Laurie Lipton was featured on EK back in 2010 and again in 2011. She uses a unique, very tedious, yet highly satisfying means to reach her end. Lipton has an ambitious streak and is not one to shy away from a challenge. Read more about what she has to say!
What was it like to be the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon with a Fine Arts degree in Drawing?
CMU only had degrees in painting & sculpture when I was an undergraduate student. Because of my interest/obsession with drawing, they allowed me to create a major in Drawing. How was it? Totally useless. It did nothing for me. I had to struggle and work my butt off to get anywhere. The BFA in Drawing was only there to placate my parents.
You stuck to your inner voice regarding the kind of work you wanted to create. When was a time when staying true to the kind of work you wanted to create was in strong conflict with the kind of art you were expected to make?
I was expected to make abstract art at school. It bored me. I wanted to learn how to paint like Van Eyck or Memling or Rembrandt, but my teachers were not able to teach me. It wasn’t the fashion. I used to cut class and copy the Masters in the University library. I taught myself composition and perspective and form that way…. so even though I have a Fine Arts Degree at a prestigious University, I am self-taught. Very odd.
What were some of the experiences you had in Europe that contributed to the development of your unique drawing technique?
When I traveled around Europe I had very little money and no studio. The cheapest, most convenient medium to use was pencil & paper. I developed a unique way of drawing using thousands of cross-hatching lines to build-up form, the way the early Renaissance painters used to create their egg-tempera paintings. It’s a very work intensive, insane way to draw but it allows me to get amazing amounts of details and luminosity into my pictures. You can’t tell from computer screens or magazines the amount of work or detail that goes into each piece (or the scale of some of the pieces).
What is the reason behind the skulls used in many of your drawings?
After my mother’s death I realized that my society has no vocabulary for mortality & runs from it, screaming, throwing skin creams & Botox at it. When I visited the Day of the Dead Festival in Mexico a year later, I couldn’t help feeling envious of the Mexican approach to death. I decided to rebel against my heritage and create drawings inspired by the mood & atmosphere of the Day of the Dead. I decided to get in-touch with my bare bones.
What makes drawing, in your particular style, distinct from other artistic expressions? What are you able to express through your individual technique that you feel cannot be expressed at all or as effectively through other ways?
Drawing is difficult. I find it challenging & juicy. I have been drawing for over 50 years now and am like a musician who has totally mastered her instrument. I can play anything I wish with a huge amount of technical expertise.
What is your most prized piece of work? Why does it hold significant meaning to you?
My most prized piece of work is my next drawing. It is full of exciting potential.
What is it about black and white that hits “the core of your being?”
Black & white is the color of ghosts, of lost time, of old photos & movies and longing. It has a special atmosphere all its own. The minute you add color you change the gestalt of a picture. Black and white aches. It suits the images I’m working with.
Your works seem to have a good amount of variety in terms of the subjects portrayed and the environment in which they are in, but are there any underlying, thematic patterns you try to convey?
Each of my shows has had a “Theme”: Day of the Dead, Weapons of Mass Delusions (about the media and war), Sleep of Reason (inspired by Goya’s lithos) to name a few. I am currently working on a show about my impressions of LA entitled, “L.A. Sous-Real”. I just moved back to the USA after living in Europe for 36 years and this show is my impression of my new/old home. My work is always about the things I’m passionately engaged with. Each piece takes a tremendous amount of time & effort. Why waste it on something I don’t care about?
What is the process you go through when creating your work? What happens in the initial stages after an idea hits you?
I sketch out the idea in a notebook & let it brew. I then make an outline, or cartoon, on the paper. Then I begin to “flesh it out”, to add details. Then it takes over and becomes something richer than I had initially imagined.
What has motivated you to live in London? Have you ever considered moving back to New York?
I have lived wherever my work sold. My work took off in Belgium, so I moved to Bruges. My work took off in Holland, so I moved to Amsterdam. My work took off in England, so I moved to London. My work has taken off in LA, so here I am. I need to draw. I want to draw. Wherever I can live by drawing is “Home”.
What are some things you’re looking forward to in your upcoming exhibitions, and do you have any future projects we can be on the lookout for?
As I mentioned: I have a show about LA at the Ace Gallery in LA opening at the end of June. I also have a new book coming out about my work in 2013 published by Last Gasp, and a documentary being filmed that should air in the UK within the next year. For details, please go to http://www.laurielipton.com/ and click on the NEWS section closer to the time. I will post all the info there when I know it. Alternatively you can join my Facebook Fan page where I post new work & news on a regular basis: https://www.facebook.com/laurieliptonart.
What was your childhood like? What was one lesson you learned while growing up that is still relevant to you today?
One lesson? I wish life were as simplistic as that. I still have a child alive & well inside of me and she can’t believe her good fortune. She’s allowed to draw all day every day. It was something she had always longed to do.