Interview with Reginald Laurent – Artist in the USA

Reginald Laurent - Artist in the USAReginald Laurent is a self-taught artist based in Atlanta, GA, USA. His unique, signature style, award winning abstracts are large, eye-catching, colourful, and highly detailed works which reveal something different every time you look at them. He calls it his “artistic DNA”. He has journeyed through his art career fighting against developing a signature style, only to realise this gift and find his focus after winning a prize in a juried exhibition. His art speaks a universal language, radiates happiness, and appeals to people of all races, ages and ethnicities.

You can connect with Reggie on facebook or you can see his profile on yessy to find out more about him and to purchase his art.

View Reginald Laurent’s portfolio. You can also view his artwork after the interview below.

ExtraImaginary: We have Reginald Laurent here with us today. Reggie, please give us a little background about yourself and your art.

Reginald Laurent: I’m what you call a late blooming artist. I didn’t actually start painting until I was about 25 years old and I moved to Georgia from Chicago. And what caught me first about Georgia, was a beautiful beautiful fall. The colours on the trees and things like that. So when I first decided I wanted to paint, my first attempts were landscapes. And I did landscapes for probably the first two years or so and with some success. I mean, I was just doing it as a hobby and I enjoyed it. After about 2 years I found my abstract side and I started doing abstracts. And I haven’t looked back since. So for me, painting started out as something of a hobby and more or less blossomed into a career I hadn’t anticipated which makes me enjoy it even more.

ExtraImaginary: Is art your main form of income right now?

Reginald Laurent: It is. I left corporate America on January 28 of this year. I was a senior mortgage manager for a mortgage company. And the business just got extremely difficult and it was draining the life out of me to be honest with you. And what I lost in income, I gained in happiness. So yeah, right now I’m a full time artist.

ExtraImaginary: What kind of medium do you use for your art?

Reginald Laurent: My main medium is acrylics. To be brand specific, I’m a liquitex junkie. Liquitex is a brand that I used when I first started and I just always had great results so I don’t stray too far from that. But I’m also proficient in charcoal, pencil and oil pastels. But I would definitely consider acrylics my main medium.

ExtraImaginary: Do you have a favourite piece of work so far?

[singlepic id=403 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Reginald Laurent: That’s a good question. I have a mentor who’s one of the finest artists I know. His name is Aaron Henderson. And he has told me over the years when people ask me what my favourite piece is to tell them its the one on my easel right now. And the irony of that is, I am actually working on some pieces for a solo exhibit I have on April 1st and I’m working on 9 18×18 canvases that are going to form one 4-1/2 foot by 4-1/2 foot painting. And its absolutely beautiful so right now I think that’s my favourite piece of art. But if I had to come off the easel, I think its my self-portrait which is my silhouette inside one of my paintings. It looks like I’m inside one of my paintings. I’m standing at an easel and I can’t think of any better way to memorialize myself, if I had to other than put myself inside one of my paintings. So lets just say that my self portrait and the one on my easel runs a close second. How about that?

ExtraImaginary: Now you have a very unusual style of abstract painting. How did you come up with it and how did you develop it?

Reginald Laurent: That’s an excellent question. And the most beautiful thing about it is that I am self taught. I’ve never taken a lesson, never taken a class. I just decided I wanted to paint. And what comes out on canvas right now is something that goes back to elementary school. When I was sitting in lectures or in classes. As I was listening to the classes, I would doodle in the margins of my notebooks. I would just create shapes. Non-sensical things that would basically be abstract expressions of my ink pen. Little would I know that years later, those very symbols and that doodling would more or less appear on canvas. And I thought about it Neeraj, for a long time – where does this art come from? where does it come from?. Other than the fact that I have a rich heritage – my family is from New Orleans, I grew up in Chicago – I did live in New Orleans briefly as a child, but I just think that this is what I call my artistic DNA. I think that what comes off my paintbrush is simply what is inside me. I don’t plan my paintings. I don’t draw them. There is not a lot of thinking that goes into them. I just let it happen and it just unravels. And one thing is when I first started that style, or when that style found me, I did it for a while and then I completely stopped because it was too laborious, it was too much work and I said hey I like doing a landscape, I could do a landscape in 30 mins to an hour, and I have a beautiful painting, while with my signature style art, it takes a long time and I have to earn those.

[singlepic id=390 w=320 h=240 float=right]

So it was after I won and award from a very noted artist, he juried and exhibit and put a ribbon on one of my pieces called “Mental Menagerie”. And then he pointed to that painting and said “I like everything that you’re doing”. I was at the show and he said “but when people think of Reginald Laurent, what do they think of?” and I said “I don’t know”. He said “Exactly. You’re confusing people with you’re landscapes and this and that” and he pointed to the painting he had put a ribbon on and said “This is what you need to be doing. This is uniquely yours.” And that was Larry Walker who is definitely a famous artist. His daughter is Kara Walker. And I took his advice and I ran with it and it has paid dividends for me ever since. This is the style right now that I’m married to and I’m committed to and its what makes me stand out and be a little bit different. But the important thing, its important for me Neeraj to have art that is universal and accepted. I mean, it can speak any language. I love the fact that my art does not isolate any segment of people. Anyone can look at my artwork and appreciate it and its important to me that my works have mass appeal and that everyone can appreciate it from children to old people, doesn’t matter where you come from. That’s kind of it.

