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Arts & Culture

Artist on Artist: Gary Sweeney interviews Jayne Lawrence

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Jayne Lawrence and Gary Sweeney bug out in Lawrence’s studio

Photo: Jason Mandella, License: N/A

Jason Mandella

Wolfgang Laib. 'Pollen from Hazelnut' in the Marron Atrium at The Museum of Modern Art, 2013


Jayne Lawrence is an artist whose work I’ve admired for a long time. Originally coming from a graphic design background, she moved to San Antonio to get a studio art degree at University of Texas-San Antonio during an era when the graduate program had local hot shots Riley Robinson, Jack Robbins, Nate Cassie and Karen Mahaffey working on their MFAs. Blue Star Arts Complex was in its infancy and it was an exciting time in San Antonio. Lawrence received her master’s degree at UTSA in 200 and has been teaching there, and exhibiting locally, ever since.

I once heard a professor tell his class, “You’re going to make 10,000 bad drawings before you know what you’re doing, so you might as well get started on them now.”

I heard it as 1,000, which doesn’t seem as intimidating. Ten thousand means I still haven’t made a good drawing yet. So, I don’t agree with that statement, but I do agree with the sentiment. The idea of making 1,000 or 10,000 drawings is:

1. To get the ball rolling, you have to start.

2. Belief in the statement creates a no-fear attitude; you participate in the drawing experience with more openness because perfection is 9,999 drawings away.

3. It establishes commitment, a kind of quest for “the good drawing.” You are forced to constantly ask yourself just what that is. This allows for possibilities and discovery.

What is the best piece of advice you give your students?

Go see as much art as you can. Talk about it. Respond to it. Then go skydiving! Bungee jumping! Skiing! Take a trip! Go for a walk! Get lost! Do something that lets you know you’re still alive. Stop waiting to be someone else and embrace who you are now, [in] this moment, at this time.

I first met you when I hired you to do some welding for a project. Now you’re doing ridiculously exquisite and intricately detailed drawings. Was this a gradual transition?

I don’t think so. I have always drawn. I just never showed my drawings. When I moved from Denver to San Antonio in the 1980s, I was a commercial artist. I got into the fine arts to get away from scripted art, art I was told to make.

What is your favorite pencil?

Cretacolor used to make this amazing set of pencils. They were yellow with brown tips. Now they are black with a fancy red strip on the end that you don’t sharpen. They are not the same. The graphite is somehow different and now I have to use a wide variety of brands. What I select depends on what I want to achieve and my paper selection. The pencil has to glide across the paper and sound right. There is nothing worse than a pencil that is screaming at you the whole time. I just had to put to rest my last 6B Creta. So sad, [I’ve] had it since grad school, didn’t use it much, but now that it’s gone, I am kinda diggin’ on the Derwents.

Walk me through the process of one of your drawings. I always imagine that you just sit down and start doodling and it grows from there.

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