Once a month, we feature local small business owners and artists who are using their creativity to make the homes and businesses of Roanoke beautiful.
This month, our spotlight is on artist Gina Louthian-Stanley. As a professional artist and an art teacher, Gina creates and instructs on a wide variety of artwork. She specializes in using encaustic mediums and cold wax and oil techniques.
Passing Along a Passion for Art: Gina’s Story
Gina has been passionate about art her entire life. “I always say I was born an artist,” she said. “When I was a young child, my mom would find me drawing on walls, tables, all over the place. She would take butcher paper and line the walls to let me draw on them because repainting all the time got expensive.”
Gina was born and raised in the Roanoke area. Because of her early inclinations toward art, she began taking drawing and art classes at Cherry Hill, Roanoke’s predecessor to the Taubman. “I was fortunate to have as my mentors many artists that have been well known here in the Roanoke Valley,” Gina said. “They were my inspiration to continue with art. I am grateful for their guidance and encouragement.”
And she did continue with art. Gina was especially interested in pottery in high school, and then as she studied Art in college, she became fascinated with many other techniques. “College opened up a whole new world of art and mediums, it was a time of many educational explorations for me,” she said.
After receiving her B.A. in Studio Art from Hollins, she ended up working in the medical field for 20 years while creating art on the side at a small rented studio space in downtown Roanoke.
During those years, her ultimate dream—to be an art teacher—was always in the back of her mind. She wanted to pass on the knowledge and passion for art that her teachers had helped instill in her. So in 2002, she returned to school to get her Masters in Education.
“I made the switch from the medical field because my dream was to teach art, as well as to work as a professional artist,” Gina said. “My teachers had been mentors to me, helping me realize my potential, so that was my goal—to help others realize their potential in the arts.”
She is now a full-time art teacher at James River High School. In the summers, she also teaches courses at 310 Art in Asheville, NC. Additionally, she has been teaching various classes to children and adults at the Studio School in Roanoke since 2011. All of these outlets have allowed her to realize her dream of influencing others through art.
“When somebody comes to a class, I love hearing their story, how they relate to art, and why they want to learn how to do art,” Gina said. “I love learning about their creative journey, and I try to help them find their voice in their art.”
In her own creative journey, Gina worked primarily as a printmaker, doing her thesis works in monotype printmaking, then she discovered wax. At first, Gina explored using cold wax and oil to create her ethereal landscapes. About 12 years ago, she became particularly fascinated with encaustic art techniques. Encaustic art involves the use of wax and damar rosin (the sap from a particular tree); heat is required throughout the process from melting the wax to fusing the layers. At the time, she was still in a small studio and didn’t have the needed space to fully experiment with this technique. However, she traveled to several workshops around the country to learn as much as she could about it.
Through this teaching, as well as self-teaching and experimentation, Gina has developed her own unique methods for using the wax in her encaustic pieces. Additionally, moving her studio location to gain more space gave her more freedom to fully explore this technique. She currently works out of her home studio.
“There are a lot of ways to work with it, mostly mixed media,” she said. “Most people use the wax to adhere paper on board, similar to a collage technique, but the way I like to use it is straight encaustic, so letting the wax be my medium. I infuse the wax with pigmented waxes and oil sticks, paint directly onto the wax, scratch back into the wax, and form multiple layers to create an ethereal look. I have a real passion for letting the wax do what it does; it guides me. It’s a beautiful process.”
She still works a lot with cold wax and oil, occasionally with mixed media and collage, and does some echo printing and cyanotype printing for fun. But she says that encaustic is her favorite. She does encaustic paintings and monotypes, as well as 3-D encaustic assemblages.
No matter what type of artwork Gina is creating, she gets her inspiration from nature. Most of her work features an earthy color palette, rich with layers and textures.
“Anything in the natural world has been a big inspiration to me and is stylized in my work,” Gina said. “Most of my pieces are inspired by my environment, by where I live, the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Roanoke Valley. My work reflects my surroundings, with impressionistic snippets of nature. I would call them gently abstracted landscapes.”
Several of Gina’s encaustic pieces.
In addition to the natural beauty of the area, Gina says she loves the outreach and support of the arts in the Roanoke region as well as being part of artist organizations and living near other artists that love the Roanoke Valley. Many of the well known artists have passed on, but Gina is thankful for their mentorship. She thrives on being part of that community as well by showing her work on a professional level and teaching.
In fact, for Gina, teaching art brings her passion for it full circle. “It’s so fulfilling to see when one of my students has an epiphany and they realize they can do something,” she said. “For example, one of my high school students was working in clay for the first time, and she told me, ‘If it hadn’t been for you telling me I could do it, I wouldn’t have done it.’ That’s what others did for me, and that’s what I hope I do for my students.”
Gina loves teaching the many techniques that she has learned throughout the years. She teaches mixed media and drawing classes for children, as well as encaustic painting and printmaking, and cold wax and oil to adults.
“People often have fear when taking an art class, because you have to put a big part of yourself on paper or canvas, and it can be intimidating,” Gina said. “I love seeing people let go of that fear, trying new things, and coming out with beautiful art.”
You can see Gina’s work on display at the Market Gallery in Roanoke, as well as at the Red Wolf Gallery and 310 Art in North Carolina. She participates in the annual Open Studios Tour Roanoke, and will be part of the upcoming Art by Night show at the Market Gallery on July 7. Gina also does commissions, and she sells many of her pieces via her website and social media. One of her pieces was selected for inclusion in the recently published book, Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations.
When she’s not painting or teaching, Gina enjoys being outdoors, gardening, and traveling. For more information about Gina and her artwork, visit her website or email her. You can also follow along with her on Instagram and Facebook. Check out her upcoming art classes at the Studio School if you’re interested in joining in.