Renee Tohl

March 15, 2023 by Artist Lane

Q. How did you start your artistic journey?
I began my working life as a graphic designer which I
continued right up until I had my two children. I was fortunate to be able to stay at home after my kids were born but after a year or so I realised I was missing my creative outlet.

I didn’t realise how much I had used art as a therapeutic tool my whole life and without it I felt like a part of me was missing. So I decided to start painting, just for fun. I had never really painted much before, I had always mostly drawn but I found painting incredibly calming and mindful. I still didn’t see it as a career choice at that point, it was just a really enjoyable hobby but I think over time I realised I enjoyed it too much to do anything else. I think there’s a lot of value in doing something that you love, something that brings you joy. I couldn’t ever imagine doing anything else now.

Q. How would you describe your artistic style?
A. Someone recently described my art as dreamy and poetic and I loved that because i do think there’s a sense of that in my work. There’s something gentle but also chaotic about the patterns and line-work that the watercolour naturally balances with its movement and gradation. I think the abstract nature of my art helps to strengthen that dreamy quality too as it’s so open to interpretation.

Q. How has it evolved over time?
A. I think my style has strengthened over time. I’ve gradually become more confident and comfortable at finding balance and harmony in layering textures. A lot of these changes have come about as a result of having more time to devote to my work now that both of my children are in school and I have a dedicated studio space to work from. These things have really enabled my art to evolve.

Q. What inspires you to be creative? Is there a certain place you go for inspiration?
A. I like to paint my feelings so I’m always inspired by things and places that make me feel something. I often find inspiration in things that aren’t necessarily visual at all. Music for example has a way of putting me in my feels and I also love to turn to nature or the beach as way to help find that sense of inner peace. There’s so much beauty in the little things in life.

Q. What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt on your journey as an artist?
A. The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt is probably not to be afraid to make mistakes. Watercolour and paper can both be very unforgiving at times and its something I’ve had to learn to let go of. There can be a real fear you’ll mess something up, but fear ultimately holds you back and blocks your creativity. I’ve learnt that mistakes are invaluable lessons, it’s how you learn and grow.

Q. Do your interests influence your art?
A. Yes I think so, even if not in a literal sense but I find my
love of the beach has always been a big part of my art. The movement and energy of my paintings is very reflective of
water and the ocean. Even the medium of watercolour itself with its free flowing nature.

Q. What is your favourite colour? Does it describe you
as a person? Is it reflected in your artwork?

A. My daughter asks me this question all the time and it always changes. I probably do favor indigo though, it has a deeply calming feel to it and that is something I’ve tried to communicate through my art.

Q. You are trained in graphic design, a very structured creative industry. When painting can you easily shift gears and find yourself to be free and loose?
A. In the beginning I did find it tricky. It took me a while to get my head around having “no rules”. Having the freedom to paint whatever I wanted did come with some overwhelm at first because I’d become so accustom to creating other peoples visions and working within the constraints of a brief. I had to learn how to identify what my vision even was. It took lots of play and experimentation with different media and mediums but after a while it began to feel like a breath of fresh air. Freedom of expression is truly an addictive feeling. I do feel my graphic design training has definitely helped me in many ways though, in terms of composition and balance.
I think having a good grasp of those principals have given me a strong foundation to work with in my paintings.

Q. You exhibited in the International Contemporary
Art Fair Paris, and the Innsbruck Art Fair Austria. Congratulations! How did you feel exhibiting your work Internationally? What do you hope people take away from it?
A. Thank you! It’s honestly been such a beautiful experience and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my art in this way. I can honestly say I never ever thought I would have my art shown on the other side of the world let alone Paris. It really does feel like such a huge blessing. Ultimately I would love for people to see my art and just feel peace, that would be awesome.

Q. You have stated that you would like your art to “anchor
people in the present moment, a place where they can find stillness in repetition and pattern”. Explain?

A. Yes! For me, making art is a form of meditation. It requires me to be patient and still. It takes time to layer each little line or mark and because mistakes are difficult to undo with watercolour and paper i need to have patience and focus. So ultimately I would love for people to take away from my art the energy that I put into it. To feel comfort in the moment, to let their mind get lost in the lines and curves of the patterns and for a brief moment forget about the stress of life. Just be still.

Q. If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I think to see the immense value in art both in viewing it
and creating it. To encourage children to find a creative outlet, it’s been an invaluable life-tool for me since I was young so I would love for others to feel the benefits of art in that way.

Q. Do you think creatitvity is inate or learned?
A. I think everyone has the ability to be creative but i think it needs to be fostered in order to develop your skills. My family have always been incredibly supportive so I was always encouraged and given space to create. I think there’s a huge amount of value in finding and nurturing your creativity, especially in children.

Q. What is the best advice that you have been given? What piece of advice would you give a young artist?
The best advice I was given when I started painting was to try and let go, just have fun and let the paint direct you. Try and enjoy the process because there is so much you can learn when you’re not seeking a specific outcome. Just find your artistic happy place!