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Heather Lara

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September 2013 Volume 2 No. 9

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VISUAL LANGUAGE

contemporary fine art


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Solitude 8x10

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artspan Heather Lara - Wildlife Artist

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Heather Lara

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Heather Lara

Heather Lara was born and raised in New England where she developed an appreciation for nature at an early age. She’s lived many places since her childhood but now happily resides in Temecula, California with her husband, two small daughters and too many critters to mention them all. A volunteer job with the Animal Department at the Living Desert in Palm Desert introduced her to a career as a serious artist.

Kiss of Death 8 x 12

“When I was hired by the Graphics Department full time. I expanded my resume by working freelance for the American Wilderness Experience, helping them open their zoo from the ground up by creating many of the exhibit graphics. When we moved to Argentina it was a sharp detour from my rising career path but I spent my time down there collecting dogs and honing my craft - I even had my first solo exhibition at the Centro Cultural Fisherton. Though I don’t have an art degree, the Scientific Illustration classes I attended at the University of California at Santa Cruz helped me develop the techniques I use now and my Biology Degree has given me the necessary knowledge of form and structure to create the extremely lifelike depictions of my subjects. My painstaking attention to detail has created a portfolio rich in the diversity of life, from landscapes and portraits in pastel and watercolor to meticulous wildlife scenes in colored pencil. But what I’m sharing with you here is my love of scratchboard, a unique and challenging medium that really lets me showcase my attention to minute detail. I believe that all of nature has beauty, even the smallest insect, and I hope to share this with others through my art.”

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A Glimpse of the Past 8 x 10

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Heather Lara

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Izu 3 8 x 10


artspan Where did you study art? Though I have no Art degree, I’ve gathered education from a number of sources. I went to the University of California, Santa Cruz as an Art major and came out with a BA in Biology instead. The art program was a little creepy for a 17 year old kid away from home for the first time. The few classes I took involved a lot of nude models - picture not-so-pretty hippies and homeless people, if you’ve ever been to Santa Cruz you know what I mean! I did find some graduate courses in Science Illustration that they let me take as an undergrad and it was here that I really learned interesting techniques like scratchboard, carbon dust on cronaflex and stipple. These courses taught attention to detail, following fur patterns, muscle structure, skeletal structure down to the tiniest biological detail and it seemed to fit in with my degree. Over the years I’ve just practiced my art and never shied away from new things. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to art supplies, well who am I kidding - I’m really one major tragedy away from being on the show but I have a very supportive husband that keeps me reigned in and organized. If I read about a new art technique or medium I have to go out and buy ALL the supplies for it and try it, I teach myself through trial and error. Sculpture, woodworking, stained glass, pastels, you name it I have it in my over packed studio and I love it all. I read every art magazine I can get my hands on and I ask a lot of questions from artists that inspire me, some have ignored me but others have been an invaluable part of my education, it never hurts to ask but it can really pay off. 
 How would you describe your style? Obsessive compulsive neurotically focused on detail. I’ve tried to lighten up, loosen up, let go and sketch out something free and quick but I always end up going back in again and again until its hours later and looking like a photograph. I have great respect for artists who can take a subject and create something artistic and interesting from it and yet looks nothing like real life. I just draw what I see. 
 What is the one thing most people don’t know about you? Everybody knows everything about me - I’m a consummate over-sharer. OK ... dolls and clowns freak me out. Why do you paint animals? I’ve always loved animals since I can remember. Anything-creepy crawly, scurrying, running or slithering I liked to pick it up and play with it. My sister received a “How to Draw Animals” book when we were in grade school and somehow it ended up in my room and I copied every page. I loved it! I did my first solo art show in the library of Kelly Lane Elementary school (all of my pictures were done with crayon) and I’ve been drawing ever since. I’m the kind of artist that really has to connect with my subject - it can’t just be a picture in book for me. When I travel I try to visit a zoo or animal sanctuary in whatever city or country I’m in and I spend a lot of time photographing particular animals that I make a connection with. I contact the animal keepers where I can and get the background story for the animal and I feel like it helps me get that extra little bit of inspiration I need. If I do a pet portrait -which is rare - I like to meet the animal and take my own photos if possible. I’ve learned from experience what I need to do to create a magical piece of art, it’s not always possible of course but every once in a while the stars align and you even surprise yourself.


