My love of color is something that led me to my love of art and today we meet Charlotte based artist, Trudi Norris whose work features color as the central figure of every painting she creates. I always love the chance to talk to artists either in person or over the phone and hear about the passion that drives them through their own words. Throughout our interview, Trudi’s love of color, the artistic world and the other artists who have been her mentors throughout her career was truly inspiring.
In our interview, Trudi shared about when her interest in art first began, the artists she’s studied under throughout her career, her love of painting strong, sophisticated women (including the inspiration behind her work titled, “The Whisperer”) and what she enjoys the most about working with the team at the ANFA Gallery.
“Abstract painting has always been my first love, but it has been a challenge as well. My paintings reflect a memory, music, poetry, friends, experiences, or simply color. When I try to capture a moment on canvas I strive to create a shared experience in color with the viewer. This is the ultimate form of connection between me and the viewer. Acquiring a piece of art should be an unforgettable experience.”
When did you first become interested in art?
When I was a child I definitely was more on the creative end of the scale and wanting to do things with my hands. I grew up on a farm and we didn’t have a lot of toys, but we had space, nature and the outdoors. I remember building a Barbie playhouse in our outdoor area. We took an empty ivory dish shop bottle for water, we would make everything out of red clay from the creek banks. My sister became a professional potter and she’s featured in museums and my brother is an ironworker and he’s on National Geographic where he builds all the door handles and the chandeliers, so it runs in the family. The way that we grew up we had to create things, we couldn’t just go to the store and buy things, we created the toys that we played with and grew the creative part of our brain.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
The way I grew up in nature really inspires me. I like to paint outside in plein air and that really inspires me and gives me the shapes, colors and the contrast.
Mint Museum Rose
You’ve studied under Andy Braitman, Claire Desjardins and Jodie King. What was one of the most important lessons you’ve learned during your time studying with various artists?
I’ve been painting for a long time and I painted and studied under Andy Braitman off and on for about 3-4 years about once a week. Andy gave me the tools and knowledge and the control I needed to take my dreams to the next step. He was very inspirational and he’s a gift to all students. He’s such a giving artist and is very accomplished and brilliant teacher.
I say control because he often had to stop me and get me to stand back and think it through. All of the things he said really resonated with me as an artist. Listening to Andy is like listening to the open mind of great master and the way that he would talk about art I would understand and get exactly what he was saying.
He has the ability to develop you into a truly great painter. He’s amazing at teaching the basics, and amazing as an artist. He’s the best instructor in Charlotte. With Andy you either follow all the rules, or you’re one of the rule breakers. Breaking the rules is one of the things that makes my work unique and as an artist I’m really proud of that. You don’t have to go A-B-C but you can go B-D-C and get the same effect.
I just love, love love her. She’s a master abstract artist and is one of the head artists for Anthropologie. When I saw that she was doing workshops and I signed up. She doesn’t do them often and you have to be accepted. The workshop was on Vancouver Island and the classes lasted 12 hours a day, but it goes by so fast. She really ignited my imagination. She has a different approach and style from Andy.
Prior to the workshop, we were also instructed to buy all our acrylic paint beforehand and it came from Kroma on Granville Island and that is the best acrylic paint that you can buy. So I really learned to pour, manipulate acrylic paint and about all of the mediums you can mix in.
Kroma isn’t available here in the US, Golden is the highest quality brand that is avail in the US. I can literally tell when I’m holding a pint of Titanium White in one hand and a pint of the same color from another brand which one has the highest quality because of the weight. A higher grade paint will way more because the paint is more dense. I’ve definitely learned that the quality of your paint counts.
With Claire we were doing abstract with acrylic and she uses a ton of color (similar to me) and she does the dot pour painting technique. She pours, lets it dry and then pours more etc. It’s very unique and gives a completely original affect. I’ve looked up to her for a long time and it was an honor to have been accepted into her workshop.
Jodie is now Austin, Texas but when I took the class she was in Houston. Jodie and I are friends and she is bubbling over with honest art. She is so talented in the abstract art field and she is super loose with the art and it’s very abstract and graphic.
Since I studied with her she has began teaching online that I highly recommend. It’s amazing what she can teach a concept in a week that I might have spent a year trying to grasp. She definitely taught me confidence.
The first day she walked over to me “Why are you here, you’ve already got this concept and you need to just run with it.” If anything she really taught me confidence, because being an artist you have to be so vulnerable because a lot of people will judge your work. When I paint I’m not painting for someone else with my artwork, I’m not painting and asking myself will be people like this. My paintings come from design, color and imagination.
For example by latest work Lobster and Sushi the design and overall concept was pure imagination. I didn’t go from pictures, just memory. A lot of my paintings are completely unique because of that.
So from Jodie I learned about letting go and to have confidence in my path and ideas.
