10 Questions | Laurel Daniel


How did you get started? I was a fine art major in college but went in the direction of graphic design for 19 years after graduating. When my family moved to Austin from California in 1999, I was ready for something new and signed up for a painting class at Laguna Gloria. That was it… I rediscovered the joy of smearing paint on a canvas and haven’t put the brushes down since.

Who or what has had a major influence on you as an artist? “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” That old proverb was true for me. When I returned to painting, I found a teacher and mentor in Cassandra James, an Austin landscape painter. She taught me to paint again and introduced me to the process of en plein air (painting on location in open air). More importantly, Cassandra encouraged a sense of confidence in me and an urgency for pursuing my own work. For that I am forever grateful.

Describe a typical day in the studio. I get up early to ease into my day with coffee and a little reading. I like to take care of administrative work and respond to email before I go into the studio, so I am not distracted. On studio days, I try to have the pigments squeezed out by 10 am and some good momentum built up by noon. After lunch, I usually keep painting until around 6, taking several short breaks to step away from the piece and rest my eyes. I try to pace myself throughout the afternoon in order to be at a good stopping point before dinnertime. I rarely work at night. On plein air days, I try to be on location and painting from 9am – 12pm. If I am outside all day, I will start different piece after lunch, when the afternoon shadows return.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? I would probably be a psychologist. I love people and their stories, and am infinitely interested in what makes the human spirit tick.

When, if ever, do you feel like a piece is finished? Every painting has it’s own ending point. Some come together fast and others require a little more nurturing. The common element for completion seems to be when the painting is in agreement with itself about the light, mood and focal point… when all the elements are singing the same song. My goal is to try and get there without over-stating.

What was your first job? My first “official” job was clerking in an upholstery shop/antique store in Racine, Wisconsin. I was just 16 and couldn’t believe my good fortune. It was the coolest place to work. I spent hours arranging and rearranging the antiques and junk displays, and simply fell in love with old treasures from other eras. Eventually, my boss even taught me to sew some of the upholstery. It was a one-of-a-kind type of job.

Single best invention in your opinion. In my book, the best invention has to be the collapsible metal tube, which was invented in the late 1800’s. It enabled artists to take their pigments outside into the landscape, and to paint directly from life. I am pretty sure that is when the real painting fun started.

What item would you be lost without? I would be lost without my plein air painting kit. I take it everywhere.

Tell us a bit about your new work in the show. My new work in this show is a continuation of my exploration of the landscape. Whether outside or in the studio, I am interested in the nuances of light and shadow in the panoramas of our daily lives. I am committed to diligently practicing my craft in order to depict those subtleties in a true and pleasing way.

Most important question: who would you say has the best margarita in town? I am not a margarita person, so I will leave that answer to the real aficionados to determine. For me, an ice cold, micro brewed Duckabush Amber at North By Northwest always hits the spot.




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