Prologue: This is an interview I did with Laurie in August/ September 2022 (it's now February 2023) for her Artist Spotlight Week. Shortly after, there was a bug in our blog planner that held my convo notes captive and prevented me from editing and posting. The bug is finally fixed! Anyway, better late than never, right? So, without further ado....
I first asked Laurie for a little bit of background; where she was from and what were her art beginnings. Laurie grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. Her mother and sister, Lynn Parrott (another Camellia Art fav!) were artists— watching them work inspired Laurie to follow in their creative footsteps.
“Art was my lane. Math… not so much…”
I’m always interested in the beginning successes of our artists. It’s so intriguing- all the paths they have taken and so inspirational to see how far they have come. When I can, I try and find out if they remember the first piece they sold; I asked Laurie.
She recalled being in First Grade and winning a coloring contest on littering. She felt validated and successful in doing well and knew she had found her happy place and pocketed $5 prize money.
Laurie always felt that art was something she excelled in. It took her to a “feel good” place. It was her escape.
She attended The University of South Carolina where she got her Bachelors in Arts in Graphic Design. She worked as a graphic designer for Sporting Classics Magazine, an ad agency, and the South Carolina Department of Commerce. In 1989 she started her own design firm, Brownell McIntosh Graphic Design, but was never far from creating her own art. In the late 90s Laurie began to shift her focus from commercial art to her fine art practice. Laurie attributes this transition to being neighbors and friends with the late South Carolina artist and studio owner, Mary Gilkerson. Mary pushed Laurie to develop and have confidence in her fine art practice.
Knowing a little bit about Laurie’s graphics background, (but mostly being familiar with the diverse portfolio of oils and block prints we have here at Camellia Art) I asked her what her favorite/preferred medium is to work in.
Laurie kind of laughed and responded that mediums are funny to her. She wasn’t sure what it meant to her to have a preferred medium. It’s a tool. As an artist, you figure out what you want to create and then choose the medium that will solve the problem. Some artists choose subjects and composition based on what their medium will allow for. They are practiced and comfortable in one medium. Laurie does the opposite.
One series of work inspires the next. In producing the next series, Laurie will often switch up her medium. Her series are long. She equated her creative process to writing a novel series- continuing the story into another book. Something different enough to not be a chapter in the first book, but a definite sequel.
Her interests change- ebb and flow. She was quick to add that she’s happy to go where her work takes her, wherever that may be. Even if she’s had great success in selling pieces from one series, she doesn’t need to “stick around for the sake of making more, yet growing less.” Once she’s worked her subject through, developed it enough to where everything has been laid out and there’s nothing more to say, she moves on.
To me, that’s the graphics/printmaker part of Laurie. The process and project driven part.
With surprising and quick ease, she was able to walk me through some of her past projects- the timeline. How one lead to another. It seemed like so much, but to her it was a natural progression.
From what I can remember: From the late 90s to the early teens her bodies of work ranged from atmospheric landscapes to a series of porcelain sinks and onto a deep dive into mixed media and image transfer. In 2011, after the death of her mother, she created the exhibition “All the In Between. My story of Agnes.” The exhibition is 77 contiguous canvases telling the personal story of a life lived while addressing the issues of end of life situations. She wrote a companion book for this exhibition.
Once this large, emotional project was completed she moved for several years into a body of work called “Pages” created with mark making and deconstructed imagery. Discoveries within that body of work then led to the next series, Environmental Abstractions, which uses charcoal and acrylic images comprised of objects that are immediately familiar, but because of the macro presentation and overall composition of the piece, are almost not recognizable— almost a little disoriented. After several years in this series, she felt a strong pull back to pattern and repetition which brought her to her Swimmers Series. Until this conversation, I thought her process and portfolio were so hard to pin down. It seemed so sporadic. But, its all a logical progression to Laurie- It’s all spelled out.
Laurie’s current line of work has an underlying theme of gathering and togetherness. A commentary on people being able to come together again after such a hiatus from Covid-19. Laurie’s husband is a serious cook; these images are about collecting a bounty from the garden or from the sea. Preparing it; enjoying a meal. Getting things back together.
This current series is comprised of linocuts. Laurie, being the graphic artist that she is, is drawn to the line- “the dark line” that block printing provides. She explained that her printing process is a planning process, as I imagine it would have to be for any reduction printing. Complete a run, evaluate what that first image gives you and maybe readjust for your next run. Laurie explained, “There’s no exit door in linocut— you have to process the block just right. You can’t carve away too much, take the next layer too far.”
At the time of this interview, Laurie was working through a Lowcountry Boil image…complete with ten colors. In the middle of this undertaking, she was reconsidering. Had she taken the linocut too far? Would this complex/ detailed of an image serve her better as a painting? That’s how she works it through… Her printing process is her planning process.
I asked Laurie how she knows when to move on; when one piece is finished, what to work on next. Laurie works on several pieces at once. She doesn’t need to feel like she’s completed something before she’s ready to start something else. She’s always wanting to stay busy but knows when she needs to move on.
“Its a conversation with your piece. With my painting- there’ usually is an obvious end. It takes confidence to know when to quit. If you take it too far though, who cares? Don’t be scared of screwing up. Mistakes are real gems. Happy accidents.”
“Don’t fall in love with any part of your painting. Loving and overworking one part will lose the conversation with the rest of painting. You have to work and rework over everything. You can’t leave it out.”
Because they had a show coming up in Camden, South Carolina, we talked about “The Mountain Girls”- six long-time artist friends (All Camellia Art OGs.) Their meetings were first coordinated by Laurie and Lynn Parrott, her sister. They were wanting to create a “bubble of artists” they could hold workshops and critiques with. Laurie and Lynn invited a number of artists including Louanne LaRoche and Brucie Holler for an inaugural workshop in Sea Pines on Hilton Head.
The following year, they met on Hilton Head again and invited Jan Swanson and Eileen Blyth, both of whom Laurie was acquainted with from Columbia. This all began over 20 years ago. The six (McIntosh, Parrott, LaRoche, Holler, Swanson, and Blyth) were dubbed “The Mountain Girls” by our own Adrianne Lively because they met at a house on Cedar Mountain to work and critique. And the rest is history.
Of course they aren’t able to all get together as often as they would like. Life gets in the way.
I asked Laurie what has being an artist has taught her about herself.
“Art has helped me learn me who I am. It has taught me to be brave. It has taught me to believe in myself. It has given me a voice."
“Art is work. I approach it professionally as work. You have to get up and go do it. You can’t wait on 'inspiration' to strike.”
She loves what she does. She’s rarely bored. Always moving on to the next.
“I’m inspired by a lot of things. My brain still works like a designer— the designer creative self gets paid to solve other’s problems. But now, as a full time artist, I create my own problems and then I figure out how to solve them. If things work out really well, someone buys the piece and gives it a home.”
Laurie doesn’t want to appeal to everyone. She is more focused on what she wants. “Am I saying what I want to say? I feel like if I paint what people want to buy, that’s a killer. I go my own way.”
“I want to be proud of what I leave in the wake of my life. Not many things feel better than my peers and other artists validating my work. I like being respected by my peers. But, as I heard a painter friend of mine state, “A collector buying a painting is the ultimate compliment.”
Laurie’s favorite part of her art is “The doing, the making.” She enjoys creating. And then, “Once it’s done and it’s done. Maybe someone will buy it.” But she’s already moved on to the next…
Laurie and her husband moved to Camden, South Carolina about six years ago. She shows her art in the Rutledge Street Gallery and just settled into (hopefully) her forever studio on Broad Street. Please stop by and say hello if you’re ever in her neck of the woods; she would love it!