Being inspired by the artwork surrounding them on the Gallery walls, participants in the acrylic painting class with Jill Storlie worked on their landscape paintings. Three more painting classes are available in this series. There is still some room available, interested people can contact the gallery to reserve their spot. PHOTO: courtesy of Bluff Country Artists Gallery
Being inspired by the artwork surrounding them on the Gallery walls, participants in the acrylic painting class with Jill Storlie worked on their landscape paintings. Three more painting classes are available in this series. There is still some room available, interested people can contact the gallery to reserve their spot. PHOTO: courtesy of Bluff Country Artists Gallery
Painting color into a winter evening, a group of novices, amateurs, and professionals gathered at the Bluff Country Artists Gallery for the first of a four-part painting series taught by Spring Grove resident, Jill Storlie. The series has a Norwegian focus, in-part to celebrate the 200th year of the Norwegian constitution and in-part to celebrate the rich Norwegian heritage of Spring Grove.

The first class was held March 3 and focused on landscape painting.

"I introduced the first class through examples of how to start landscape painting with underpainting and special colors that help provide atmospheric perspective and depth," explained Storlie. "Each participant chose a theme either of their own or a picture or painting. So although everyone was painting something different, I was able to continue to instruct throughout the workshop-style course using both my paintings as examples and also the developing works of the class."

"The group represented a big gap of experience and age, but as often happens in art, some of the most remarkable results at the end of the first class were from folks who had rarely painted and were willing to take that leap of faith and just do it, while also learning from the subject pieces that they were surrounded by," added Storlie.

Each class meets from 6 until 9 p.m. The next class on Monday, March 31, will be flat plane figurative painting. Participants will create their own sign or canvas using techniques inspired by the Sigmund Aarseth paintings at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center. The class on Monday, April 7 will focus on the works of Norway's artist Edvard Munch. Participants will view his paintings and be inspired to create their own abstract pieces. The final class on Monday, April 7, will teach participants about Scandinavian borders and how to finish a piece.

"My image of this course was that an experienced painter would be sitting or standing at an easel next to a newcomer and that happened!" commented Storlie. "If you are in a class with others using similar materials, you really have a bond, a starting point of discussion, and extra motivation to step back from your work and look at it with different eyes and yet keep coming back to finish it."

Space is available in the upcoming classes, but limited. Interested individuals are encouraged to register early before the classes are full. Each class is $15 plus $5 for materials that include a canvas or plywood surface, a large assortment of acrylic paints, and brushes. To register for a class, contact the Gallery at 507-498-ARTS (2787) or email bcagallery@springgrove.coop.

"After the long, dark cold days that we've had, I hope these classes put a little spring into the participants' character," said Storlie with a smile. "Many people have either never sat down with a paint brush and paints or they haven't had much chance to do it lately. So many of us are so busy with the everyday maintenance of our homes and family life, not to mention careers and school expectations, that we don't have time to give some energy to our creative side. I'm hoping these classes give people an opportunity to take the time to explore their artistic perspective."

The works of the class participants will be part of an exhibit at the Gallery during the Syttende Mai celebration in May.

"I would like to continue offering art series where people have access to these kinds of classes with subjects related to our immigrant past," added Storlie. "This could include the Norwegian Ridge Birding Trail or landscapes of barns and farm yards or old trees. There are many possibilities."

About the artist

Storlie taught in the corporate world for many years; teaching others how to deal with and manage change in the business world. She 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 drawn and painted here and there, 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," explained 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 she has taken of a particular scene or better yet, standing directly in the scene and painting what she is actually seeing.

"In my favorite paintings - landscapes alone or with figurative features - I play with the natural colors based on the light of day. During my first summer painting on the rugged Norwegian west coast I realized that what I call 'big sky' was what inspires me. The light dances off of thousands of miles of sea and it is extraordinary. Our bluff country area is similar with the prairies to our west," remarked Storlie. "I am happiest with my works that capture a moment in time, but play up the mood and light so I can recall even the weather on the day I painted it. My hope is the viewer can vicariously connect with that space too."

The Bluff Country Artists Gallery held a local art contest where the winner was determined by popular vote; Storlie's paintings won this contest earning her a permanent presence in the Gallery.