Sharp lines and shadows pair perfectly with simple subjects on the Instagram feed of Lori Mehta, a 59-year-old Wellesley resident with an affinity for oil and acrylic painting. Inspired by a unique take on the everyday, Mehta paints with precision and passion — and then posts photographs of her work on her account @lorimehtaart. Between gallery showings and magazine features, we had the chance to chat with Mehta about her work.
Q. What started your passion for painting?
A. I studied printmaking in college; I studied fine arts and then worked as a graphic designer. I decided to take a leap and paint, which I had never done before. I’ve only been painting for five years, but I knew the basics from printmaking; I knew how to draw. I was nervous, so I took an adult education class at Newton North High School, and it came back to me very quickly. I could draw, but the painting piece I needed a little instruction, and so I took some workshops in both acrylic and oil.
Q. Most of the work posted on your feed is in those mediums — oil more so than acrylic. Why the switch?
A. I started with acrylic just because it was easy. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of acrylics. Somebody once said to me painting with acrylics was like painting with whipped cream, but painting with oil was like painting with butter, and that’s the truth. Oil has a richness to it.
Q. Your work is strongly based in shapes and shadows as opposed to lines and details. Why did that form call out to you?
A. I like to paint ordinary objects and almost glorify them. I also like to paint people, but I like to capture in the people a gesture rather than a facial expression. I want people to recognize who I’ve painted even if they don’t see their face; just a gesture. You can say a lot with very few strokes, and sometimes I think you can see more the less strokes you use.
Q. Do you think the way you see everyday things is due to your fine arts background?
A. I’ve always been able to see beauty in everyday things. The other interesting thing is that I paint upside down. I do this so I forget what I’m painting, so that I’m able to concentrate on the shapes and colors. It helps me keep my work simple. Our brains work a certain way, so it helps me loosen up to turn it upside down.
Q. Why did you start using Instagram to post your work?
A. Two to three years ago my daughter, who was in high school, suggested I use Instagram and I knew nothing about it. In the beginning I just enjoyed seeing all my work in one place, but this past summer, a catalog selling furniture and housewares found me on Instagram and asked if I would sell prints through them. It’s been interesting how much Instagram can do for you.
Q. Do you interact and maintain relationships with the artist community on Instagram?
A. Yes, I do. I’ve developed a community of artists and they are literally all over the world, with one in Iran and one in Japan, for example. I have a core group of about 20 people and we really communicate a lot on Instagram. I find their comments helpful and I try to be thoughtful in my comments as well. Sometimes we will direct message each other with critiques, which is so helpful.
Sophie Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org