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Painter Bryan Larsen on His Artwork and Ideas

From The Objective Standard, Vol. 7, No. 2.

I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Bryan Larsen about his work, how he became a painter, who and what inspires him, and why his subjects always look so beautifully purposeful. Mr. Larsen’s work can be seen and purchased through the Quent Cordair Fine Art gallery in Napa, California. His painting, Liberty, adorns the cover of this issue of The Objective Standard. —Craig Biddle

Bryan Larsen, Liberty, 2012

Bryan Larsen, Liberty, 2012

Craig Biddle: Thank you for joining me, Bryan.

Bryan Larsen: My pleasure.

CB: Many of our readers are already fans of your work, others are likely to become fans over time, and I suspect all will enjoy hearing about how you create such beautiful paintings, what inspires you, and how you became an artist.

Let’s begin with this last point: How did you get into art? And why did you choose painting as a career?

BL: I’ve been drawing and painting since before I can remember. My parents were very supportive of that, so I got a lot of practice and encouragement, and I had a ready supply of paper, crayons, and pencils.

As far as painting for a living, I went to college on an illustration scholarship, but I never really thought I would do it for a living. I always assumed it would be an auxiliary to whatever my line of work was. I didn’t think you could make a living as an artist. I’m glad I turned out to be wrong.

I chose painting over some of the other mediums because it offers a lot of flexibility and a lot of permanence. You have access to a broad range of colors and techniques; it’s more affordable than many of the other mediums; it’s easy to make reproductions of. I think it’s something a lot of artists gravitate to because it’s simple and inexpensive from the production side.

CB: Perhaps it’s simple for someone with your skill! And I gather, given the scholarship for illustration, that you had acquired substantial skill even prior to college. Tell me about your schooling and how you transitioned to painting for a living.

BL: Well, it gets a little complicated there. I was good at art in high school, and Utah has what it calls a Sterling Scholar program—it’s a statewide competition for scholarships in various disciplines.

My art teacher encouraged me to enter that, and I ended up getting a scholarship to an illustration program at a state college in Utah. It was a pretty decent program. The complication arose when the instructor I really liked, the one who seemed to really know what he was doing, retired, and simultaneously I ran out of money.

So I left the program, moved back to Salt Lake City, and started working as a cabinetmaker. My dad was always into woodworking, so I knew a bit about it. And then I got married and worked while my wife went to school.

My other love, while I was in school, was mathematics and design. So when my wife finished school, I went back to be a mechanical engineer. I always thought that would be fun. So I had two years of illustration education and then the rest of my college was in engineering.

About three years into that program, I was painting in my spare time, and I sold my first painting. I had never really considered fine art as a career option before that, but the sale opened up the possibility, and I decided to take a stab at it.

It was a rocky start, but in retrospect I had it pretty easy. The Cordair gallery was willing to take my work, even though I didn’t have a large portfolio, a degree, or any real references. My boss at the cabinet shop was also supportive. I must have quit four or five times to paint full-time, and when money got tight he was always willing to let me come back. It certainly didn’t hurt that my wife was working, too. Eventually art sales picked up, and I was able to reach that tipping point where I was consistently making as much painting as I had been at the shop. I never looked back. . . .

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