Lori Ulmer-Hanson: A Gifted Artist, and So Much More

Before I get into why I feel Lori Ulmer-Hanson is one of the most gifted, multi-talented artists on the planet, let me tell you a little bit about how she came to be a part of my family’s life. Or more accurately, how she came to be a part of our family.

Truth be told, I don’t remember a world without Lori in it. She entered my life further back than my memories go. I was five or six. A wee little thing on the local neighborhood swim team. Lori was 15 or 16, and also a proud Marlin. The story goes that she and my momma formed an instant bond (a sort of mother-daughter connection that still lives strong today). And soon after that fateful meeting, Lori became our one and only “babysitter” – a term that doesn’t even remotely capture her true role.

Of course, at some point the memories kick in. It was the 70s and early 80s. My dad and his business partner were busy running a fast-growing company, and entertaining clients with dinners and trips was the norm. As a result, my folks would often travel out-of-town, and it was during these years that Lori, my sister and I truly bonded. As a caretaker, Lori did her job, and she did it well. But she was much more than a babysitter tolerating a couple of kids. Lori loved us, and we loved her. We enjoyed our time together. She got a kick out of us. And we thought she was the coolest person that ever walked this earth. It was (and still is) a special connection that can’t truly be captured in words.

Creativity is More than Paint and a Brush.

Lori’s creativity was clear to us early on. She never tired of finding new and fun ways to keep two very different little girls occupied – and she enjoyed doing it. There were games (classic and concocted), art projects, day outings to the local theme park or to Galveston Island, hang out time with her ultra cool friends (and ultra handsome brother – certainly didn’t forget that), and so much more. And she was really chill. Just super laid back. Lori didn’t get worked up over the little things. She’d let us explore, rifle through her stuff, ask her anything that was on our minds. She was (and still is) so beautiful. With her infectious zest for life, her calm, generous demeanor and her absolutely perfect Farrah Fawcett winged (naturally) blonde hair. The memories are all so safe and magical and colorful in my mind. She enhanced my childhood in ways that she will never understand, and even if she did, she wouldn’t admit it.

The Escape “Art”ist.

Lori went through some challenging times early on, and I think, I hope our family was her safe place to land. I realize now that art was an outlet for her – not only to create, but to escape. A God-given talent, for sure, and also a way to get lost in something beautiful.

When it comes to art, talent does matter. But it isn’t everything. As with anything else in life, if you don’t also enjoy what you’re doing, it will eventually fall by the wayside.  Lucky for us, Lori LOVES art…everything about it. And even though she has reached a level of success that most artists can only hope for, she is still a consummate student – learning and growing and evolving. It really is inspiring.

Over the years, Lori has gifted our family with some of her amazing sculptures, paintings, prints, and digital art pieces – and we treasure each and every one. We also insist on paying, but rarely win that battle. No shock there. Back in the day, she would never accept money for her babysitting services — my parents would have to slip it in her purse when she wasn’t looking. An unfair family discount, if you ask me. So, we push harder these days (or we reinstate the ole slip it in the purse trick).

As a working and well-known artist (especially in her home state of Texas and her current residence, Maryland), Lori now puts a proper value on her talent. Today, her original sculptures and paintings carry a price tag that properly respects her talent. For my You, Me and the Tree(huggers) that, like me, have a little less change jingling around in our pockets, prints of Lori’s work are more attainable, and great quality. And her new digital art – which I am OBSESSED with – is very affordable. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus!

Ok, enough of my blabbering on. Let’s hear from the actual artist! Many thanks to Lori, who was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us about art, inspiration, evolution and much more.

A “Q & A” With Lori Ulmer-Hanson

When did you first realize your love of art and your artistic abilities?

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a love for art. But even though I did well in art classes growing up, I never really thought of myself as an ‘artist’. It wasn’t until years after I studied art in college (at Sam Houston State University) that I finally began to see myself as an artist.

Do you remember your first serious art project?