Color is the central focus in your work, what color palettes are you currently drawn to the most?
I would say the palette are unexpected bright colors like in my Lobster and Sushi painting. I will say to that during COVID my last exhibition for ANFA (Take Root) I really found my lines again and started doing more linear work. My tablescapes had a landscape drawing the viewers eye to the back of the painting.
I used a lot of blues and yellows while I’m more known for purples, pinks and orange. I would say that how everything was so unexpected and unclear during COVID, so I wanted to make some choices that were calm and cool and I wanted to paint more expected things. I wanted to give the viewer something that they could read easier. The vessels are abstract and awkward giving the viewer a starting point. Seeing bowl of flowers and table and giving the viewer more of an image and idea… somewhere to start. It was very calm and really enjoyed it.
Here Comes the Sun
The scale of your work goes from small works to paintings as large as 70”X 70”. Which do you enjoy painting more, small works or large scale?
Large works are my favorite and Lobster and Sushi is very large. Large works allow me to use my imagination, design and color more. So I feel like with a large work I have much more space to express my ideas. The small works that I’m doing right now are for Christmas, as lots of people want to buy a small work a present.
I would love everyone who wants a piece of my work can get one so I work to keep my prices affordable without going back and forth. I think a lot of people respect that.
All of my 12×12 for the small works has taken me much more time than it took to do Lobster and Sushi because I like to work big. To keep a 12×12 from looking busy and pairing it down is definitely harder. I think some people look at a 50×50 and don’t know where to start, but that’s how I am with a 12×12 and pairing down the information that I want to get on the canvas and make it simple and yet sophisticated.
What is the atmosphere in your studio like on a typical day?
Music, dogs and coffee. Definitely barefoot, definitely dancing to the music and coffee.
At what point when you’re creating a new work do you come up with the title?
My last show titles were coming as I was painting. Usually it comes to me at the end. You paint it, sit back with a glass of red wine and then you come up with an idea for your abstract painting… like rainy day or moonlight on so and so. So for my last show I was getting ready to make the delivery to the gallery and I was writing the names on the back of the paintings.
Naming a painting for me is not easy. It doesn’t just come out of me. All of the paintings I need to deliver tomorrow, there are nine total and I only have a name for one or two. So I need to have a glass of red wine and contemplate… but they are all very happy paintings, so it will be easier.
Tell me about the piece that you are currently working on.
“Lobster and Sushi” is inspired by my latest show “Take Root” at the ANFA. I took my series on tables capes as a landscape and vessels to the next level on a grand scale adding food and an unexpected colorful pallet.
Working by adding and subtracting, I used design, color and imagination to create this fantastic, fun piece.
Lobster and Sushi
During a visit to the ANFA Gallery I had the opportunity to see the piece you’ve titled, ‘The Whisperer.’ What was the primary inspiration behind this piece?
I had a Vogue magazine in my studio and the front of the magazine had Beyoncé on it. I paint a lot of strong women. I have a Native American painting hanging in my foyer. My children see me paint these painting and they know I respect and love all people.
So “The Whisperer” came about when I was looking at the Vogue magazine cover and and seeing how beautiful and strong she was. I wanted her face to look very finished and I wanted it to be very striking, finished and thoughtful. I wanted the viewer to wonder what is she thinking.
Also her lips, there is a way to paint women and it’s very hard that you don’t over sexualize them, I don’t want my daughter to look at my paintings and to see something that is over sexualized. I wanted to show there is a way to paint a smart, beautiful, sophisticated woman.
The painting stayed in my studio for at least a year, and everyone stopped to talk about the painting. Through the ANFA Gallery I had the opportunity to donate the painting to The Arts Empowerment Project. So it went to an amazing cause.
Your work was recently featured in the ‘Take Root’ exhibition at the ANFA Gallery. What do you enjoy the most about working with the gallery prior to an exhibition?
It’s about the women that I work with, and the women that support me. Anne is amazing and so supportive. Her role is visible and invisible and she goes above and beyond. I feel like my respect for them and the gallery world and their respect for me is mutual and they are committed to my success. They are always looking to my future and where is my journey taking me. They allow me to break new ground. My Vessel Series is so different from Garden Series and they allowed me to do that.
My team is also amazing, Cassandra Richardson (Gallery Director) and Logan Sutton (Gallery Coordinator) have a great relationship with each other and the artist and they are committed to the artist. They do all of my contacts with the collectors and they really contribute to my success. Women supporting women, and I really love the way they look to my future.
“A lot of artists ask themselves, to gallery or not to gallery… because of commissions. I will say I believe in the commissions 100% and they work harder than what they actually make and they allow my mind to be free and paint and do the things that I don’t really have the time to do. When you are painting you hands and mind are busy and you’re not thinking about shipping and things like that.”