Local artist finds her muse through the lens of a camera
The muse of an artist comes in many shapes and forms, and for Maureen Luzenski, it was a photo in the Star Journal, taken by Mitch Mode, that caught her attention. That photo was a striking capture of a sandhill crane with a horsefly on its head. While Mitch owns and operates Mel’s Trading Post in Rhinelander, he is also an accomplished nature photographer and columnist for the paper.
“I get a lot of inspiration from the photos Mitch takes that appear in the Star Journal,” said Maureen. “I love painting birds so the photo of the sandhill crane really caught my eye.”
Maureen grew up in the Northwoods and attended school in Eagle River, then took one year of business classes at Nicolet College. She married, had two kids and for 38 years worked for the Wausau Paper Mill in the sales department. It was Maureen’s mother who got her started thinking about creating art with paint and brush.
“My mom did artwork in high school and she was very talented,” said Maureen. “Then for a birthday present one year, she paid for art lessons and all the supplies. It was so wonderful.”
That opened the door for Maureen to pursue her love of creating art and she painted whenever she had a spare moment. She took all the lessons she could, too. Every year there are artist workshops at Dillman’s Bay Resort in Lac du Flambeau and Maureen was a yearly participant. Then she took a class with world renowned artist Sherry Nelson.
She continued her work with Sherry when a group of like-minded artists decided to hold their own workshop in a converted garage in Marenisco, Mich.
“It was a six day retreat I really look forward to every year,” said Maureen. “I learned a lot from Sherry.”
One local artist, Matt Jacobson, has also inspired and taught Maureen.
“Matt loves to paint horses but he’s also talented at painting other subjects,” she said. “I learned a lot from him also.”
Maureen’s favorite medium is oil, although she has tried her hand at other kinds of paints.
“I think once you are an oil painter it’s sort of hard to use anything else,” she said. “I tried water colors but it just wasn’t for me.”
As her skill developed, Maureen entered her artwork in numerous competitions and almost always came away with a notable prize. She has won awards at local and at state shows, and today she is a member of the Wisconsin Regional Artist program and has won three awards through this organization.
Just recently, she was invited by UW-Madison Agriculture Department to have one of her paintings on display for a year in one of their facilities.
Right now, a Mitch Mode photograph-inspired painting of a sandhill crane and a blackbird, which won a judges award, is on display at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff. For this show, Maureen teamed up with local poet R. Gene McKenzie, who wrote a special poem to be displayed with the painting. Maureen has also had her artwork reproduced on banner flags that are flown in downtown Eagle River and her work is also on display, and for sale, at The Lakeland Art League in Minocqua, The Minocqua Trading Company and at A Cut Above in Rhinelander.
As her skill has developed, Maureen has branched out from painting just birds. One of her more endearing pieces is a stoic rendition of a toad.
“I also love painting old barns and cars,” she said. “When you paint, you look at the world in a different way and I’m always on the lookout for an intriguing subject.”
Maureen just recently retired and that has given her even more time to pursue her art. Since she usually paints from a photograph, she now has taken up the hobby of photography and she likes to travel the area snapping pictures she thinks would make good subjects for her paintings.
“Sometimes I find some beautiful flowers and take photos of them to use for a background,” she said. “Many times I take pictures of several different subjects and then include all of them into one painting.”
And since she is so passionate about her painting, Maureen has decided to share her enthusiasm by teaching others how to find their own creativity.
“When you teach others how to paint, you become a better painter yourself,” she said. “But mostly I really enjoy watching people grow to love creating art like I do. It’s not only very relaxing for me but a wonderful way to spend my retirement. I just want everyone else to have that experience too.”