by Kim Larson

We are thrilled to debut Lara Dann's first gallery solo exhibition, 'Sirens of the Zodiac' this month at the gallery. We took this opportunity to ask Lara a few questions about how her work, what's new, and the inspiration behind her latest series.

KL: First of all, important question- What's your sign?!

LD: My sun sign is Virgo. 

KL: How did 'The Sirens of the Zodiac' series come about?

LD: It began with Leo. I was creating the Leo mermaid with a Lionfish and the mermaid having characteristics of the lionfish in appearance and I began to think, "Lionfish; Leo" I thought how interesting it could be to do an entire series of the zodiac as horoscope/zoologic/mermaids.

Lara Dann working in her studio

KL: Our favorite quality of your work in the underlying pattern-work. Can you explain your painting process from start to finish?

LD: Thank you! I am glad to hear that. There is a basic step by step process I use, (pattern transfer, figure transfer after sketch, acrylic wash, then building details in layers or glazes in acrylic and/or oil If I use oil, I will seal the panel and first layers with clear gesso, or Gac 100 or 200) but it may not always be in that order. (except the primary principle rule that if I use oil, it is always as top finishing layers) The underlying pattern work or stencil-like pattern is sometimes laid in first, sometimes mid-process. I try to be as spontaneous as possible so that some of that spontaneous energy comes through to the final. Sometimes I begin a figure and see where the stencil or pattern would best emerge in it's relationship with the main focus, or sometimes I place more focus or dominance on the Pattern, and the figure becomes more submissive to the design elements. Having a basic idea is where I begin, but I allow the process to change based on how the painting is developing and what direction the painting tells me to go.

Scorpio 'The Sirens' Cove' by Lara Dann

KL: So obviously the gallery can't be open at least for the beginning part of your exhibition. I feel like we are all navigating through this bizarre alternative reality. As an artist, how do you feel about making art for a primarily online audience? Do you think this will change the experience in any way?

LD: I agree with you, we are definitely experiencing a moment of change or bizarre shift in the way we are accustomed to doing things. It's uncomfortable and it's not ideal. Especially for the gallery/art experience at it's fullest. I think the online presence is a great idea for a temporary solution, but we always want to get up close to the painting, don't we? Examine it's marks and characteristics. I am told on a consistent basis that my work is much better in person, so much better than they expected from viewing online. I was looking forward to the opportunity to share this body of work with people in a personal way, however, I think my collectors will have a solid idea of what to expect from a virtual viewing as well. 

Earth by Lara Dann

KL: How are you handling the stay at home order and current events in general?

LD: I am handling the stay at home order well mostly due to the fact that I am not a very social person to begin with. I like 'keeping to myself'. I rather enjoy the silence this time is bringing. It feels calming to me. I live near the airport and there is very little noise right now, which is great. I tend to look for the small things that I can enjoy about what this time is bringing to us. The stillness, the silence, the opportunity to learn something new with my extra time. It’s important to stay optimistic. 

Sagittarius 'The Archer' by Lara Dann, WIP studio shot

KL: Do you use reference photos or does most of your artwork come from your imagination?

LD: It is a combination of both. I use photo reference, either stock, magazine or take my own photos as a basic start. Then, I change it. Add or subtract features and elements. Often, I look at a reference and I am immediately imagining a different setting or element paired with it. Sometimes I pin several images or references together to create a direction. Then, as I paint, it often changes again. 

 Water by Lara Dann

KL: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not creating art?

LD: I am a bit of a workaholic so I am always doing something. Screen printing or painting. If I am not working, I am cooking or baking. If I am not doing any of those, I enjoy time out on the paddleboard, nature walks or any kind of beach time I can get is a plus.

KL: Who are your biggest influences?

LD: I absolutely adore the work of Yoshitaka Amano, Gustav Klimt and Vincent Van Gogh. I would love to somehow harness in one, the gentle layering and feminine beauty of Yoshitaka; the sensuality and power of Klimt’s female figures and the intensity and colorful world of VanGogh.


KL: Do you have any advice for new artists?

LD: Work at least 15-30 minutes a day, every day, on small practice pieces. If you are still trying to figure out or establish your “style”, experiment a lot. You don’t have to show anyone your experiments so do them like no one is watching. You will learn a lot during these. Use different materials, textures, tools, even your hands. In developing your own voice through your art, jot down your thoughts, feelings and thumbnails to express them. What past experiences in your life have shaped you? How can your story translate in your artwork? This is a good foundation to create your own voice.

Sirens of the Zodiac Lara Dann solo exhibition

 Lara Dann Sirens of the Zodiac opens May 9 at Modern Eden Gallery. 

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