ExtraImaginary: Its really amazing. Very different and very appealing. They are all really great to look at. And there is a depth to it. Its not just a pretty picture. All the different shapes – you can look it at it for a long time and keep appreciating it more and more.

Reginald Laurent: Exactly!!! Exactly!!! That’s what I was going to say. I don’t want someone to look at one of my paintings and be able to digest it in 15 seconds and move onto the next one. Even me, I have some of my paintings in my home. I find myself standing in front of my paintings that I created as if I was looking at them for the first time. And looking at some of the things I did, they are amazing and they never get boring and they always look different. And most importantly, its hard not to be happy when you stand in front of one of my paintings because the colours, the energy, they make your eyes move. Anything but boring. And when I’m in a gallery, and I look across the gallery and see someone standing in front of one of my paintings, basically just looking at every little thing, its the best feeling in the world because that’s what I’m doing. I’m putting down information for people to look at. And when its interesting enough for them to stand there and figure out what I did, that’s what this is all about. That’s my purpose. You hit it right on the head. I appreciate that.

ExtraImaginary: Thanks. Do you ever have creative blocks and if you do how do you overcome it?

Reginald Laurent: That’s a good question and the answer is no. I never get creative blocks and that’s because if I’m painting, and I get stuck for lack of a better word, I’ll work on something else that is very different from what I’m working on and sometimes it just means coming back to the painting the next day. But usually once I get going on something it just happens. I’ll take a break. Sometimes a five minute break – you know walking away from a painting, will make that block go away. So very rarely and what I do to keep it interesting is to have other mediums that I work on, because my style is very laborious and very tedious, every once in a while, I will still do a small landscape just to break the monotony or just to go off in a different direction and then I come back to my main road. I mean the life of an artist, I say, is a very very long road, but every once in a while, you take a step back and take a side road and go down a side street and you may explore something else. But never forgetting its that main road which you really need to stay on and its ok to check out other little streets and avenues of your creativity, but to always focus, nurture and maintain that main road. So yeah, those are the things that keep me happy, keep me interested, and I like all mediums and I like doing different things, but once again, my signature style, I avoided that. I did not want to have a signature style. I wanted to do everything, but when you do everything, people really don’t know how to place you. So I secured that place and when people see my style, they instantly know my work. And I’ve fought against that – its not something I wanted initially, but now I realise how important and wonderful that is when you can achieve that because some artists go their whole lives without achieving that.

ExtraImaginary: What are your goals in regards to your art?

Reginald Laurent: My goals right now are very lofty since I’m doing this full time. I like to work on large works. My goal is to have very very large significant works of art in public and corporate collections. I’m talking about airports, art centres, law firms. Every time I see a building here in Atlanta, I see a crane in the air. The first thing that comes to mind is “Dam I wonder what they are going to put on those walls”. My goal is to do big installations that people can enjoy for years. They are building an international terminal here at Hartsfield airport and they have a five million dollar budget for art. I sent them a proposal on four different pieces and one of those pieces is 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide, comprised of 100 canvases that are 24 inch by 24 inch. Those are the kind of works that I would like to do. I want to do works that will take me 6 months to complete and that’s it, to get more exposure and also international exposure, so not only people from the United States can enjoy my work, I would like to have collectors from Russia, China and any place else. And eventually, to go to my roots to find out where this comes from. I would love to go to africa and see what happens to me when I come back. I took a trip to Brazil and when I came back, I painted colours I had never seen before. So by travelling and exposing myself to other countries and other ethnicities and other places, those are things that I hope will also nurture me as an artist. And once again allow for that mass appreciation and allow for international exposure. That’s what I really want.

ExtraImaginary: Well, we are in Kenya so you’re welcome to visit anytime.

Reginald Laurent: I appreciate that and Kenya is on my list of places to go to. Its just amazing. I’ve always had a job. I’ve built an amazing career as an artist that spans over 20 years and as I told you earlier, it happened quite by accident. But now everything that I created, I created while I had a job. So its amazing right now when I see how much art I can create full time. Because I never had that ability. And I’m like a machine. I can’t stop. I paint till 5:30 in the morning. Then I wake up at 8:00 AM and paint some more and right now I don’t know, I don’t care what time it is. Sometimes I forget what day it is and this one of the most wonderful thing. I told my girlfriend that everyday is like saturday. And it is. I have to make a living out of it of course, but for me everyday is like Saturday. For me, I’m beyond blessed and I’m just hoping for me that everything works out and that this art that I create sustains me and I can keep creating it.

ExtraImaginary: I was curious. Do you plan out these pieces, or do you just let it flow.

