How Laurie Goldstein Warren went from styling hair in upstate New York to become one of West Virginia’s most successful painters.
Buckhannon resident Laurie Goldstein-Warren paints realistic watercolors that have earned international acclaim.
Laurie Goldstein Warren never went to art school. Content with her job as a hairstylist in upstate New York for years, she always enjoyed being creative, but painting watercolors was never on her radar. More than two decades ago, when she met her now-husband and relocated to West Virginia to live with him, she felt it was time for a new hobby to go along with this new chapter in her life. “I don’t can fruits and vegetables. I’m not good at gardening,” she says with a laugh. “And I had to find something to do.”
After she joined the Seneca Trails Artists Guild and attended meetings to see what it was all about, things started clicking. “They kind of took me under their wings, because I hadn’t done art since high school,” Warren says. “That’s where I started learning, and then I just went from there. I painted every day—the key to anything is practice.”
After all that practice and a few years of trial and error—“I literally have a book of just rejections”—Warren has now solidified her place as a renowned local artist with global reach. Her watercolor paintings have been shown all over the U.S. and featured in shows in Canada, China, and Japan. She’s juried exhibitions, lending her expertise and judgment to other artists’ showcases, and now even has a jam-packed schedule of classes where novice painters go to her to learn. Watercolors are her staple, with cityscapes and bright scenery taking top priority. She describes herself as a “value painter”—meaning the lightness and darkness of big, interesting shapes are what attracts her attention.
Warren has persisted even as her classroom transitioned online after COVID-19 hit—luckily, just a few months before that, she had taken a class to learn how to teach in an online environment. Although the circumstances of the transition are unpleasant, the silver lining is that she’s reaching more and more young people who are perhaps more inclined to take painting courses in a digital setting. “Young people don’t have the money, necessarily, to travel and pay for a hotel and all that to go to a workshop,” she says. She likes making her teachings more accessible.
Beyond that, she continues, people need an activity to take their minds off the troubles of the world now more than ever. “I think art, whether it’s music, cooking, whatever it is—if you have that kind of outlet, I think it just makes you a more stable, healthy person,” she says. “Especially in a time like this where you’re kind of trapped and you can’t go out and go to the movies or go on vacation.”
Staying busy through it all, Warren has found peace in the beauty of Buckhannon. “We have a beautiful place here. We have an acre-and-a-quarter pond that has huge Japanese koi. We have all these trees—it’s beautiful,” she says, suggesting that it could be an ideal space to glean inspiration. “But I don’t do landscapes!”
Warren’s creative ventures don’t stop at paintings. She is also working on a book, tentatively titled Her Voice—a collection of stories about female artists past and present who have inspired her on her artistic journey. She’s gathered perspectives from all over the world, using translators to hear what global artists have to say and drawing from history to write pieces about artists like Frida Kahlo.
These stories are all about thriving in a field that, like many, has traditionally been dominated by men. But as Warren developed as an artist, her biggest inspirations were other women, and she wanted to reflect their influential place in the profession. “Of course, men get their books, and they get the big museum gigs,” she says. “And I’m like, no, there are women who have influenced me.”
Warren’s unwavering, passionate attitude is illustrative of how she’s lived her life. She believes the art world should have room for even the unlikeliest of success stories, and she herself is living proof. “I have no education in art. I didn’t go to college. I went to beauty school,” she says. “There is no way I should be out there doing international shows. But I’m just a person who never says no.” warrenwatercolors.com