A Fine Palette

Northern California Artist Lauren Forcella…

Lauren Forcella was practically dragged into art at age 40, and nobody was more surprised than she was that a wealth of talent had been waiting for her to pick up a brush.

“Oh my gosh! This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she recalls thinking after putting paint to canvas at a San Rafael-based creative process workshop. Forcella had been focusing on her writing – a longtime passion of hers – when her friend finally convinced her to give painting a try.

Lauren Forcella’s “Ponderosa Pine.” Photo by Jessica Zettlemoyer.

If nothing else, Forcella thought, she might be able to illustrate the children’s book she had just written. “I was transformed after the first time,” she says. “I had a latent talent I had no idea about. I knew my life would change right then.”

Life did change, but not quite in the way she envisioned. Her then- husband accepted a promotion to New Hampshire just as her workshop finished and the couple, with their four children, moved cross-country in the middle of winter.

Amid the whirlwind (the family moved three times in the next six months), Forcella showed a new friend four of her first paintings. That friend promptly rented Forcella a studio and surprised her with the keys two days later.

Forcella began painting in earnest, while also parenting her kids and finding time to earn a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. Writing continued to be a part of Forcella’s life and painting started to take a back seat when she launched Straight Talk Advice, a syndicated peer-to-peer advice column for teens.

“River Sundown.” Photo courtesy of Lauren Forcella.

The column appeared in 24 newspapers, including the Redding Record Searchlight, and was in production from 2004 to 2016. But the urge to paint was just too strong and Forcella retired the column. “I said, ‘That’s it, this is what I’m going to do.’ Now it’s all about nature,” she says.

That love of the outdoors started at an earl y age – 7 years old, to be precise – when her family moved to Lewiston. Living in a forested neighborhood of Bureau of Reclamation housing (construction of the Trinity Dam had recently been completed), Forcella fell in love with life in the woods.

She befriended Jeanne Gravette, whose father, Bob, took the young girls on backpacking trips into the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area. “We both felt cleansed from our ‘modern’ lives,” Forcella recalls. “We were both blown away by the way we felt, sleeping under the stars. The woods saved me. When I’m in nature, it’s an emotional time for me. When I was 14, I knew I was going to work for the Earth.” That inspiration became prophesy when Forcella earned a geology degree and worked for a spell as a hydrogeologist in Oregon.

“Lupine and Oaks.” Photo courtesy of Lauren Forcella.

A self-taught artist, Forcella naturally adopted an impasto style of painting, applying generous swaths of oil paint with each brushstroke. Her painting sessions are often absorbing and intense, in the “premier coup” manner befitting a French impressionist with the goal of finishing a work in one sitting. “It lends directness,” she says. “It’s emotionally gripping.”

Her earliest works were impressionistic landscapes done in acrylics; she added oil paints to her repertoire when she entered her “rose period” that produced large and deftly shaded depictions of roses, “the symbol of life and the divine feminine.” After a stint with mixed-media “dreamscapes,” Forcella used her oils to tell visual stories. These days, she’s back to nature.

Photo by Jon Lewis

Forcella’s nature includes a lot of purple. “It’s a universal color. It’s in everything … all the shadows in nature. I have a lot of thoughts about purple,” she says.

From her palette spring trees, rivers, mountains, flowers, oceans, trails and more. “I’m finding my true purpose now. Art is how I can share the emotional connection with the natural world,” she says, calling her mid-life transition to art a faith-based jump with the belief a parachute will manifest itself, “and it worked out.”•

Forcella’s artwork will be featured at the North Valley Art League’s Carter House Gallery, 48 Quartz Hill Road in Redding, from Aug. 3 to Aug. 27. A reception will be held from 5 to 7 pm Friday, Aug. 5.

About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at [email protected]

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