Kim Lordier | Putting the Pieces Together

Kim Lordier finds her voice in the landscape

By Elizabeth L. Delaney

Kim Lordier, A Spring Dusting, pastel, 16 x 20.

Kim Lordier, A Spring Dusting, pastel, 16 x 20.

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

“Getting lost in what you’re doing is a pretty phenomenal experience,” says California pastel artist Kim Lordier, who strives to capture and share the solace-giving light, color, and atmosphere she finds within the natural world. To harness and communicate these elements is Lordier’s passion, and although this passion has always existed inside her, it took some years before she found the inspiration and resolve to assemble the pieces of life and art that would nurture her need to create.

Born and raised in California’s Bay Area, Lordier has been drawing for as long as she can remember, and perhaps even before that. She also grew up riding horses, and not surprisingly, her first compositions were simple stick figures of the animals. As she grew into a nationally competitive rider, she also blossomed into a sought-after young artist. She sold her first portrait of a horse when she was only 15 years old, and from there she began to take on more commissions—a practice that she would carry on for the next two decades.

Lordier earned a bachelor’s degree in illustration from the Academy of Art University/University of San Francisco, and though she was able to build a strong foundational practice and learn the business of art, she wasn’t quite ready to fully embrace the idea of fine art as a career. After graduation, she decided to take what she considered a more practical professional path and become a flight attendant.

Then, throughout the course of 2001, she experienced several defining moments. It was a time of self-discovery when, she says, “the stars aligned.” The first revelation came when she attended an exhibition of early California Impressionists at the Oakland Museum of California—in particular, a piece by Edgar Payne caught her attention. After years of traveling and seeing all types of art, Lordier connected with this show more immediately and deeply than with any other. A vital part of her decision to start making art again, she describes the show as the “gut punch” she needed to pick up her pastels. “I had to sit down and take it all in,” she says. “I had found my people.” Stylistically, Lordier felt drawn to the illustrative quality of the work, as well as its handling of color, strong values, and dramatic undertones.

Next, she encountered a painter giving a plein-air demonstration, and again, made a connection—this time between her love of the outdoors and rendering that passion in real time, in two dimensions. “I saw a process that I could tap into,” she says. Since that time, Lordier has painted en plein air, and she continues to relish both the emotional and physical communion that working in nature brings her. “It marries my love of the land and the outdoors and my love of painting,” she explains.

Sadly, the third piece of the puzzle fell into place when Lordier took a voluntary flight attendant’s furlough after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. With newfound time, perspective, and passion, she embarked on her journey as a full-time artist. “I have not looked back,” she says. “I am grateful for this opportunity to pursue what I love.”

By 2004, Lordier had secured a spot in her first juried plein-air event, the Carmel Art Festival. The following year, she won artists’ choice awards at Sonoma Plein Air and the Napa Valley Museum Plein Air Biennial. She has since garnered much additional recognition, including a Best of Show prize at the Pastels USA show sponsored by the Pastel Society of the West Coast, the Grand Prize in Pastel Journal’s Pastel 100 competition, and an Award of Excellence at Paso Art Fest in Paso Robles, CA.

Today, Lordier resides in her native San Francisco Bay Area with her family, working in a custom studio built by her husband. Her work has been exhibited at such notable California venues as the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, the Haggin Museum in Stockton, the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Irvine Museum, and the Laguna Art Museum. She is a signature member of the California Art Club, the Pastel Society of America, and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, as well as a distinguished pastelist of the Pastel Society of the West Coast.

Lordier works in landscapes, depicting the forests, mountains, oceans, and other natural scenes that speak to her in color-rich, painterly oil pastels. “I am drawn to the natural landscape,” she says simply. Although the occasional figure finds its way into her compositions, she explains, “For the most part, it is the rhythms and patterns in nature that call to me. While driving down the road or hiking a path, I see shapes that meet in a satisfying way, and I am compelled to stop and set up my gear. The quality of light plays a large part in this decision-making process.” The artist often discovers enticing subject matter near her home, but she also loves to take road trips in search of engaging compositions. She has painted scenes in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, North Carolina, and Maine, among other places.

Lordier began her professional painting practice working outdoors, honing her technique and building upon the principles of design she had learned in school. “I feel grounded out in the field,” she says of painting among the elements. “I love my feet touching the earth or digging my toes into the sand, feeling the warmth of the sun or crispness of the air while I paint. I love the adrenaline rush that comes from painting on location, that need or desire to capture a fleeting moment of light before it disappears. There is nothing better than the visual poetry that Mother Nature offers us on any given day.”

Likewise, Lordier cherishes her time in the studio, where she works from field studies or photographs she has taken. “This is where I get to play with ideas, push the creative envelope, try new things,” she says. “The process of painting is slowed down. More consideration goes into the drawing and the concept of the painting.” She has found that studio time enriches her process and affords her the opportunity to plan each composition more fully—to consider both its aesthetic and emotional demands, and then to interpret it in the dazzling swaths of light and color and the coalescence of soft and crisp marks that have become her signature.

Lordier creates almost exclusively in pastels and has been enthralled with the medium since her teenage years, when she likely picked up her first pastel stick in high-school art class. Though she has experimented with watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and oil paints, she always returns to pastels, which she feels give her the most physical dexterity, in addition to providing her the value intensity and variety of textures she desires. “There’s a sparkle to the finish,” she says, “a quality that is more alive than a wet pigment for me.”

Her work has a painterly quality to it, which is not surprising given her strong affinity with the California Impressionist painters. “I have made it a point over the years to honor my medium, making sure it gets looked at just like any other medium. I want folks to see the painting first, and then inspect the medium for its individual beauty and idiosyncrasies,” says Lordier.

Painting the landscape has freed her to explore the intuitive, more spontaneous side of art-making. Whereas her early work featured tightly rendered, highly detailed figures, over time she has found that working outdoors, depicting the organic elements of the natural world, gives her the freedom to work organically as well. “I’ve learned to allow my mark-making to be part of the imagery,” she says. Lordier initiates her compositions abstractly, working in light and dark shapes, subsequently fitting them together and introducing layers of additional color, line, and detail to form a complete picture. “If you have that strong value structure underneath, that painting is going to have a strong impact from across the room,” she explains.

“I react strongly to the scene before me, making decisions about color, mark-making, and the mood I wish to convey,” says Lordier of her creative process. “Sometimes I love to push things like contrast, light, or color, even on location where my main objective is to capture the nuances of location as closely as possible. Composition and an abstracted underlying value pattern are currently my main concerns. Those foundations are at the core of my approach when standing before the easel.”

Thinking about what she wants to impart to her viewers, Lordier says, “I want folks to see the beauty in our world. That in this confusing, electronically stimulated world, where we live by how many ‘likes’ we get, there is a great need for the outdoors, the open spaces, the wildlife, the opportunity to just breathe fresh air. I am compelled to paint on location for those very reasons. I must get out, feel my feet grounded on the earth, slow down, and observe.”

Debra Huse Gallery, Balboa Island, CA; Primavera Gallery, Ojai, CA; Holton Studio Frame Makers, Berkeley, CA; Illume Gallery of Fine Art, St. George, UT; James J. Rieser Fine Art, Carmel, CA; Sekula’s Art, Antiques & Design, Sacramento, CA.

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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