I first met John last summer when I was doing a demo in a Sister Bay gallery we were both in. John walked over and watched me paint and we talked about everything from Door County to the weather in the South. He has a wonderful sense of humor, is an engaging conversationalist and he can really paint.
John will be back for the third year in a row to the Door County Plein Air Festival and I will be watching him create his wonderful paintings this year. He is a man who understands his craft, has won too many awards to list, and was a wonderful interview. His website is lasaterart.com and I urge you to go to the site and see more of his work, the many galleries he is in, look at his DVD, and see where he will be teaching and painting.
Randy Rasmussen (RR): You are known for your wonderful paintings but what about the 24 paintings in 24 hours? For our readers, explain what that was and how it came about.
John P. Lasater (JPL): It took place a few years ago. I had a rather slow season selling and I was on my way home just thinking as I drove. I was alone with my thoughts and suddenly I had an idea, maybe help the small town I live in and maybe salvage my year. I did 24 paintings in 24 hours and the publicity it gained was tremendous. I also sold all 24 paintings. Yes, it was grueling but it was fun and it was a success.
RR: You are John P. Lasater IV. Is there a John P. Lasater V?
JPL: Yes, that is my son.
RR: Does he paint?
JPL: There might be an interest developing but right now his main focus is music.
RR: I talk to many people in Door County that have met you. It usually goes like this: “He is really a nice guy.” What a wonderful thing to be known for. Are you happy because you are doing what you love?
JPL: Heck yeah! I went from working in the office at Hallmark, which wasn’t a good fit for me, to becoming an illustrator to a fine artist working for myself. I actually made the big step at age 30.
RR: When did you know you were going to be an artist?
JPL: I really didn’t believe it could happen until I was just over 30 years old. I always loved to draw but it was a big step to change careers.
RR: Almost every artist I have interviewed said drawing is the basis for everything in art. Do you agree?
JPL: I started with drawing and I think it is vital to have success in art.
RR: How do you describe your work?
JPL: I am actually afraid to label my work. I just do it. Every painting is different. I enjoy what I do and I keep it simple.
RR: I love that answer. Has your palette changed over the years?
JPL: Yes, I have added black, actually ivory black. It is controlled, not overused but it helps to neutralize certain colors.
RR: What colors are on your current palette?
JPL: As I said ivory black, a combination zinc/titanium white, cad yellow, cad orange, permanent red, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, viridian green and burnt umber. There might be a few more depending on what I am painting.
RR: What three artists inspire you the most?
JPL: Just three? How about [Claude] Monet, [Isaac] Levitan and [Andrew] Wyeth?
RR: Three great ones. Why should people strive to paint outside?
JPL: I think the artist needs to see real color, real values, not the warped view of the camera.
RR: What can a student expect when taking a class from you?
JPL: A sincere “learn from experience” event. Design is exciting. We cover all components of creating a painting in a relaxed atmosphere. I think I emphasize things that are being forgotten about 20th century design by reviewing some of the work of the early artists. I try to make the learning enjoyable.