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. . . .