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Robert L. “Bob” “Orpalo” “Tudoc” Valerio, 85, died June 30, 2019, in Seattle.
Orlowski a mainstay of First City Players’ promotion
In the past three years, Lori Orlowski has completed 18 show posters for the First City Players. The two pictured are her favorites. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Lori Orlowski’s artwork has been evolving.

Her first love is painting with watercolors.

“It’s my favorite, it’s primarily what I do,” she said in an interview in her Fawn Mountain Elementary school classroom. Orlowski is a sixth-grade teacher.

Her most visible art pieces, prominently displayed in the First City Players office on Main Street, were used to advertise theater productions.

Orlowski said that, toward the end of the First City Players 2017/2018 season, she decided it was time to experiment with some new techniques.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re kind of stuck in a rut, so I was trying to branch out and do some other things.”

One especially charming painting/collage was created for the “Charlotte’s Web” play. It features a background glowing with deep blue and green watercolor washes that are set off with a few splashes of oranges and purple.

In the center, Wilbur the pig sits with his back to the viewer, gazing at the tiny spider, Charlotte, dangling in front of him. Across the top, a brilliant white spiderweb spans from paper cutout wooden posts that frame the painting/collage. Orlowski placed the title of the play in the web, and sat a painted paper cut-out of Wilbur on an array of thin painted paper strips in warm, sometimes finely textured colors.

She described her new process.

“I come up with an idea, you know, what I want the picture to look like, and so I look at the different pieces to it,” she said, adding, “I’d paint the paper with acrylic paint, then cut it out into the shapes I wanted and arrange them, and I really liked that.”

Orlowski said that she started making the art pieces for First City Players productions out of an enthusiasm for the group.

“I love the organization. I did my first show with them in 2012, I think, and so I’ve been getting more involved with them since then,” she said, adding that she is the vice president of the board of governors.

She said that a couple of years ago, they were going through a transition with a new marketing director, and they came up with the idea to have an artist create their promotional posters.

“I can’t remember if I volunteered, or they asked me, or what — so I did those posters,” she said. She said this is the third season that she has made the posters, and she creates seven or eight per season.

Her first attempt at using painted paper cutouts to create a picture was inspired by a photo of a sunset that caught her eye, Orlowski said. She collected materials she already had at home, such as construction paper, acrylic paint and Elmer’s glue, and got started.

“I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to art supplies,” she said, so she had a lot to choose from.

Orlowski said the painting/cut paper method is “not subtle, you want your shapes to stand out.”

Another facet of Orlowski’s artwork is watercolor portraits.

“I think people are my favorite thing to paint,” she said, adding that it has taken a lot of practice to achieve her level of skill.

Although she sometimes does commissions, the simple joy of diving into her art is what motivates her.

“Most of what I do really is just kind of for fun,” she said.

She went through a portrait painting phase for awhile, Orlowski said. When she first started portraits, she practiced painting only in black and white.

“Color is harder,” she said. “Trying to get all the colors to blend, so one color was easier to get shading, and then I kind of worked my way towards trying color.”

She created portraits for friends, as gifts sometimes, or simply because a photo captured her interest.

She recalled enjoying making art as a child, growing up in Banks, Oregon.

“I just remember, when I was little I always liked to draw, so I always had a sketchbook. I liked to draw people,” she said.

Orlowski said she majored in art for a year at the University of Oregon, before earning her education degree. She moved to Ketchikan in 2011 for a teaching job at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.

“I realized, I don’t have the personality or the temperament to make some sort of career out of my art,” she said. “For me, it’s something I want to do for fun.”