Artist Spotlight: Louise LeBourgeois

Water #447, 10" x 12", oil on panel, 2011
"I love my brushes. I've had some of them for over a decade. I treat them almost exactly the way I treat my hair (wash, rinse, condition (w/ vaseline intensive care), rinse again), except I don't douse my brushes in chlorine. Then again, I don't soak my hair in paint and solvents either..." ~Louise LeBourgeois (avid swimmer & artist)

I happened upon Louise LeBourgeois a few weeks ago, when I was looking around Facebook for artists.  I immediately fell in love with her work and located her website where I was able to see her evolution as an artist through the years.  What was even more surprising to me than her art journey was her life journey, as she and I had passed through the same elementary school for a time.  It is truly a small world, and even smaller art world.  Finding these similarities, I just had to reach out to Louise to get to know her, and I was not disappointed by our conversation or her deep character. 

River Moon, #373, 12" x 12", oil on panel, 2008
Louise LeBourgeois grew up in the small town of Clemson, SC before moving as a young teen to Chicago, IL.  The significance of the move, highlighting the difference between the small town, southern life and the urban culture of Chicago, has stayed with Louise long through her burgeoning art career.  She was a closet artist, drawing mainly, throughout grade school and high school and pursued her BFA in drawing and print-making, taking a little painting along the way.  At the time, it didn't seem practical to Louise to have an art career, so she worked a full range of other jobs to make ends meet.  Upon applying to graduate school in psychology, it was then that Louise gave in to her desire to pursue an art career and give it a serious shot.  

In college, Louise worked primarily in oil pastels and graphite and didn't switch to painting in oils until the second year of graduate school, when she found she desired more blending of the materials to achieve the atmosphere her work emits. She started painting imaginary landscapes, building from the places she knew, some she missed and others she was coming to know.  The smoothness of oils on a finely sanded panel worked well for her subject matter, and continues to as she has transformed her work over the years.   

Point #432, 20" x 24", oil on panel, 2010
Because of Louise's careful blending, she needs brushes that do her bidding easily, and she takes great care of them, so they will continue to hold their shape and suppleness for years to come.  Using a mix of both natural bristle brushes and synthetics, Louise has been able to achieve her soft details and blending.  For much of the color lay-in, Louise uses natural bristle in larger sizes and then moves to synthetic watercolor brushes for detail.  Goat hair mops make up her blending tools, as they are some of the softer natural hair.  In choosing brushes, Louise goes by feel and has come to know her preferences over decades of painting.  She advises her students likewise, to choose brushes by feel, starting with 6-8 brushes in different sizes and shapes and proceed to work with those until the style and "feel" dictate further purchases.  "Spend time with the brushes and test out how they feel in the hand," she suggests. "Get as big a variety as your budget will allow, as you develop sensitivity to figure out what you'll use more."

Bike Path #406, 12" x 12", oil on panel, 2009
Using quality materials, paints, panels, and brushes has brought Louise's work a long way; but her own path has determined the evolution of the subject.  Louise is still painting atmospheric work, but now she has transitioned more to waterscapes, drawing from her close proximity to Lake Michigan and her own love of swimming.  The swimming and painting have merged for her, and in both, there is exists the ever-present horizon line.  "[It] represents yearning; you can never reach it, it will always be there in the distance," Louise explains.  

"After all these years of representing the horizon line in paint, I see it as a playful paradox inherent to life on this big round planet of ours, and something that we all long for.  The visible yet non-existent line that describes a curve is also the fictive space where as far as we can see reveals that there is yet more to come." ~Louise LeBourgeois

To follow Louise's work, teaching and gallery shows, check into her website:

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.