Artist Lorna Crane’s life motto shines through her substantial body of work and through her on-going passion for the art of creating. With a CV worthy of any international artist, including exhibitions in Australia, India, Ireland, Italy, Canada and the UK, she has credibility in spades.

Lorna’s hand caresses the intricately embroidered artwork hanging on her wall. She spreads collage images over her studio table and feels their bumpy texture, remembering where each layer was salvaged from or who donated it. We pass one of her favourite paintings – still too precious to sell – and she reaches out to stroke its glossy surface. Lorna is what I would call a tactile artist. I get the impression that not much of her work ends up trapped under heavy glass.

This immediate and organic approach to creating permeates Lorna’s collection of work and seems to inform her attitude to life as well as art. She laughs as she recalls winning an art prize at the age of five and knowing even then what she wanted to do with her life. “Mum and Dad would set me up in the lounge room with paints and paper to watch me work on projects.” Pragmatic as well as supportive, Lorna’s parents insisted she “get a real job” and she became a mapmaker – a skill that has emerged surprisingly in some of her recent work.

At 25, Lorna was raising three children, and experienced what she calls a pivotal moment when a family tragedy made her realise life wasn’t going to wait for her to be ready; she needed to follow her dreams. She spent the next five years earning distinctions in a Bachelor of Creative Arts and establishing an important network of like-minded souls.

Lorna lights up as she recalls her years working in the Canberra mental health sector as an art teacher and facilitator of rehabilitation programmes. She talks about sharing her knowledge and introducing art to people searching for a sense of self or community, or just needing a form of expression. “I loved watching people being brave and leaping out of their comfort zone.” Lorna’s pilot programming and collaborative skills on these mental health initiatives saw her rewarded with a Churchill Fellowship, which took her to the USA, Canada the UK.

These days Lorna has more time to devote to her impressive range of skills, and walks down to her peaceful backyard studio in South Pambula almost every day to work. “Pambula was a lifestyle choice,” she admits. “With the village close by and the appeal of the beach ever-beckoning I have the best of both worlds; community and inspiration”. Lorna keeps her approach fresh and authentic by having a number of projects on the go simultaneously.

“Often I can be working on up to 10 pieces at once. I concentrate on one, then move on to another when I’ve had enough. It stops me getting bogged down.” Having several directions for inspiration works on many levels. It means Lorna’s free to explore a surprising variety of genres. Today she’s working on a consignment of hand-stitched cushions for a client, a collection of beautiful monochromatic paintings inspired by her recent residency in Venice with the Global Art Project, and some intriguing collage collaborations being constructed through snail-mail correspondence with UK based artist John Crabtree.

I’m mystified by this concept and Lorna explains: “John adds his layer to the paper then sends it to me. I wait for inspiration to strike then make my mark and post it back to him. The process goes on until one of us decides the piece is ‘finished’”. Naturally I’m thrilled when the mailman arrives at the door with a package from John. Lorna’s enthusiasm is contagious and I exclaim that it’s just like Christmas morning!

It’s easy to see that a mixture of inspiration, collaboration and experimentation will fuel Lorna’s work for a long time to come. Her first exhibition was 30 years ago and she’s been exhibiting every year since. Lorna’s keys to success? “Keep moving, don’t stagnate – it’s a never-ending journey”.

Lorna Crane’s next joint drawing exhibition runs from 4 – 19 April at The Old Cellars Gallery, 246 Mt Darragh Rd, South Pambula. Leading up to this show there will be an experiential workshop on 29 and 30 March exploring contemporary drawing techniques with hand-made brushes. Then, a closing event on Saturday 18 April. Lorna’s work is also on permanent display at The Wharf Locavore in Tathra. The Global Art Project featuring Lorna’s work will also be touring shows in San Francisco and Mexico this year.