When Laura Fontaine was 4, her preschool teacher had to have a talk with her mother. The class had experimented with painting that day, and Laura got in trouble because she flatly but politely refused to leave the easel. She hasn’t stopped painting since. Today, Fontaine’s dreamy, contemporary impressionistic Lowcountry and mountain landscapes are represented by galleries throughout the South. She comes by her talent naturally; her mother was an interior designer with a significant presence in Atlanta, so Fontaine grew up traveling around Europe, helping her mom choose crates of art and antiques for clients.
Aside from a broad exposure to art, fabrics and antiques, the artist spent years painting her mother’s collection of blue and white porcelain in watercolors. “I painted hundreds of watercolors of my mother’s porcelain throughout college,” she says. After college, her mother encouraged her to attend The Finishing School in New York, one of the nation’s top schools for faux and decorative painting. That education led to starting a business glazing walls. “It was great because I was able to travel, but eventually, I was exhausted from climbing ladders and scaffolding, so I decided to start painting in oils.” Because of her former education in faux finishing, Fontaine now prefers to put a thin layer of Venetian plaster on her canvas and layer glazes, creating depth.
Fontaine’s inspiration comes from nature and her faith. She begins every day with two to four hours of prayer and reading before going to her studio to paint. Most days, she paints her view across the marsh or floats in her kayak and takes pictures or sketches for inspiration. “Painting is my serenity; it’s absolutely mandatory,” she says. “I love painting landscapes because they’re God’s creation. The colors He creates are just phenomenal; that’s why when people see a beautiful landscape, they’re drawn to it.”
Fontaine also occasionally paints still life, taking joy from the light, texture and colors. She also prefers to paint large, working on canvases that range from 48-by-72 inches to 30-by-40 inches and sizes in between.
Spend just a few minutes with Fontaine and it’s clear that her faith is at the center of everything she does. “I have always walked closely with God. Naming my paintings after His words from scripture seems only natural to me since he gave me the gift of painting. I also know most of my clients prefer to have some reference to God on their painting. It just means more to them, and I feel the same,” Fontaine says.
In addition to gallery representation, Fontaine works with clients all over the United States on commission, which allows them to have the right size, colors and vision of what they would like to have hanging on their walls.
Fontaine completes about 40 paintings a year, primarily commissions and mostly for people who share her faith. As she looks to the future, she envisions holding art retreats for people diagnosed with an illness or who want to learn more about serenity in healing oneself. “Not just a workshop where people drink wine and watch me paint,” she says. “I want to teach the spiritual part of painting that encompasses everything God provides. None of us knows where the world is going, but I know I want to help others be at peace so they can heal.” *
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.