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lori portka on spreading happiness through art

My friend, Julie Lemerond, introduced me to the work of artist Lori Portka and I felt a connection to it immediately. She is all about gratitude, and that feeling is obvious in every painting of hers. It’s probably the emotion you will feel, too, after getting to know more about her and her work!

Lori PortkaThe tagline on your Etsy shop is one of the most accurate I’ve ever seen: “Spreading happiness through art.” It is impossible to look at your paintings without smiling! What are some of the themes you concentrate on and why are those important to you? 

I love to make paintings about everything that is sweet and good in life.  I usually don’t plan to paint anything specific’ it’s just what flows into my head that wants to come out on the canvas.  But, I love painting dancing couples in European city streets and the countryside. Other themes that seem to come up are women in blissful yoga poses and all kinds of animals.  I especially love painting cows.  Most of my artwork is centered on all that there is to be grateful for and happy in life.  I am a highly sensitive person and can easily become overwhelmed. My artwork helps to balance that side of me.

I was surprised to read that you started working on your art seriously at the age of 30-something after a career in mental health counseling. What was the impetus for that? 

I was heavily influenced by reading The Artist’s Way when I was 30 and I started making art again for the first time since high school.  Shortly after I reconnected with art and began to discover my creative heart again, my husband said he wanted a divorce and moved out.  I was devastated at the time, but somehow I kept making art that was joyful.  It really helped me through that very difficult time in my life.

What does art give you that makes it so special to you? 

I pour my heart into my work and I believe the positive energy I put on the canvas passes on to people who receive my artwork. I’ve had scores of customers comment on the positive impact my paintings have had on them.  Many buy my paintings to lift themselves out of a difficult situation.  When I hear those stories, I know I’m doing what I was meant to do.

Gratitude is a recurring theme in your work, which I love. Why is gratitude so important? Tell us about the A Hundred Thank Yous project. 

Gratitude is important because I’ve found that it makes everything better. It is part letting go and part being open at the same time.  For me, gratitude is at the core of my creative process.  It comes from a place outside of myself, from something bigger than me.  I hold on to love and gratitude as much as I can while I am working.

I first conceived the Hundred Thank Yous project after hearing about an Australian woman who, in an effort to fight depression, started a yearlong photographic project, taking one Polaroid photo every day of something she felt grateful for.  My project involved making 100 paintings to give away to a group of wonderful people who have had a positive impact on my life.  I also wanted to see what it would be like to do a huge body of work — and figured I would be changed by the end of it. I was. It has brought me a new understanding about how important gratitude is. And, it was also very rewarding to see people react to receiving a gift of art and gratitude.

I am so excited about your Gratitude Kit, and can’t wait to experience it myself. How did the idea for it come about and how have you used it yourself? Any particularly meaningful stories you can share with us? What kind of feedback have you gotten from other people who have used it? 

I knew I wanted to create products using the Hundred Thank Yous paintings that would help spread the love and gratitude beyond my personal project.  I was thinking of a simple gift idea where people could use the paintings I made for their own gratitude projects and spread the energy. That led me to create a pack of 30 colorful postcards from the paintings and a custom art stamp set that was also created from a project painting.  The idea is to mail or deliver one postcard with a handwritten note of gratitude to one person, for thirty consecutive days – one whole month!

One of the sweetest stories I heard was from a mother who bought two kits to do the project with her 8-year-old daughter.  I love the idea of exposing children to learn about appreciating life and others, at a young age. 

Speaking of gratitude, I see that you were interviewed for an upcoming documentary, 365 Grateful. Can you give us some details? 

The film is by Hailey Bartholomew, a beautiful filmmaker and photographer from Brisbane, Australia. Hailey’s Polaroid gratitude project inspired 365 Grateful, a film about uncovering what happens when ordinary people unlock the remarkable powers of gratitude. The film will cover Hailey’s personal journey and include the stories of two other people whose lives have been significantly impacted by gratitude.  My Hundred Thank Yous project will be one of stories highlighted in the film.  It includes interviews of me at home in my studio and also footage of an exhibition I held, where the paintings were displayed and then given away. 

What are some of the other themes you concentrate on and why are those important to you? 

Love is a big theme for me.  I think of gratitude and love as being very closely connected.  Love is a constant reminder for me of what we’re all supposed to be doing in this world. I am actually having a hard time with titles of my paintings because so many of them have the world “love” in it and are very similar. 

What other projects are you working on or thinking about for the future – as if you don’t have enough going on right now!

I am in the process of making new journals and my first e-book for new artists titled, Print, Sell, Shine! I’m also in the process of organizing an outline for a book about my gratitude project. 

I’m looking forward to getting my Gratitude Kit, and will have to send one of my thank you’s to you! Thanks, Lori! 

Thank you, Lois!  It has been so lovely to connect with you.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.com.


  1. Well done!! Thank you!!

  2. Hi Lori! Hi Lois! I’m so happy to see you here! Lori you have inspired so many through your sweet soul, which shines through in your art a million times over. I am grateful to both of you for being in my life!!

  3. Thank you so much! I love love this website and so grateful to be connected with you all 🙂 xoxo

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