I do. It was my first sculpture class, during the last semester of my sophomore year in college. The final project in the class was a bronze casting of a bust that I sculpted in wax. I enjoyed it so much, I ended up graduating with a BFA specializing in sculpture.

Where did you grow up and how did your early years influence your artistic style?

I grew up in the great Spring, Texas (a suburb northwest of Houston). I’m not sure I can really pinpoint how those years influenced my style, but art was definitely an avenue to lose myself, an escape of sorts. I didn’t just love it. I needed it.

How would you describe your particular style of art?

Out there! Most of my work would be considered semi-abstract. The subject is usually pretty recognizable with the forms being highly stylized. Details are generally not important to me. Simplicity is.

How has your style evolved over the years and why?

I’m a bit of an unguided rocket. As I get older, I do seem to be much more comfortable experimenting with a mixture of mediums – like painting, and more recently, digital drawings. I’m loving that!

(Momma interjection): Your style for a long time was about the person – faces, the torso. That’s definitely still with you, but you’re really starting to branch out and explore other mediums.

(Back to Lori): Yeah, I have been doing a lot more painting recently and I’m really enjoying it. It seems like my humor comes out more in paintings and drawings. I like that people can look at them, enjoy some offbeat humor and smile (i.e. my take on The Last Supper). It’s nice to not always take ourselves so seriously. And sculpture – which I still love – has a whole different feeling. It’s more organic and flowing.

Which artists are you most influenced by and why?

For sculpture, I’m most influenced by Henri Moore, mainly for his organic and abstract use of his reclining figures. Painting? For me, it’s all about color, so I’m attracted to artists like Matisse. I love the way he uses color with black. And for graphic art, I’m definitely influenced by Picasso and his use of line to suggest form and movement. He’s able to capture such a wide range of emotions.

Which mediums do you work with / have you created your art with? Which is your favorite?

My works span a wide range of mediums including clay, stone, metal casting and wood for sculpting. When it comes to painting, I mostly paint with acrylics and rather than using a brush to apply the paint, I find using a credit card allows me much more freedom.

Clay is probably my favorite medium to work with, simply because of the forgiving nature of the material. But I also like bronze, stone, wood, paintings and graphics. It’s adult onset ADD, really. I’m all over the board!

I don’t use stone and bronze as often because it takes longer. I can sit down and do a painting in one day, and a graphic in 15 minutes. It’s nice sometimes to create something fully in a short period of time. You don’t get into the neuroses of thinking and re-thinking a piece. You just do it, and sometimes your best work comes from that. But there are times I’m really in the mood to use my hands, and I enjoy the longer process of crafting a sculpture.

How did you get into computer art and what has been the most difficult part of working with such a different set of “tools”? What has been the most fun/rewarding part?

My daughter sparked my interest when she was in high school. I would watch as she created all of these amazing things on her computer, and I’d try to get her to teach me. But like most teenagers, she couldn’t slow down long enough to do it. So, I decided to enroll in a Computer Graphics/Illustrating/Designer program at our local college.

The biggest challenge for me was learning the software. That and file management! What I enjoy the most is kicking back at home in my recliner, parked in front of the TV with the Macbook on my lap, just creating for hours. I also love being able to store hundreds of drawings in a small folder on my computer desktop, along with the ease of creating an image and re-sizing it as small or as large as I need it. Life is good!

To see more of Lori’s amazing work, go here.

Lori Ulmer-Hanson was born and raised in a suburb of Houston, Texas, and is now a private citizen of Laurel, Maryland. She has been married to her husband, Tommy, for 30 years, and they have two amazing, grown children, Chase and Dana. Lori is best known for her beautiful and unique bronze, wood, stone & clay sculptures. Her works are most often abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting the female form. More recently, Lori has expanded her talent to paintings, drawings, and digital art. After 30 plus years as a renowned Texas sculptor, she is now residing as an abstract artist at the Montpelier Art Center. Lori proclaims to love all of her neighbors and fellow artists…when she’s in the mood.

 

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