a few. I truly enjoy and have a passion for teaching and sharing my knowledge with artists of all levels. Right now, I am leading and teaching 2-3 abroad workshops annually. Soon, I will add more domestic workshops to my schedule too! 

6. What are your favorite Princeton Art Brush products?

Before I had the privilege of meeting the people behind the Princeton Brush Company, I was already a fan of Princeton Brushes! Like a carpenter, it is important for artists to have the right tools. I know when I pick up a Princeton Brush, it will get the job done! Choosing the right paint brush can be challenging at first. There are so many choices. Over the years, I have refined my list of favorites. For the blocking in the underpainting, I prefer the Catalyst Polytip brushes. These are great workhorses which stand up to rigorous painting, plus they are great at moving paint! Once the painting is blocked in, I then switch to my favorite brushes, the Aspen Series 6500. I am a bit biased about this line because I was asked to give my input before it went into production! Aspen is a stylish looking brush with a matte black ferrel. It is perfect for plein air painters because the ferrel doesn’t reflect the sun and flash in the painter’s eyes. The synthetic bristles retain their shape and hold up well when using water. Natural bristle brushes do not work well with water-mixable oils. However, the Catalyst and the Aspen Series are great for traditional oil painters, solvent-free oil painters and acrylic painters. But, no matter what brush I am using, my favorite shape is a FLAT with a long handle for its versatility. 

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