Lori Sokoluk Art

At my recent artist residency, I made some breakthroughs working on mylar.

PortTown 4 (mixed media on mylar, 36”x24”, available at time of posting)


I’ve been fascinated with mylar since doing a collaborative project on mylar several years ago. Finally, in my PortTown series, I had a concept that lends itself naturally to the translucency of mylar. The edge of water and land is in constant flux. The view of the port comes in and out of focus as fog, mist, and rain come and go.


I use mylar that is matte on both sides. This provides a level of translucency that appeals to me, and the matte finish lends a nice ‘tooth’ for drawing. I like the heavy feel of the material and the clean edges. In addition:

  • I can draw on the front and back
  • acrylic paint applied on the back results in a beautiful homogeneous matte block of color when viewed from the front
  • the translucency of the mylar diffuses things collaged in from the back

I'll be posting more work on mylar in the upcoming weeks, so check back for new work on my website, Facebook, and Instagram.

When brainstorming, do you ever find yourself reaching for the nearest scrap of paper -the back of an envelpe, a cocktail napkin, or the corner of a brown paper bag? You scribble madly trying to get that idea down fast. It may not be pretty, or formal, but the focus is on exploring and communicating an idea.

Left to right: PortTown Sketches 1, 2, 3 (mixed media on paper, 8”x5.5”, $70 each, available at time of posting)


I’ve been doing basically this same thing using a lovely stack of heavy brown paper, a gift from my husband. The paper is about 8”x5.5”, a bit worn, with rounded corners and a soft patina. 


I work freely, curiously, without feeling there is much at stake. I’m using elements that also appear in my PortTown series: images of cranes, industrial buildings, birds, and wires; and I incorporate similar techniques: drawing, painted shapes and drips, photos, and collage. The brown of the paper gives me a nice solid mid-tone before I even begin. Add a few darks, a few lights, and voila! 


Working on small sketch pieces can be a great way to get things moving if I’m feeling a bit stuck, or my time or energy is limited. Once my creativity is flowing again, the detailed, intentioned studio painting, or the tricky, touchy work on mylar don’t seem so intimidating.


Do you sketch? What role does sketching play in your artistic practice?

I read blog posts and hear artists talking about ‘working in a series’ - is it important? What if I have a ton of interesting ideas? For me, working in a series is about having an idea or exploration that is interesting enough to sustain me over a (longish) period of time and that I explore repeatedly in a number of works. This comes naturally to me. 


For me, pieces in a series don’t have to exhibit exactly the same style, technique, and presentation (although, I have to say it, that makes for a fantastically coherent exhibition). 


At my recent artist residency, I continued work on a series based on the imagery of all the ports I’ve known and loved in many cities around the world. I’ve wandered, sketched, photographed, and observed ports in Manchester, Halifax, Montreal, Chicago, and Vancouver to name a few. Read more about this series here


My explorations are currently taking three main directions:


  1. PortTown Sketch 3 (mixed media on paper, 8”x5.5”, $70, available at time of post)
  2. PortTown 1 (mixed media on canvas, 28”x22”, $1340, available at time of post)
  3. detail of in progress mylar piece 

1. Sketches

These are small pieces that I complete quickly. I am using the imagery and some of the same techniques as in the more developed pieces: port structures, crows, drawn line, areas of flat color, collaged lift prints 


2. Paintings 

These are fully devleloped studio pieces on canvas or wood panel


3. Explorations on mylar

I’m experimenting with the translucency of mylar to give a sense of mist, layers, and shifting images.


The works are clearly related in terms of imagery, drawn line and painted areas, drips, and color palette. I’ll be sharing more about each of these avenues of exploration in upcoming posts.


Do you work in series? 


Does it come naturally to you, or does it feel like you are forced to ignore a lot of other great ideas to meet the expectations of a gallery or collectors?

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic. It’s an easy read about living a creative life, written in a light, jocular tone. But the concept is deep and powerful. This reflects her approach to creative living - that it’s deeply important, but best to approach with a light touch.


