Human eyes are able to see about 360 different colors. The vitality of heightened saturation in art has captured viewers throughout art history. Viewing art that has bright colors is known to affect your mental state in positive ways–and sometimes negative, like in the case that red is sometimes associated with anger… and is often described as having the power to affect and change how one feels in a given moment. Laura Grace uses the power of color in her paintings. Her vivid portraits with pinks and yellows and blues display a sprite-like, playful vibe that instantly puts you in a cheerier mood. The paintings, usually a mix of acrylic and oil, pack a lot of energy.
Laura Grace is the new kid on the block. Graduating from Pratt in 2013 has given her six years to stick her neck out into the art world.
“I had to learn pretty quickly to find my voice and be the best I could be, that no one was ever going to be ‘the best artist’ because art is subjective. And that in a sea of so many artists, especially in New York, perseverance would and will make my goals a reality. I think that this is a consistent struggle, as well as a consistent victory as I navigate the art world. Finding my voice and self confidence, even in my defeats and rejections, as well as persevering despite them.” ~ Laura Grace
Dabbling in a few outlets such as wedding portraits, abstract art, and surrealism, Laura shows that she is adept at multiple art styles. It seems she has the most fun with surrealistic and fantastical portraits of women. When she is not teaching at the local after school art program, she is busy on her own personal work. You can find her sanding away at painted canvases — how she achieves her ultra-smooth surfaces– and getting into the nitty-gritty of creating the details in her paintings.
Continue reading below to learn more about Laura Grace’s studio process, goals, and how she creates the beautiful skin tones in her portraits!
Where do you like to go for inspiration?
Living on the beach is the most stress reducing place in the world. In an environment like that, I find that I am more open to all sorts of ideas coming to me. I love nature and need to connect with it frequently.
Tell us more about creating your own spin on skin rendering techniques; how did you make it your own?
While I was attending Pratt Institute, I took a class where I had to replicate some portraits done by great masters. In the class we had to use this fascinating technique that started with a base coat of orange paint, and then rendering with deep green. It was so strange to me, but the results were so vibrant and awesome. I continued to perfect this method over the years and make it my own. This was done by mixing colors in glazed transparencies directly on my canvas instead of on my palette. I did this in order to allow more of that orange and green to vibrate through the layers. Each new muse is a learning experience with new colors. I never mix a skin tone and just paint it on. I use bright yellows, blues, magentas and purple glazes. Layered over the orange base coat it creates a realistic skin tone with such beautiful intricacies. I am always learning and evolving use of this technique.
You graduated from Pratt in 2013. What has been the greatest hurdle you’ve encountered in your career since then? What has been your greatest accomplishment?
For me these two questions have the same answer. Growing up I always knew I wanted to be an artist. There was nothing else, it consumed my time and felt natural to me. I was always the best artist in my classes, and that grew my self confidence in wanting to pursue a career in the art field. Once I started at Pratt, I remember being in one of my first classes thinking, “Wow, this is school!?”
I enjoyed every second of what I was doing, and couldn’t believe this would be my life and my job. Shortly after that, I had my first critique and that bubble burst pretty quickly. I was no longer the best artist in a class with kids who were all good at different things. I was an aspiring artist in a sea of other talented, aspiring artists, and I was no longer the best. This forced me to learn pretty quickly to find my voice and be the best I could be, that no one was ever going to be “the best artist” because art is subjective. And that in a sea of so many artists, especially in New York, perseverance would and will make my goals a reality. I think that this is a consistent struggle, as well as a consistent victory as I navigate the art world. Finding my voice and self confidence, even in my defeats and rejections, as well as persevering despite them.
If you could, we would love a walkthrough of your work process!
When I come up with an idea, I want to start almost instantaneously! I’ll start sketching or making notes and reaching out to models and friends that fit the description of my idea. I pick what size canvas I want to paint and begin the whole gesso and sanding process. As each year goes by, the smoother I seem to want my canvas, so this can be a timely and laborious task. Then I begin drawing out my work. At this point I have multiple reference pictures, of my model(s) as well all different objects, flowers, animals… etc. that I want in my painting. I really like piecing my paintings together like a puzzle from all different references. This really makes it feel like it is my own and I love watching it come to life. After my drawing is complete, I then lay down a base coat of orange for the skin, and color block the rest of the painting with acrylic paint. Then I do a light sanding, again! At this point I start rendering with my oil paint, darks first.
Which part of your process is your favorite?
I love doing detail. I do strive for accuracy in my portrait’s likeness to my model. So when I get down to the final highlighting, deepest darks, eyelashes, and wisps of hair I am in all my glory. Also I just love watching each painting evolve. Of course I have references and an idea, but in drawing and painting, it’s all about your hand, your stroke… an idea can shift and the outcome can sometimes be a surprise.
Which are the hardest?
I find it hard to stay focused. I have a full time job teaching fine arts in an after school program. I love it. In the classes I teach ages 5 – 105 and am continuously learning from each student and experience. Because of this job, I find it difficult to set aside large stretches of time to paint for my own career. Also having over 150 students, lesson plans, new mediums and new content flooding into my workspace, it gets very distracting! Even when I have the time, I constantly want to experiment with new things instead of focusing and perfecting my own work. It is something I love though. Sometimes my paintings are so meticulous and detail oriented that I need to putz around with some abstract work, clay or watercolor. The results aren’t always my best work, but it gives me the same release. And it’s fun!
Where do you hope to have evolved personally and/or artistically one year from now? What are some of your biggest art goals?
I had a major health scare this year, and now that everything is fine, my goals and my mind are purely on enjoying life. I want to take more risks and be true to myself; personally and artistically. Art has always been an outlet for me to work out life’s struggles, but I don’t always paint those struggles. I absolutely love painting portraits of beautiful women, children and nature, but moving forward I want to dig a little deeper. Continuing to use the muses that inspire me, but adding more personal and relatable content. We will see how it goes! My goals for my career continue to be the same, I want to make a living in my passions and enjoy every minute of it. With each passing year as my art career grows, I get a little closer to that goal.