Reproducing the Animals’ World - Artist Louise Lopina
by Bill Thomas
Successful artists tend to have specialty subjects and favorite mediums to recreate them. Louise Lopina loves animals, especially dogs. She’s fascinated by the natural settings in which they roam, so she’s also immersed in landscape artistry. She tries to put animals in the habitats in which they belong.
Journalist John Hall, in a Sun Post Christmas 2009 tribute to three of San Clemente’s revered artists, Louise Lopina, Rick Delanty, and Paul Gavin, wrote, “I’ve found that most artists I admire are poets as well as painters – maybe 50/50 making music with their words as well as their brushes … If animals are your thing, as I’m afraid they are with me, here’s Louise Lopina again right under our noses… It’s always amazing to me that Louise is so much better known and revered all around the world than she is at home in San Clemente. Her ‘View from the Top’ an oil of snow leopards peering at the world from a snow-capped mountaintop is one for the archives. Her Australian shepherds won me over forever. She’s captured eagles, moose, elks, grizzlies and so many more as anybody ever.”
Louise described her own approach to her rare artistry in a printed statement: “’One touch of nature makes the wholes work kin,’ Shakespeare wrote in the 1500s and it still holds true today. As an artist, my goal is to celebrate the beauty in nature, and then pass the paintings on to others for their own thoughts. This I do by only painting what inspires me and by searching for the heart of the subject. If I am true to myself, I feel the work will be true for others. I strive to always improve and grow in technique.”
This talented artist grew up in the South, in Mississippi, later living in Indiana, and, eventually moving with her family to Chicago. Her interest in art came at an early age, first drawing in tempera on rough paper; she was honored by a number of awards for her artistic endeavors. In high school, she won a statewide Illinois women’s painting competition and spent many of her weekends studying in an art institute. Louise attended Purdue University where she met her future husband, Bob, who, upon graduation, became a career U.S. Air Force officer and started her off on their extensive travel adventures. Together, they still pursue those adventures today.
During Bob’s military service, they lived in 14 different houses all over the world. In England, early in their postings, Louise became actively interested in dogs, not only in their breeding and showing, but as subjects of her art interest.
“They started with shelties and, later, had sheepdogs,” Kim, one of their three daughters reported.
Their mom drew dogs in their various roles and settings, as an Australian Shepherd reclining with her brood in a painting titled, “Aussie Afternoon;” as a Yellow Labrador Retriever leaping through a stream named “Field Day;” and as a Rottweiler awaiting the return of his master in a print called “Anticipation.” She was able to capture the tints and hues of their coloring, the sinewy muscular patterns, the facial expressions, and, uniquely, the mood of the occasion she was placing on canvas. Other names on the reproductions of prints and note cards include: “A Shetland Summer,” “Rope Players,” “The Outing,” “Garden Party,” and “Home Port,” all reflecting the theme she was portraying.
Louise works in pastels and watercolors, but mostly in oil, which she also uses in her plein air endeavors. When asked how long it takes to complete a painting, her answer is two and one half hours for a plein air, which is usually accomplished out-of-doors painting what’s in front of you, to three months for a major oil reproduction with animals and environmental landscape in some exotic world location.
She has been continuing her studies in landscape art with reputable Jeff Horn, especially experimenting in painting scenery in the Pacific Northwest, including Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. Her paintings’ prices run from $300 to $10,500, depending on subject, size, and medium. Occasionally, she’ll paint on commission. She paints from her own sketches, photographs, and real life.
“Photos give you the values and the details, but not the emotional feeling,” she says. “My favorite subjects are dogs,” Louise muses, ‘but I love painting animals of all sorts and types. My first one, when I was a little girl, was a mouse. Now, I’ve even had moose pose for me.” Louise’s studio is organized chaos. Formerly a 25” by 35” pool table room, it fully represents an artist’s work area. At the entrance to the room refreshments are available from a bar and a refrigerator. As you walk around the central area with the huge easel, you encounter the comfortable swinging chair, hundreds of brushes of all sizes, bristle types, and thickness; the scores of already squeezed oil paint tubes in every color ever invented; phone, television, and radio; while other items have their storage areas: dog prints and posters, stretching bars, raw canvas, reference books and articles, boxes with animal slides; everything but the kitchen sink, even a brass keyboarded piano. “But it’s very comfortable. It’s my studio,” Louise declares.
She credits Bob as a major factor in her artist’s career. “I couldn’t do it without him,” she admitted. “He photographs my work when it’s done. He takes care of anything to do with the computer, including saving photos and my website. He’s my biggest fan and critic and even cleans up some of my painting messes with no complaint.”
Louise received a very special tribute of recognition last year. The American Kennel Club (AKC), in celebration of its 125th anniversary, commissioned her to create the organization’s dedicatory poster. She explained, “The commemorative painting contains 37 separate images reflecting the long history of the AKC including early catalog covers, several of the first registered breeds, images from early bench shows, service dogs, and many other iconic images.”
At the annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championships, over 3,000 of the top dogs from around the globe, representing 167 different dog breeds, compete for the biggest cash prizes offered in the sport. By invitation only, there is intense competition, unique awards for breeders and special events for spectators. Only seven go to “best in show.” Its primary sponsor is Eukanuba, a high-end brand of dog food. The first national championship was held in Orlando, Florida, in 2001. The next one is slated for December 4-5 in Long Beach, California, where the dogs vie for $225,000 in prize money and the chance to be named national champion. Louise will be present to sign her memorable posters. The proceeds are donated to TAKE THE LEAD, a non-profit foundation providing direct services, support and care for dogs suffering from life-threatening or terminal illnesses.
With her artistic concentration on the landscapes surrounding the animals she so joyously captures on canvas in their own environments, she also has begun to focus on the natural beauty of woodlands, forests, and bleak mountain terrain. She has reproduced nature from Tanzania on an artist’s safari to the remote southeastern Yukon Territory. Her highly regarded “View From the Top” painting of Snow Leopards was the commemorative print for the 5th International Snow Leopard Symposium. Another of the renderings of these rare animals for the 8th Symposium in Pakistan also became the cover for a Russian Conservation journal.
Her nature illustrations appear in six volumes of Russel Annabel Adventure Series published by Safari Press, and thirteen of her five foot by seven foot oil paintings, with an Adirondack theme, hang in such locales as Ken Stewart’s Lodge in Bath, Ohio the Experience Museum in Parker, Colorado; in the dining room of the Dana Point Yacht Club; and in the homes of numerous private and public collectors. The original for her 2009 AKC commemorative poster can be seen in the organization’s Madison Avenue, New York headquarters.
The Lopina art gallery, Wildbrook Studio, is in the Lopina home in San Clemente’s Sea Point development. She also is represented by the Blackhawk Gallery in Saratoga, Wyoming.
“This freedom in not having a single local commercial gallery allows me to participate in numerous local art shows and judged contests,” she said.
A signature member and former Exhibition Chairman for the Society of Animal Artists, a member of the Southern California Plein Air Artists (SOCALPAPA) and the United Society of Pastel Artists (USPA), Louise is listed in Who’s Who in American Art and the World Dictionary of International Biography. She is represented by Blackhawk Gallery in Saratoga, Wyoming. Recently, Louise won a First Place Award for her tiger painting in Mixed Media class at the San Clemente Art Gallery, and seven of her landscape paintings were selected for a three-month exhibit by the SOCALPAPA for its Muth Back Bay Interpretive Center art show. b
Louise Lopina’s gallery of originals and dog prints can be found on her website: www.louiselopina.com.