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Jun 1, 2017

Some artists love to tell a very intentional and direct story with their artwork, and some focus on embracing the unknown. Artist Lani Irwin has a fascinating relationship with her paintings and their seeming tension of embracing the known and embracing the unknown. Lani’s work is very focused when it comes to the shapes and figures she creates but the unknown comes in when you step back and look for an underlying narrative or dialogue in her work, it’s not there. Lani likes to revel in the fact that her work embraces this tension, you can’t pin it down, you can’t define exactly what she is trying to say. Sometimes Lani wishes she had a story to tell in her paintings, and sometimes she loves the fact that there is nothing to tell.

Letting the Painting Speak

Many artists come to the canvas with an idea in mind and let it evolve over time or they just bring to life that original idea that existed in their head. Lani Irwin doesn’t go to the canvas with an idea in mind, rather she starts with a gesture or an object, or even a series of objects and she lets them speak to her. From that point, inspiration ebbs and flows as she listens to what the painting wants. The way Lani describes her process is fascinating and almost like a whirlwind because things will change very quickly as she listens to and adapts her approach to the painting. As she described her process, I was instantly transported to her studio and I could image this process unfolding and I hope you get that sense too. Make sure to catch images of her artwork included at the end of this post!

Every Step Revealing the Artist

Sometimes we can get so keyed into figuring out what that one moment or that one inspiration is that led someone down the path they chose. To be fair, there are many artists and other professionals that can clearly point to a moment of inspiration that acted as a catalyst for them on their career trajectory. Then there are artists like Lani Irwin who look back and find that it wasn’t just one moment that led to her decision to become an artist. For Lani, it's a compilation of events, ideas, and impulses that have guided her journey, she looks back at every step and sees it as an arrival.

Quality over Quantity

Even though her advice for younger artists might be geared around encouraging them to spend a lot of time in the studio, Lani Irwin has found that her time is now better spent with intense focus and precision. She finds that in order to maximize her time in the studio she needs to build up to it, honing all of her creative inspirations into that moment. One way Lani does this is by simply folding a paper crane before she goes into the studio, she does this as a meditative practice that centers her and brings her inspiration and focus.

Work Hard and Know Your Voice

There are many pressures placed on art students in the current industry climate. They tend to feel a very acute pressure to build a body of work and make a big splash in the art world. But for many, that seems hopelessly out of reach and a massive burden to bear. Artist Lani Irwin encourages young artists to put in the hard work and long hours, not only to produce a large body of work but to refine and master their craft. She also stresses the need for young artists to really understand who they are and what their artistic “Voice” will be.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:45] My introduction to today’s guest, Lani Irwin.
  • [2:30] Lani talks about how she started to become an artist.
  • [7:00] The impact that moving from place to place had on Lani.
  • [12:00] Why did Lani decide to settle in Italy?
  • [15:00] Lani talks about her artwork.
  • [27:00] What narrative or dialogue exists in Lani’s work?
  • [33:00] Knowing and Unknowing in Lani’s paintings.
  • [38:30] Lani’s time in the studio.
  • [48:30] The thread that runs through Lani’s work and how she’s changed over the years.
  • [59:30] Advice Lani would give artists just starting out.

Other artists mentioned on this episode

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