Interview with surreal artist Laurie Lipton

Laurie Lipton was born in New York and began drawing at the age of four. She was the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine Arts Degree in drawing. She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, London and has recently moved to Los Angeles after 36 years abroad. She has exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA. She is currently represented by Ace Gallery, Los Angeles.

"Death and the Maiden", pencil on paper, 43 x 34 cm, ©Laurie Lipton
Hello dear Laurie, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

I didn't "find" the artist inside of me. It was always a part of me, like my blue eyes and my left-handedness. I always drew. I didn't start calling myself an "artist" until I was in my 20's, however. I thought it was too pretentious to do so.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?

Everything sets me off; music, books, TV shows, the news, other people, movies... everything. It all goes in & then gets Liptonized. My initial mind-opening inspirations have been the Flemish Masters from the early Renaissance/late Medieval period and the photographer, Diane Arbus. Artists like Durer, Rembrandt, Breugal, Bosch, and Memling showed me how to create worlds using the tiniest of lines and the most exquisite details. They weren't "surrealists", they weren't "realists", they were somewhere in-between. Diane Arbus showed me the power of black & white. She inspired my color choice.

"Motoring 2009", charcoal & pencil on paper, 75x100 cm, ©Laurie Lipton

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?

I draw. As much as possible.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?

I was given a full Scholarship to one of the most prestigious art Universities in the USA and was taught practically nothing. It was the 1970's and Conceptual Art was the fashion. As long as you could "justify" your rock on the floor or your slash in the canvas, then that was considered valid "art". I wanted to learn how to paint like Jan Van Eyck or Memling, but everyone discouraged me. I cut classes and copied art in books to teach myself composition and lighting. I am not saying that University was useless because it gave me time to explore, experiment and kept me from the cruel, harsh world outside. I wish they had taught me perspective, though.

 "When Company Comes I Have To Perform"1989, 76.2x58.5cm, © Laurie Lipton
What fascinates you the most about surrealism? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

I like art that speaks to me in some way, either emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. I really don't care what "ism" it is. I'm not in control of what the viewer takes away from my art. The process of creation is an intimate act between me & the piece of paper. The process of viewing art is just as intimate & subjective.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?

People are astounded at the amount of "work" I do, but it isn't work. It's bliss. I feel very lucky that I get to indulge in my bliss all day, every day.

 "Augmental", charcoal & graphite on paper, 67" x 53", ©Laurie Lipton

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?

I only use pencil, charcoal pencil and paper. Why? because it suits my imagery.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

I am doing exactly what I want to do.

 "Last Night I Dreamt I Murdered Mommy", pencil on paper, 63.5x91 cm, ©Laurie Lipton
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

The toughest challenge overall has been trying to make a living without compromising my vision. I've waitressed, worked in box offices, bars, whatever, in order to afford to make my art. Very few artists can support themselves from their art work. It's not easy & takes time. The biggest lesson I've learned? Not to listen to anyone when they say, "Do it this way & you'll make more money." Selling out doesn't work. Feeling passionate about what you're creating works.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?

Worst advice: add color.
Best advice: shut up and draw.

 "Lachrymose Lace", charcoal & pencil on paper, 57 x 40.2 cm/22 1/4" x 16" ©Laurie Lipton

What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

What I dislike about the Art World is that it's very clubby & prone to fashion trends. The hardest thing about being an artist is living in your head 24/7. It's dangerous in there. However I prefer being alone to being with people, so my choice of profession suits me.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?

I would like a retrospective in LACMA and/or MOMA.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

Students have asked me to share tips on how to draw. It's simple: sit down & draw. The more you draw, the better you get. Work = Mastery. People believe in magic & think that some secret short-cut will get them drawing like Rembrandt. No... it's only work, work & more work.

 Photo courtesy of James Scott
Your favorite art or life quote is ...

"Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. "
Gustave Flaubert
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

Sleeping, eating and annoying people.
Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

Website, Facebook

"Bone China 2010", charcoal & pencil on paper, 55 x 58 cms ©Laurie Lipton

Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

Any new projects, documentaries, or exhibitions will be posted on my website or my Facebook page, so please keep in touch!

Thank you dear Laurie, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)

By contributor Linda. November 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.