Getting through the fire |

Getting through the fire

Laura Kowalski uses acrylic paint to find balance in her world

Every winter, artist Laura Kowalski has to turn on her space heaters eight hours before she paints in her garage/art studio.

“I have to carry the paint and water into the house and can’t store anything in here or it would freeze,” she said. “Painting without heat is a challenge and cuts back on the spontaneity of it.”

Kowalski typically finishes a painting in one sitting, but it can take a while for the image to appear in her mind.

“After meditation I get a very clear picture,” she said. “I meditate for 15 to 20 minutes every day, and when I get a picture I say, ‘OK, that’s what I’m painting.’ Sometimes it can come to me in dreams or while talking on the phone.”

As a single mother, Kowalski has learned to multitask. It’s not unusual for her to be talking on the phone while painting.

“The concrete side of my brain has the conversation, and my more artistic side and subconscious brain says, ‘Let’s get over here and paint,'” Kowalski said. “It works much better when I am doing two things at once because I come up with the most amazing things that way.”

Acrylic paint is Kowalski’s favorite medium because it is bright and intense, which mirrors the way she views life and what she refers to as “getting through the fires.”

“The fire is the incredibly intense things going on in life that is on some level mental and emotional with our personal issues, but also in the making of spiritual decisions of what’s next in your life,” Kowalski said. “You have to build a balance, and your world is that fire.”

She has been reflecting her current life changes through the variety of colors she uses.

“Right now I’m very much into red and yellow,” she said. “But there are days that I only want to use blue and green.”

Kowalski’s work can be considered abstract only in her definition of the word.

“It is not abstract per se – the people in New York who have this picture of a square and ask, ‘What is the meaning of that square?'” she said. “Abstract for me is more emotional. It’s all very personal stuff.”

Her paintings will be on display during her first solo art show, which opens today at the Comb Goddess, and she has an upcoming solo show in a gallery at Pennsylvania State University. To qualify for the Penn State show, she needed to produce a series of 20 new pieces.

Finding time to do that while working two jobs and raising two children has been a challenge.

“My brother is a novelist and said that if I just have a regular schedule and show up to do the work – even if it’s crap – that’s great,” Kowalski said. “It’s like this quote I once heard: ‘I only paint when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every day at nine in the morning.'”

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