She also believes that ideas are animate entities that need us to fully come alive. They are always on the lookout for a creative type that is open and interested enough to take them up. They stick with us as long as we are dedicated and give them our focus and hard work. If we turn our energy elsewhere, they may go find someone else who is more likely to make them manifest. If they aren’t cooperating, creative types like Tom Waits tell them to “go bother Leonard Cohen”.


Some of my favourite quotes are: 


“You can resist the seductions of graniosity, blame, and shame. You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your success of failures. You can battle your demons ... instead of battling your gifts.”


I think a lot of people quit pursuing creative lives because they’re scared of the word interesting. My favourite mediation teacher, Pema Chödrön once said that the biggest problem she sees with people’s meditation practice is that they quit just when things are starting to get interesting. Which is to say, they quit as soon as things aren’t easy anymore, as soon as it gets painful, or boring, or agitating. They quit as soon as they see something in their minds that scares them or hurts them. So they miss the good part, the wild part, the transformative part - the part when you push past the difficulty and enter into some raw new unexplored universe within yourself. ... Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding. Because that moment? That’s the moment interesting begins.”


“I have a friend, an aspiring musician, whose sister said to her one day, quite reasonably, “What happens if you never get anything out of this? What happens if you pursue your passion forever, but success never comes? How will you feel then, having wasted your entire life for nothing?” My friend, with equal reason, replied, “If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you.”

An Artists Residency


My port-inspired series developed in surprising new directions as a result of intense continuous focus on the work at a week-long residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida run by Aimone Art Services. Steve Aimone offered timely questions and suggestions that helped me dig deeply into my intent, and the other artists were supportive and enthusiastic. It was fabulous and liberating to live, breath, talk about, and make art 24/7! 

I’ll be sharing more of the work that came out of this residency over the next couple of months. Look for it in my upcoming exhibit “Industrial Dreamscapes” at Britannia Gallery on April 6-29, 2016, check out my Facebook page, Instagram, or visit my studio Feb 6th (I’m open for First Saturday Open Studios).   


If you don’t have a formal residency scheduled, consider setting up  with an artist friend or two. Schedule a few days where you sequester yourself from daily life and work like fiends in the studio. 


I know artists who have done many residencies. This was my first, and I’m definitely interested in doing more. My regular studio practice is grounding and productive, but a residency is an opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds.


Have you ever done an artist’s residency?  What did you find were the main benefits?

I love it the feeling of producing a painting that I know is going to be the start of a series!  Here’s a painting that I completed in late November, entitled “PortTown 1” (mixed media on canvas, 28”x22”, $1340, available at time of posting)


I have lived near ports in many cities. I’ve walked, photographed, and sketched them over many years. When I found myself temporarily located in a studio with a large window overlooking the Port of Vancouver and I knew it was time to start painting them.


The shapes and shadows of port structures intrique me. I love the juxtapostion of worn organic and mechanical angular shapes, and the patina of old materials long exposed to the elements.


The Port is the territorial line where city meets waterway. City and Water constantly vie for supremacy. Humans continue to push and pull this edge influenced by industry, wealth, national security, prestige, and panoramic vistas. 


I love the secrecy of ports: the mystery of the workings housed in these structures, and the difficulty or inability to get close to them. My imagination wonders about the spaces hidden in the silos, conveyors, and other buildings. I thrill and cower at stories of espionage, industrial barons, and corruption. People and things go missing in ports. Ports are a place of beginnings and endings: the demarcation between land and ocean, people leaving loved ones behind or stepping out into the brave unknown.


I have started to explore and evoke these ideas using drawn mark, painting, collage, and photo transfer. Soft, organic drawn marks and smudges contrast with sharp edged cutouts and photo transfers. Veils of paint or markmaking obscure definition. I’m excited to see how this develops!


How do you know something is a seminal piece as opposed to just a painting you love? 


The ‘aha’ moment of recognition tells me this piece contains key elements that capture something of deep interest to me, and which excite me so much that I look forward to spending substantial enjoyable time making more work in a similar vein. I like to keep these seminal pieces around, at least until I am well into the ensuing series. They are an energetic key that helps me access the ideas and techniques so I can create new work in the same vein.