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Heather Lara

Narmada 3 10 x 10

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artspan Why Scratchboard? I’m a detail-oriented artist. I’ve tried to loosen up and I find myself going back to the picture again and again to add this little detail, this little fluff of hair, this little highlight. Scratchboard is one of those mediums where you have to fill your board with lines, there are no short cuts. I started like most artists just drawing with pencil and I found I could never keep the tip sharp enough for the detail I wanted. I graduated to mechanical pens and found myself going smaller and smaller until I was struggling with a 00000 pen tip (I was never very good at cleaning it. Scratchboard gave me the surface and tools to finally get that detail I was striving for. I’ve dabbled in other mediums as well but I particularly love pastels. They speak to my messy side and I think working with all the different colors and blending and highlighting, it taught me enough about color to try coloring scratchboard. I have little patience for anything in my life but when I sit in front of my easel to work I could be there for 12 or 14 hours straight. It’s very cathartic for me. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I’d like to say it was the art teacher who had the whole class bring their most prized work of art to class to share only to tell us all to rip it up. The message was supposed to be - you could always do it again and do it better. Well that’s a great thought and it would be nice if it’s the truth but I’m certainly never going to try and find out!! NO, I’d have to say the best advice I got was from an artist residing in Washington DC, can I say her name? Jodi Walsh if I can. She said, very simply “get over it”. What if people steal my work and use it as a screen saver or print it out and hang it in their cubicle at work?? and she said - so what? Get over it. The likelihood that someone will take a tiny file and pirate it somehow and make millions off your work is pretty small, and if they do then you have something you can actually sue them for! In the age of the Internet theft is inevitable, look at it as free advertising because if they think it’s cool enough to swipe it they’ll also show it to their friends. In the end this isn’t what we should be worrying about as aspiring artists, if you’re too afraid to put yourself out there then you won’t BE out there and no one will see you at all. 

 What is the one thing you will never paint? Dolls and clowns What’s the most meaningful recognition you’ve received for your artwork? The second picture I ever sold is still the most meaningful to me. I’ve received dozens of awards and ribbons - 2 best in show even! But this young girl in her twenties, who worked in an office somewhere didn’t make a lot of money, made payments to buy my picture and she told me that when she saw it displayed at the show it made her cry. All she could do was stare at it and feel complete emotion and connection to what I created and it touched her so deeply she stood there in the crowd and cried. Now this just happens to be MY favorite piece as well, of which I have a very close and emotional connection to, and I thought as I walked it to her door to deliver it that I was going to cut and run away at any moment screaming mine! You can’t have it! But I’m glad I didn’t. I handed it over and felt content that it was going to hang in a modest home for someone who was buying it not because it was a good investment or because they are an avid art collector but because, well, she just loved it. I think as artists we all want to evoke some kind of reaction in our viewers that is deep and visceral and it’s a great validation of your work when you see it happen.


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Heather Lara

What are your goals for the future? I’d like to expand my audience, get represented in a few more galleries and actually pay my husband back for the hoard of art materials I’ve amassed over the years. Above all my goal is to keep having fun. I’m blessed with two beautiful little girls and they deserve the bulk of my attention right now, I figure I’ll have plenty of time to devote to my art career when they’re in their teens and hate me.
 What galleries represent your work? Celebration Fine Art Gallery, San Diego, California and Metalography Gallery, Temecula, CA

Elusive 8 X 10

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Seeing Double 8 x 10

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Heather Lara Wildlife Artist/Artspan VL Feature Sept 2013  

Heather Lara was born and raised in New England where she developed an appreciation for nature at an early age. She’s lived many places sinc...

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