Artist Deb Stroh-Larson resists being pinned down to one subject.
“I like to paint landscapes and water scenes and cats,” she said, but also flowers, dogs, snow-covered trees, autumn scenes, highly impressionistic landscapes, or paintings of large trees, often with light streaming through them to create a feel of mystery or, perhaps, romance.
She has created stunning paintings of the aurora borealis, very realistic bald eagles, and fairly abstract paintings of water and ice – this is an artist skilled in painting across a range of subjects and styles. Stroh-Larson is also not married to any one medium, working with a variety of materials: watercolor, acrylics, pastels.
“I get bored,” she said. “You gotta keep it interesting.”
The Sturgeon Bay artist, who studied art at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Green Bay, exhibits her work at Audrey Off’s AMO Gallery and Framing, 40 N. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay. She also does some framing and runs the shop when Off and her partner are on vacation.
Stroh-Larson has learned over the years that her art waits for her life. That is, her paintings may sit for a while – a process that became part of her working style out of necessity when her priority was raising her two children. Her daughter is now a junior at UW-Madison, and her son is a tattoo artist.
From a stack of small paintings, she pulled one of “Larson’s Lagoon,” a place near her home painted in a combination of watercolor and pastels. She isn’t sure whether it’s finished.
“A lot of things are started but not completed because I flit here and there,” she said. “It works OK for me because sometimes my attention span is short. I get distracted easily. I don’t mind starting a few different things and going back to them.”
This year, health issues slowed her down.
“Too many ideas and not enough time,” she said. “But I’m really looking forward to working in the studio this winter with all the space available.”
That optimism about the future is partly because Stroh-Larson has moved into her son’s former studio space at Tambourine Lounge, giving her more room to work. She’s in the process of shifting her equipment and supplies to the space, which is across the hall from Chelsea Littman, a glass artist who creates at Popelka-Trenchard.
When Stroh-Larson worked from her home studio near the Idlewild area south of Sturgeon Bay, she could paint while looking out a window to Green Bay.
“Sometimes I’ll start a painting at the dining room table if the scene outside catches my eye during a snowstorm or a beautiful sunset,” she said.
So she could paint a sailboat against a spectacular sunset looking out the front of her home, or turn and photograph her dog walking down a snowy corridor formed by trees and bushes out back.
Though her new studio home will look out to Stone Harbor and its parking lot, she doesn’t believe she’ll start channeling the aesthetics of the so-called Ashcan painters of the early 20th century, who captured the grit of urban realism. She said she’ll likely continue to find inspiration in the views of the bay, sunsets, sunlight streaming through trees and views she comes across on walks near her home or in Potawatomi State Park.
Stroh-Larson co-chaired the Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl, which took place the weekend before Thanksgiving. Exhibiting at her mother’s bed-and-breakfast, the Stroh Haus on Kentucky Street, she sold several prints and cards.
The event – which Lynn Gilchrist started in 2008 – has grown significantly, to more than 30 artists showing during a three-day weekend.
“It brings the community together,” Stroh-Larson said. “It’s a nice way for artists who don’t have a gallery to show their art, and it’s also extended to people who do have galleries.”
The Art Crawl has not expanded to any year-round arts activity or organization in Sturgeon Bay – not yet anyway. But with three new galleries on 3rd Avenue and several new studios in the Steel Bridge Creative District, the potential is there, and she’s optimistic.
“An artist community seems to be growing with the new galleries and connections we have been making through the Art Crawl,” Stroh-Larson said. “We used to meet monthly as a group for the Art Crawl planning, but COVID pared that down to just a few people communicating. Hopefully, in the new year of 2022, we can slowly get back together and share ideas again.”
In addition to selling through Off’s AMO Gallery and Framing, Stroh-Larson also sells online through Fine Art America.