How do I know when a painting is finished?


In an earlier blog post I wrote about how having a clear idea about why you are painting something can help you know when the piece is done. 


Another important aspect of completing a painting is to identify the finishing touches that take a piece from ‘basically done’ to ‘perfecto’. 


Subtlety is important in art. As I get close to finishing a painting, I spend a lot of time looking and far less time taking action. Also, the actions I take get smaller and more specific. After all, it’s almost there and I don’t want to nullify all the good work I’ve done to this point. At this stage, patience is a virtue indeed. So is the discipline to make yourself stop, step back, and take a good hard look at what you have in front of you.


Here is a recent painting, “Crying On The Inside” (oil on canvas, 12”x12”, $325, available at time of posting). The image on the left is ‘almost done’; the image on the right shows the completed piece. 


I took 12 very specific actions to bring the piece to completion. Can you identify them? If you think you know, I invite you to share this post on social media with your answers!







Happy New Year to you, and thank you for being a part of my year. I truly value your support, enthusiasm, and friendship. 2015 has been a great art year for me, building momentum for what I intend to be some big changes in the year ahead. 


Here's a quick look back, then ahead...


2015 opened with an exhibition with the Art Azo Group at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery. “Azo Gold”, I painted an entirely new series that aligned with the theme - my series was entitled “Precious Things Hidden In The Earth” which encompassed precious metals and gems, the fertile earth, and my ancestors’ bones. You can read more about it here.




This summer, my studio building changed ownership and renovations began. The new owners are using my ground floor studio as a site construction office, so I’ve moved temporarily up to the third floor. I love having a view of the port, and my newest work is definitely inspired by my new outlook.




I started getting used to my new studio by doing some experimental work focused on integrating drawing and painting. I worked primarily with black, white and buff using all kinds of media and collage. The work was very freeing for me, has been hugely popular, and led me directly into the new PortTown series.




My teaching was focused on working with the Artists of Kerrisdale in the fall term. They are a lovely energetic group that I have worked with previously, and I’ll be back with them in 2017. Each weekly session starts with a demo or inspiring talk before we shift gears into one-on-one time with each artist in turn.




In November, I shifted my focus to the business side of things, attending the Art Biz Breakthough conference put on by Alyson Stanfield and ArtBizCoach.com. It was incredibly energizing to meet artists from all over North America and forge some new friendships.




November also brought the 19th Annual Eastside Culture Crawl. Over 800 people visited my studio. If you climbed the stairs to say hello and see my new work, I thank you sincerely! I had great conversations with folks, and received very positive feedback on my newest work.




My big goals for 2016 are:


1. Up the level of mastery in my work
I have been accepted into a Steven Aimone Master Residency in late January. I’ve watched the work of a friend has been working with him for a few years evolve into a beautiful expressive abstract style, and I'm excited to turbo-charge my own artistic growth.

2. Up the level of professionalism in my art business
I will be continuing to work with Alyson Stanfield Art Biz Coach as part of her Inner Circle, focusing on better marketing and business practices that I will need as my art career evolves. 

3. Establish a new studio space with well-suited studio mates
February will mark 8 years that I have had a studio in the Hamilton Bank Building. It's been a great run in a cool building. However, in March, I will be opening the new REDSOKIL ARTS location in the Paneficio building in Strathcona. Like my current studio, it's a beautiful space with a lot of history in the heart of a great neighbourhood. Look for the invitation to our studio opening in the next newsletter.

4. Inspire other artists
Despite being pretty busy with the first three activities, I will continue to teach and share my enthusiasm with other artists. See my website for more course/demo details.

5. Serve my community
I continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Eastside Culture Crawl Society. 2016 will be our 20th year, so there will be lots of special programming to celebrate! 




I feel like wheel is turning and I am so excited about the new cycle that is beginning. If you want to keep in touch, please like my Facebook art page.

Thank you for supporting original art. See you in 2016,


my . artist run website