If you have ever been fascinated by the supernatural from ghosts and vampires to mythology, then you will find the work of Lara Dann irresistible. Her iridescent paintings thrill to the concept of a life lived in the shadows, touched here and there by moments of light.
Spending her early years in Southern California, Lara grew up with a love of surfing and skating. Her family spent some time living near Sunset Boulevard and California Ave in Santa Monica, the perfect spot to indulge her love of the beach, the ocean and roller-skating. “I would spend hours everyday at the beach, which was in walking distance. I would often go alone after school, and the shore became my escape. I found comfort in the ocean. Surfing, and the waves made me deeply content and happy. I remember my grandmother and I walking to the pier and she’d buy me these little clay figures to paint for ten cents each. I loved the pier. Another thing that I loved to do was roller-skating. My mother and I skated everywhere for miles.”
Lara’s life wasn’t to be just a peaceful splash in the ocean however, and throughout her childhood she ended up going to 16 different schools! I just can’t imagine how unsettling that would be. “There were times when I didn’t cope so well,” Lara says understandably, “I was a bit difficult and sort of a handful, and a terrible student. I skipped school, smoked pot, and all before high school! I was a bit of a loner, attracted to all the ‘bad seed’ kids. I moved so often I started to loose interest in getting to know people, only to loose them. I was closed off and quiet.”
“Often times this was gravely mistaken for being a ‘stuck up’,” she adds, “but by the time I was in High School, I levelled out a bit more. Looking back, I would say that the moving did a lot for me in terms of developing a thick skin to change. I have very little fear of it. I learned very early in life that home truly is where you make it, and you carry it with you. The disadvantage is that I tend to not ‘attach’ myself to people, places and things in a general sense. When (or if) I do, it’s with a deeper meaning than I often reveal. My art was the one thing I could rely on and take with me anywhere I went and gave me some sense of control.”
Earlier in life I was drawing in ink, graphite, or colored pencils. The first time I played around with some oil paint was with a pallet knife in 2000 and sold a few pieces through a gallery in upstate NY. I didn’t start to really apply myself in painting with a brush until about 2006-2008. That was in watercolor and gauche. It was very experimental, and I loved how diverse the medium is. From there, I went into acrylics, but encountered some frustrations with the heavy body acrylics. Once I discovered the fluids, I was able to really dive into a style. It wasn’t until 2012 that I felt I was really settling into myself as an artist with a specific direction in mind. recently, I’ve fostered the two mediums together (oil and acrylic) and so my style has evolved quite a lot, and since painting is relatively new to me, I’m hoping to evolve further.
Lara describes her inspirational focus for her work as anything that is a ‘black butterfly’, both innocent and dark. “It’s a description of an emotional landscape.,” she explains, “it’s made up of components that exist within each of us. I am inspired by the dark things – fear, anger, grief; and the innocent things –joy, love and acceptance. Butterflies are symbolic in the representation of a life cycle. I see all of these things manifest into one- dissect it, and pull inspiration from it.”
A wonderful example of dark and the innocent balancing perfectly in Lara’s work can be found in the whimsical and intricate underpaintings that feature in her work. It’s easy to see how Lara would often find herself getting lost creating the underpainting detail. “Yes, I do get transfixed. I spend a lot time on this initial phase of the painting because it’s tactile and I really enjoy re-visiting this layer towards the end of the painting process when I can sand it down and create peek-through’s, causing forward/retreat effect, almost 2D.”
Lara also has a detailed understanding of the human anatomy, which she applies to enrich her already beautiful paintings as what are almost spectral figures are applied to the canvas. “It’s a great working reference to have gone through the anatomy, physiology and mythology course work. When I’m drawing, I can visualize the structures below the surface of what I’m working on.”
So how long would one of Lara’s pieces take to come together? “If the painting is finished in acrylic only, I can finish it in a day or maybe two. If it’s acrylic and oil, the process is longer. Sometimes I can then finish one in a week or two, other times I let a painting sit for a couple of months before I return to it – finishing it over a period of several months.”
Recently Lara was working on a delectable vampire series inspired one of her favourite authors, Anne Rice. “The series was initially sparked by creating a small sketch and painting for YayLaMag Horror movie a day in which I painted Lestat for Interview With A Vampire. That led to the desire to create a vampire series as I’m a big Anne Rice fan and her vampire series is my favourite collection.”
Speaking of books, what a convenient segue to discover a few of Lara’s bookshelf favourites? “Memnoch the Devil/Anne Rice (Rice is deliciously descriptive of the devil, Hell, and Lestat’s experience there), The Little Red Hen (because she does everything herself) and Little Bear’s Adventures (good childhood memories).”
When not painting where can we might find Lara in her front yard stomping on her paintings. Well we all need to vent sometimes *wink*.