PHOTO BY MARLENE DESCHLER/BLUFF COUNTRY READERJill Storlie sits in a corner of the Bluff Country Artists Gallery where some of her paintings are now on display as a result of her being the winner of the “Show Us Your Art” contest sponsored by the gallery to entice new artists to prepare work.

Jill Storlie sits in a corner of the Bluff Country Artists Gallery where some of her paintings are now on display as a result of her being the winner of the “Show Us Your Art” contest sponsored by the gallery to entice new artists to prepare work.
The art of change is something that Jill Storlie taught in the corporate world for many years; teaching others how to deal with and manage change in the business world. She has left that world of suits and ties and corporations and is now focusing on the art of the world around her, be it here in Minnesota or Norway.

Storlie worked for a large corporation that had offices in several large cities across the United States as well as in England. She traveled to many of these different locations as part of her job and one benefit of the traveling was that she was able to visit many museums and saw many styles of artwork.

She left the corporate world when her department received a buy-out. This change made her examine her life and focus on what she'd now like to do to make a living.

Art had always been something she was interested in from the time she was in junior high to the art courses she took when she was attending Luther College.

She had dabbled in drawing and painting, but decided to pursue this interest with more fervor. She took classes in zoological and botanical drawing, watercolor painting and oil painting at Como Park. She also took classes at Luther College and Art Haus.

"I needed to practice techniques and learn from art majors, professors and artists to feel confident again," commented Storlie. "In one oil painting class at Luther I was with all art majors in a lab setting; the interaction and feedback from the other students really gave me encouragement about my future and what I hoped to do with my art."

Storlie's favorite media is oil or acrylic on canvas or wood as well as silk screening. She enjoys painting from a photograph of a particular scene she has taken or, better yet, standing directly in the scene and painting what she is actually seeing.

Her paintings that were chosen to be displayed at the Bluff Country Artists Gallery in Spring Grove are scenes from Norway.

Storlie spends about three months a year in Norway mostly on a small island called Little Færøy. Her close, longtime friend, Roar Moe, has a non-profit outdoor school on the island where the students learn a new perspective on old history doing hands-on activities associated with the sea and Norwegian farms.

While there, Storlie assists students with silk screening t-shirts with designs she has created that are inspired by the island beauty.

"During my first summer painting on the rugged Norwegian west coast I realized what I call 'big sky' that inspires me," Storlie explained. "The light dances off of thousands of miles of sea and it is extraordinary. I am happiest with my works that capture a moment in time with the mood and light so that when I look at it I can recall even the weather on that day. My hope is that the viewer can also feel that mood."

Storlie focuses on three different forms in her paintings - nature, man-made structures and living creatures.

"I was told by Douglas Eckheart, a retired Luther professor, that not many people have living things in their paintings and he encouraged me to continue to focus on that," she said.

Colors are also very important to Storlie and how the use of them portrays a mood and a depth in her paintings. "When you bring a plein air piece into your home or office it needs to be bright or it will be lost in the dim interior lighting," Storlie explained.

She also had the opportunity to study with the late Sigmud Årseth who painted the murals at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

"He taught me about the use of color, especially a color that he used in his backgrounds, a 'signature' of his. My color pallet is inspired by the training that I had with him," Storlie continued.

"One of my favorite pieces that I painted is of the Porterhouse Museum in Decorah. I spent a lot of time there during my college years and this is one of my early pieces that has a lot of details. It is one that I won't part with.

"Focusing on painting as a way to make a living has been a big change in my life, but as I look around I see that my family has supported my art for years - when I was still living at home I painted a large horse on the wall in my parents' garage; my father has painted the walls in that garage several times, but yet that painting is still there - he always painted around it," she shared. "He also has other paintings of mine that I did as a teen and other times in my young life framed and hanging on the walls in the garage. The support has always been there, I just needed to look. My parents also now have paintings in their home that are very special to them and ones that they wanted to make sure they always would have."

Storlie is the newest artist being featured at Bluff Country Artists Gallery. She was a participant in the Show Us Your Art exhibit that ran the month of October. Artists submitted a couple pieces of their art that was displayed throughout the month at the gallery. The public voted on their favorite piece and the artist with the most votes became the newest member of the gallery.

"We (the gallery board) thought that the Show Us Your Art exhibit would be a good way to get new artists into the gallery," commented Linda Nerstad-Kemp, a gallery board member. "We really hoped the contest would encourage local artists to prepare pieces for the show. We thought it was a great way for them to exhibit their work without having to pay the jury fee. The contest really brought a lot of people into the gallery. Some of the artists are now going to go through the jury process to see if their art would be accepted on a permanent basis for sale at the gallery."

The Bluff Country Artists Gallery is located on Main Street in Spring Grove and is open Wednesday through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.