West End artist Stuart Loughridge’s upcoming exhibit at Groveland Gallery was a lifetime in the making. Growing up, he said, “I was surrounded by painting, printmaking, carving, sculpture, fine frames. It was a constant creative feast for a kid.”

Loughridge is the son of Denver-based artist Leon Loughridge, and much of his approach to art today is tied to early memories of watching his father paint sketches when the two of them were out on hikes or finish paintings in the studio while sitting on his lap. “I’d also help him pull prints on his etching press,” Loughridge said.

Stuart Loughbridge
Stuart Loughridge paints a scene of the Saint Croix River in his West End studio. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Loughridge, 43, lives near West Seventh Street and Smith Avenue and works in a third-floor studio at 265 W. Seventh St. It was here that he created the art for his first solo show at Groveland Gallery, 25 Groveland Terrace in Minneapolis.

Titled “Prints and Paintings,” the exhibit will open on Saturday, September 11. It features over 30 new watercolors, oils and etchings. The works are mostly landscapes with an occasional portrait or architectural rendering. Loughridge will attend the opening reception from noon-5 p.m. September 11. He will also demonstrate etching on a printing press on the front porch of Groveland Gallery beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 18 and October 2.

“The Atelier was a great place to study,” Loughridge said, “a place where I was able to just be myself and be in love with the pursuit of solid drawing. No grades, no credits, no degree. There was no empty talk of ‘expressing yourself.’ Every day was focused on drawing, and I was completely devoted to that.”

Groveland Gallery director Sally Johnson first heard about Loughridge from a collector and frequent gallery visitor 10 or 15 years ago. “Shortly after, another collector told me about some Loughridge prints he had purchased,” she said, “and another talked about some Loughridge watercolors he described as ‘gems.’ Sometime later, on a visit to a collector’s home, I finally saw some of Stuart’s work and understood what everyone was raving about.”

Among the new works in the Groveland exhibit will be “Saint Paul Marina, Sunset,” an oil on board of the downtown port viewed from the Wabasha Street Bridge; “North Shore, Lake Superior—Autumn,” a watercolor; “Moonset in the Rockies,” an etching with watercolor; “View From the Saint Croix River,” an oil on canvas; “Bargello, Florence,” another oil on board; and “Bucolic Landscape,” an etching.

“In both his paintings and prints, Stuart has managed to employ traditional painting and printmaking techniques to a contemporary effect,” Johnson said. “His observational skills are finely tuned and reveal not only his technical skills, but a deep understanding of the landscapes. Some images are compellingly mysterious and others evoke a quiet familiarity.”

Loughridge always begins a painting with a sketch

Loughridge said he always begins with a sketch on paper, either a drawing or a watercolor, that is “created outdoors, in a tight window of time, direct from life, for the purpose of documenting a scene. Sketches are not necessarily pushed to a finish. They serve as a means to a greater end.”

“There is no such thing as a failed sketch,” Loughridge explains in his statement for the Groveland exhibit. “In the studio, all the notes and sketches become useful as reference material in the building of a finished work of art. Sometimes there are extensive alterations from an original idea. It is this process of translating a sketch into a finished work of art that I find most intriguing. The final result is not necessarily an exact representation of a place, rather these works are the results of problems I have solved on how best to view a scene.”

Loughridge said he focused on drawing in high school. He spent two semesters at a college of art and design in Denver where drawing was not a focus. So in 1999 he moved to Minneapolis to study at the Atelier Program of Fine Art.

“The Atelier was a great place to study,” he said, “a place where I was able to just be myself and be in love with the pursuit of solid drawing. No grades, no credits, no degree—perfect! There was no empty talk of ‘expressing yourself.’ Every day was focused on drawing, and I was completely devoted to that.”

Making a living at art

Loughridge has relied on art as his sole source of income for the past 20 years. In 2002 he moved to Saint Paul, into a 450-square-foot studio with big north-facing windows. The rent on that studio was $230 a month, he said, “so it was an easy decision to price my 9-by-12-inch framed oil paintings at the cost of rent. I got rid of my car, kept a frugal budget, and that set me going on my career and being an entrepreneur.” In 2006 he moved into his current studio.

“Upon arriving I instantly fell into the arts community,” he said, “in Northeast Minneapolis and then in Saint Paul, with the Saint Paul Art Crawl being the start of my business. Back then, it was an arts community, but also a bunch of creative rascals living unorthodox lifestyles in unique, affordable spaces.

“While being devoted to my study of traditional painting, I was immersed in the art scene, the jazz scene and classical music concerts,” Loughridge said. “The Twin Cities is exceptional in that regard. There’s a long history of artists, appreciators and collectors, and I’m very thankful for it. I can be a local artist, sell within the cities, and make a living at it.”

— Anne Murphy


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