The subjective nature of art leaves the viewer with near-infinite ways to interpret, react, and understand its content. Artist Joshua LaRock believes it’s his calling to make images that shape our desires toward beauty. How will you be guided?
It never ceases to amaze how many talented and successful artists start their careers relatively late. Accomplished painter Joshua LaRock is one such case, discovering his niche for art after college. He writes, “I got my degree in music business but decided it wasn’t the industry for me after a few internships. I hadn’t discovered the underground atelier movement until this time and didn’t even know that there were living artists painting in this manner. I had never been drawn to modern art and so didn’t pursue study in college, though I had always been interested in art making.”
Joshua LaRock, “Self-portrait,” 2016, oil on linen, 18 x 14 in. (c) Joshua LaRock 2016
After years of study, trial and error, and blood and sweat with Jacob Collins and Scott Waddell at the Water Street Atelier, LaRock today has evolved into a wonderfully talented painter, creating brilliant portraits, figurative narratives, plein air landscapes, and still life. Inspired by the works of Bouguereau, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt, LaRock’s pictures have lovely enamel-like surface, a timeless allure, and a soft glow that warms hearts. The painter’s creative process is equally refined.
LaRock says, “The prospect of making a new image can seem so daunting that I tend to stick with a relatively similar process to reduce the amount of variables. Inspiration comes from many sources — something I read, another painting, a mood, and nature. I keep a list of ideas and notes. I explore the idea in small gestural thumbnails, trying to come up with a variation on the theme because sometimes the first idea is not the best. Recently, I have preferred to do a small finished version of what I intend to be a larger canvas. This allows me to work out the composition, lighting, emotion, and color on a smaller scale. Once the smaller painting is finished, I can make further edits and start the larger piece. Knowing when a painting is done is always hard, it is a constant tension between maintaining a freshness and polish, but I tend to push for the latter while not strangling the former.”
Joshua LaRock, “Bather,” oil on linen, 16 x 10 in. (c) Joshua LaRock 2016
Although the artist paints a number of different subjects in his work, many of LaRock’s pictures are figurative and/or portraits — a genre the artist is particularly attracted to. To be sure, there are infinite ways in which the body can express different ideas, narratives, and feelings — something LaRock recognizes and seeks to employ. He suggests, “I think the figure is the most universal and emotionally evocative subject to explore. I don’t mean that to diminish the landscape or still life genres at all, but the figure and, in particular, the portrait cannot help but resonate most closely with the human heart. Facial expressions alone allow for an incredible breadth of emotion, mood, and narrative. What I love about it is the figure’s universal, common language that crosses time and culture. No prior ‘education’ is needed to look at a figurative painting — it is immediately accessible to everyone.”
Creating works that speak to a broad and diverse audience has encouraged LaRock to develop a multi-layered philosophy on art, and he admits a manifesto might be needed to properly explore his core creative goals. In short, however, the artist believes that “art plays a role in shaping our desires as humans. I think who we are and what we long for is more shaped by narratives that we take in viscerally, tangibly, and emotionally through – among other things – images, advertisements, music, movies, etc. rather than logically decided upon. With that in mind, it is my goal to create powerful images that direct desire toward beauty, truth, hope, meaning, and goodness rather than despair, nihilism, and ugliness.”
Joshua LaRock, “Aimée Pearl,” oil on linen, 8 x 10 in. (c) Joshua LaRock 2016
It will be fascinating to observe how the artist continues to grow through his work — and beyond. He has partnered with artists Michael Klein and Louis Carr, and the three plan on releasing an series of instructional videos; one will document LaRock’s painting of “Laura in Black” — a gorgeous portrait of the artist’s wife. The painting was entered into the 2016 BP Portrait Award and will hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London this summer. For himself, LaRock endeavors to create larger, multi-figurative narratives for public spaces. He writes, “I hope to court this type of commission and/or make gallery works that are stepping stones towards this end.”
To learn more, visit Josh LaRock.
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