Artist Spotlight: Laurie Lipton

Lipton's sweetness disguises a dark vision of modern life and her executions are heroic.

BY Christopher Harrity

April 14 2012 1:00 AM ET

 Laurie Lipton was born in New York and began drawing at the age of 4. She was the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a fine arts degree in drawing (with honors). She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France and had made her home in London from 1986 until a year ago when she came back to live in the U.S. — West Hollywood, specifically. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA.

Lipton was inspired by the religious paintings of the Flemish School. She tried to teach herself how to paint in the style of the 16th-century Dutch Masters and failed. When traveling around Europe as a student, she began developing her own peculiar drawing technique, building up tone with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines like an egg tempera painting. “It’s an insane way to draw,” she says, “but the resulting detail and luminosity is worth the amount of effort. My drawings take longer to create than a painting of equal size and detail.”

“It was all abstract and conceptual art when I attended university. My teachers told me that figurative art went ‘out’ in the Middle Ages and that I should express myself using form and shapes, but splashes on canvas and rocks on the floor bored me. I knew what I wanted: I wanted to create something no one had ever seen before, something that was brewing in the back of my brain. I used to sit for hours in the library copying Durer, Memling, Van Eyck, Goya, and Rembrandt. The photographer Diane Arbus was another of my inspirations. Her use of black and white hit me at the core of my being. Black and white is the color of ancient photographs and old TV shows ... it is the color of ghosts, longing, time passing, memory, and madness. Black and white ached. I realized that it was perfect for the imagery in my work.”

WATCH BELOW: Laurie at the international opening of her new work, "Extraordinary Drawings," in Liverpool.

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