HUDSON — Overlooking the wooded acres of Willow River State Park, Gloria Adrian’s studio is a cozy space.
A fireplace warms the second story of her garage, with windows providing natural light on both sides. Her paintings hang on every wall that is not slanted, with one back wall serving in place of an easel.
Adrian has always been crafty — knitting, crocheting and sewing. Now as a painter her focus is on oil painting and collages, though she’s also done watercolors.
Adrian’s recent series on diversity in Hudson will be on display at The Phipps galleries through April 5.
How long have you been creating?
I went back to school when I was 40 and I hadn’t really done any painting or drawing then. I was going back to be a graphic designer, but I fell in love with painting. So with lots of work and forbearance, I learned how to paint. And I’ve been doing it ever since.
What led you to it, why was it something you were drawn to?
I guess it was just the class that I was taking, I fell in love with it. Graphic design at that time was going into working on the computer and this was just much more freeing than working on the computer.
Did you do a four-year program?
I did, yes, at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I tried to get all my kids to go there and none of them wanted to go there. It finally hit me that maybe that’s what I wanted to do.
Where do you find inspiration?
I love painting people, and trying to capture their likeness and their inner essence. But I think I draw most of my inspiration from nature. I need to take long walks in the woods. We just got back from a trip throughout Texas doing all the state parks, and that just fills me. I don’t know that it gives me ideas, per se, but it fills me to come back and start playing again.
What does your creative process look like?
When I’m doing people I do a lot of photos and I work mostly from photos. Sometimes I do some sketches, but lots of photos and I work from several photos. I might like one photo where the light is shining the right way but another photo where their expression is better, so I use several photos to create what I paint and the image that I paint.
So that gets me started, and then trying to capture their essence, that usually I do more in the background. Sometimes within the painting of a person, but I like capturing likenesses. That will come in many forms; it depends on the person, if I think they should be in an outside scene or an inside scene or abstract. Just the feeling or the vibe that I get from the person. I think everyone has kind of an aura, like the colors in the air mix with the dust in the air and that kind of leads me.
What impact do you hope your art has on people?
I hope it to be aesthetically pleasing and joyful. That they find joy when they look at my painting.
Do you have a community of other artists or any resources that you turn to?
I belong to a group called What We Need is Here, you know them from The Phipps. So they’re a great support system. Then I have a small studio space at Color Crossing in Roberts, and that’s a really supportive group. So I can get critiques from other artists and bring up ideas.
Why is it important for communities to have those sorts of resources and support?
Very important because it can change how I paint in one painting. Someone can see something that I haven’t seen and then I say, “Oh yeah, let’s go from there instead of from here where I’m struggling.”
How often are you able to practice your art?
I go in streaks. Like for the last year for this project I’ve been working on I worked almost everyday, or at least five days a week on it some form or other. And now the last month I’ve been kind of taking a break before I start. I kind of work in series, unless I have a commission. So I’m not sure where my next series will be coming from, I just let that sit for a while and something will perk up. And if nothing does then I just start doing some sketching and drawing and something will come from that.
Can you tell me more about your current series?
I got the idea to do diversity among people in Hudson. Looking at diversity from not only ethnicity and race, but also interests and what brought people to live in Hudson, just all the different diversity, there’s age and hobbies and there’s just so many.
I started out with diversity but it kind of ended up to be more about what brought you to this area. So there are people that are brought here by birth, people who were brought here by adoption, people who went to school like at River Falls and fell in love with the area or got jobs here, people that moved here just for the aesthetic of it. So that was very interesting.
And then I was working on doing the person realistically, so I did them in oil paint and doing the background more unrealistically, more abstract. So I did that with handmade papers, trying to capture the essence in the background combined with the people in it.
What is the one thing you enjoy most about painting?
Getting lost in it. When the muse strikes you’re just with the paint and those inner voices turn off that tell you you’re no good, you don’t know how to paint, and you’re just painting. I can’t seem to make that happen, it just happens as you paint. The more you paint the more it happens.
And some of the paintings just come out of me just like that and others I struggle and struggle with, and I don’t know what the difference is. It’s not always the ones I expect to struggle with that I struggle with.
Do you have any artist’s block tips?
Just keep painting, and you’ll work through it. Sometimes it’s really hard because all you’re painting is crap, but for some reason if you just keep doing it you seem to work through it. And not to consider it a failure, just a step in the process.
Is there a piece that you are most proud of?
I just sold one of my favorite pieces. I have one in the house of my grandchildren that’s my favorite because it’s of my grandchildren.