Creativity and art have always been a part of Botetourt resident Judith Flynn Lochbrunner’s life. She recalls from a young age a drawer of leftover fabric and other materials from her mother’s sewing projects that were fair game for her and her sisters to use for crafts and other creations. “That bottom drawer was filled with scraps and pieces of lace and extra buttons and all sorts of wonderful things,” Lochbrunner said. “I think that’s what really got my start in creating.”
In high school, she was able to further this passion by taking private art lessons, and she also took art classes in college and beyond. Her passion continued from there, taking on different forms through different seasons of her life.
She and her husband and their daughters moved frequently. In each state that she lived in, Lochbrunner tried to grow through the art opportunities that each community offered, picking up different techniques and working with various mediums along the way.
“As we moved to different areas, I tended to focus on different things,” Lochbrunner said. “So, I would find someone working in watercolors and work with them or someone working in pottery and work with that. With each move I had to reorganize and make everything fit with my family, but I took advantage of lots of different situations and learning from different people.”
Besides her passion for art, one thing that has held true no matter where she has lived is her love of gardening. “I’m a bit of a fanatical gardener. You can tell how long I’ve lived on a piece of property by how many gardens there are because I’ll start out with one, then I’ll add another, then another,” Lochbrunner said. “I did tropical gardening when we lived in Houston. Then we moved to Vermont, and of course, that looked totally different. It’s been an exciting challenge to learn what each area had to offer.”
For Lochbrunner, the connection between gardening and artwork runs deep. “A lot of artists are gardeners,” she said. “They seem to be compatible. We like designing spaces, no matter where they’re at. Really it’s the gardens that inspire me. I’ve always liked to paint flowers and outdoor scenes more so than still life and interior scenes.”
This love for nature and the outdoors and depicting these scenes in her artwork has made the Roanoke area a perfect place for Lochbrunner. Since settling in the area in 2004, Lochbrunner is now in the season of her life where she is able to pursue art full time. Additionally, she has been able to combine her passions for art and nature by painting outdoors, know as en plein air painting. She is part of a group of other plein air painters, the Double Line Painters of the Blue Ridge, who venture out to various parts of Roanoke and the surrounding area during warm weather to paint the scenery around them.
“Since we’ve lived here, I’ve discovered a love of plein air painting, and that has made a huge change in my art,” Lochbrunner said. “It’s not like your studio where everything is controlled. When you’re outside you set up, and they start mowing the lawn, or the sun goes under a cloud, or the wind blows your painting off. There’s a unique challenge of focusing enough to get some sort of painting down, and it truly forces you to learn the landscape. I think plein air painting is one of the greatest art exercises you can do.”
Lochbrunner has found that there’s no shortage of beauty to paint in the Roanoke area. “It’s so easy to go plein air painting around here, because you don’t have to go far, and you can find something beautiful to paint no matter where you look,” she said. “We can go to downtown Roanoke and find more of an urban scene, or we can hop over to one of the parks or go up to Mill Mountain and get a view. We’re really fortunate that we have such a varied area we can explore and experience.”
As she has embraced the challenge of plein air painting, she has chosen to work in the medium she loves most— acrylic.
“What I love about acrylic is that it’s so versatile,” Lochbrunner said. “I like the fact that you can vary it. You can thin it way down so it’s almost like watercolor or you can add gel and make it thick, and then it can look almost like a luscious oil painting. I’m not locked into a certain look because of the medium, and I like that because sometimes different scenes call for different types of paint applications.”
In addition to acrylic, Lochbrunner sometimes does some mixed media collage as part of her paintings. “I can draw in with colored pencils or chalk. I love that there are other sorts of materials I can use on that surface to make it more interesting and give me some more flexibility,” she said.
Her favorite part of the process is choosing the colors to represent the scene, and Lochbrunner’s pieces certainly showcase the vibrant colors of the area. “Color is a challenge, but I love to explore color options,” she said. “I think maybe that goes back to the garden, because yes, the garden is green, but there’s such an endless variety of green. I love choosing colors and how to pair them and playing with them to find all the wonderful hues and shades.”
Lochbrunner describes her abstract paintings as loose, striving for the perfect balance between giving her viewers enough of the scene but not too much.
“I like to not be too specific,” she said. “It’s always fascinated me that the human eye can look at a shape and immediately give it a name. So, I love when I can suggest enough information to the viewer that they say, ‘that’s a field of flowers,’ or ‘this one looks like a shasta daisy.’ I’m not really concerned about the details of the flowers, I just want to share the color of them and the shape of them.”
By working this way, Lochbrunner is capturing her perspective of the scene while inviting her viewers to experience her work in their own way.
“I’m taking my experiences and my impressions and painting it on a canvas,” she said. “I get to show people, ‘this is how I see the landscape, this is how I see the garden, this is what’s important to me.’ I try to show my experiences and my feelings about a place. And what’s really exciting is when someone can put themselves in that place as well. It reminds them of something or brings up a memory of something, or they can feel the place as well. I love the power of suggestion because then people can place themselves in the painting or lose themselves in it.”
Lochbrunner’s work is on display at Black Dog Salvage, LinDor Arts, and 2nd Helpings in Roanoke, as well as Goose Creek Studio in Bedford and Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Show in Clifton Forge. In April, she will participate in a show called Art in the Heart of Hillborough, in North Carolina. She also participates annually in the Botetourt Open Studios Tour held in October.
When Lochbrunner is not painting or gardening, you can find her spending time with her husband and family and doing other outdoor activities including walking, hiking, and exploring.