LAURA CHASMAN

1CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

LC: I am a figurative painter. My work is realistic, but expressive. I have been painting for over 30 years, and am primarily known as a portrait  painter. Individuals interest me, although I am also drawn to various groups of people, often painting  many individuals  within a group. I work with gouache on board.  My brush strokes are active. I would like the viewer to sense the artist’s hand. I try to capture the feeling of my subjects, not  just a likeness. I love discovering the small, but significant details, the imperfections, oddities and ironies in my subjects.

 CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from ?

LC: I am inspired by the people that I know intimately, as well as those that I encounter as I live my life. Any social situation I find myself in is potentially inspirational. I am inspired by how my subjects look, feel and express themselves and how I have come to know them.

 CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

LC: My paintings of people always begin with an “ah ha” moment. I do not arrange for someone to pose for me. Many, if not all of my images, are based on unplanned encounters.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

LC: I would hope that my paintings of people would engage my audience- that they would be drawn in and momentarily captured by the image.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

LC: My dreams have never been about money. My dreams were about making art. I arranged my life to support my life as an artist.  I worked part-time as a social worker. This was meaningful work. I have always valued the opportunity to move within two very different worlds – each feeding the other interest. Both careers center on my fascination in learning about people and continually offered me the opportunity to paint portraits of the broad range of people that I encountered. My husband is also an artist and we shared these values. Most of our clothes, our furnishings come from thrift shops, yard sales, the trash. It’s great fun discovering an object, or piece of clothing that has a history, is slightly worn. My life is one big scavenger hunt- searching for subjects to paint, or objects to live with.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

LC: I always start out with a plan, but a plan is just a starting point. Allowing myself to be impulsive, and following my intuition is the only way to be authentic.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

LC: When I have an idea that excites me-  don’t over think it.  Trust my intuition.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

LC: Yes, I would agree with that. My art is about making a personal statement.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

LC: If you believe that you have created a body of work that is strong and worthy of an audience, how do you find that audience? Marketing the work is very difficult. I am an artist who thrives on making things. I am not business minded, nor do I enjoy self-promotion.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

LC: Having an idea that excites me. The creative process. Suspending all critical judgment and losing myself in the work.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

LC: There are many artists that inspire me. Painters, such as Alice Neel, Lucian Freud, Chantal Joffe, Egyptian-Roman encaustic mummy portraits are intensely evocative, the photographer Rineke Dijkstra. Music inspires me. Operatic arias, Mozart, the composer Sylvain Chauveau are some of what I listen to in my studio.

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

LC: I rely on my camera to document the people I encounter. I rely on the internet to keep me informed, to send off my imagery. I am not an artist who thrives on learning new technology. I use technology out of necessity.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

LC: I don’t believe that an artist views the world differently from others, but an artist has an overriding need to express that vision.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

LC: I enjoy traveling, but I can be a sightseer for just so long, and then I want to return to my work. A favorite city? I love Venice, Paris, New York City.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

LC: I don’t have a favorite author. I do enjoy reading fiction. Colum McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin” continues to inhabit my thoughts, as well as a recent book, “Rules of Civility” by Amon Towles, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, Philip Roth’s novels speak to me.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

LC: I will always return to portraiture, but recently, after attending art fairs in NYC, I became fascinated with the art fair phenomenon. This project has a more conceptual framework.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

LC: When I am working, I get lost in the work. I go somewhere else. I am in the moment.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

LC: I am out of words.

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