Reginald Laurent: Now occasionally, I’ll come up with a concept, or specific shapes. I’ve done pieces in my signature style before, but for the most part, 90% of the ones that are created are started with a black canvas. Now to understand how my process works, I start with a black canvas. I paint the canvas black, and then every single shape you see in there, I block in and adjust them on a primer. Then I come back and add the colour. All of my works originally start out as a black and white painting. I think I’ve got the process on my facebook page, for one of my paintings – House Full of Love – it kind of shows the progression of that piece. So its a long process and there’s no rules. I told my girlfriend the other night and I was being a little cocky, I said “You know what baby? I’m really really good at this”. And its because I’ve spent so much time painting right now, I didn’t realise, I knew as much as I did or I was as proficient as I was because think about it, up until a month ago, I could only do a grind at the job, do mortgages and then come home and paint for a couple of hours and then go to bed.

[singlepic id=384 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Now I could paint on weekends as long as I wanted to but it never seemed to happen. But now to be able to wake up everyday and then to paint from sunrise to sunset, paint into the wee hours of the night, man its magical and I’m just excited about all the things I want to create, I need to create. Now these are pieces I painted in my head already, and I just need to create the works now. I’m always looking for new things. I’m painting wooden bowls right now. They are absolutely beautiful. They are bowls made out of fruitwood, and then I sold one the day before yesterday. So I got more bowls and I’ve already painted the other one. That’s in addition to the things I am painting for that show. Yeah so, I have to keep spreading my wings and keep doing different stuff.

ExtraImaginary: How do you get inspiration to do these paintings and what inspires you?

Reginald Laurent: You know, I’m still not sure where the inspiration comes from. And that’s ok you know because a lot of artists go their whole lives and things are revealed to them little by little. I think the colours. Because Chicago, you have to understand is called the concrete jungle. its a beautiful city, in some respects. But there’s no trees. Its gray, its dirty, its cold, and so I don’t know where the vibrant colours come from. I do remember, when I lived in New orleans as a child, I clearly remember when I was the first time at Mardi Gras and I do remember how my jaw dropped when I saw the floats and the colours and the costumes, and sometimes I wonder if that’s the little stain on my brain that I held on to all these years, and if that’s where the colours come from. So i’m not exactly sure. And I think this is my fingerprint. Everybody has a different fingerprint, that’s why I say this is my artistic DNA. Its just whats in my blood. I don’t know how not to create this. I just do it, it just happens, and I know what to do once I start putting it down. Sometimes its like an out of body experience. I have really stood in front of my paintings before and I didn’t remember doing them. I mean, I know I painted them, but its not like I can remember standing in front of this canvas and creating this work. But its definitely mine. So its a wonderful wonderful thing.

ExtraImaginary: Do you have any favourite artists?

Reginald Laurent: I do. I do. I think my most favourite artist in the world is my mentor, His name is Aaron F.Henderson. I’m also a big fan of Paul Goodnight. Another good friend of mine. Wow .. Patricia Bohannon, Charlotte-Riley Webb. They have a wonderful arts community here in Atlanta. One of my brothers is also a collector. He collects art from the Renaissance period of the 30s and 40s and he’s the one that got me interested in art history. Because he didn’t think I should be an artist before knowing about a lot of the people who came before me. And in that respect I have plenty of books and I know the history of everyone from Aaron Douglas to Palmer Hayden, just wonderful artists who paved the way for me. But on a contemporary, Kehinde Wiley. He’s probably one of the most sought after artists there is right now. Absolutely absolutely amazing young man. Now, I’ve never met him but I’m definitely a fan of his work. So those are just a few who have influenced my life or whose art I am crazy about. I love Tamanna’s stuff too which is how I met you. Her stuff is just out of this world. Absolutely beautiful work.

ExtraImaginary: Yeah it is. Actually she’s the one who recommended I interview you.

Reginald Laurent: Yeah exactly. You meet people on facebook and I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve also exchanged works of art with other artists who I met on facebook. I found a young lady named Thaneeya McArdle, and I thought she was my sister. I looked at her work and I thought, oh my goodness, it looks like I could have painted this. Very very funky. Very similar style. And we’ve actually exchanged small works of art with each other. So I have a couple of her pieces and she has a couple of mine. Its a wonderful thing. Those are just some of the artists that inspire me. And sometimes when I do get that block, I do get it occasionally, in my studio, I have invitations and pictures, I have all the things from over the years from all the shows I participated in pinned to the wall and sometimes I stop painting and I’ll just look at that wall and I’ll find one piece, if I’m searching for the right colour, if I’m searching for the right shape, and I can always seem to find it. So I see that stuff, I see that and I get energy from other artist’s work.

ExtraImaginary: Do you want the readers to know anything else about you?

Reginald Laurent: Let me see. I guess, yeah. Understand now, I am 49 years old and I’m going to be 50 soon. Sometimes you get a gift, and you don’t understand it when you’re young. You don’t even realise its a gift. But I realise right now that the older I get, every work of art that I create atleast in my mind, is a little bit more significant. This is not something that I have a choice in. I was chosen to do this, but I had to come to Atlanta for me to find this gift. This gift would not reveal itself when I lived in Chicago. So right now, when I left my job, which I can tell you was very scary. Its the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken. And I know at the back of my mind that God has a big big plan for me and that all I have to do is to keep using this gift and everything else is going to work itself out. But I’m fearless. I’m fearless when I hold my paintbrush and I’m hopeful that i’ll be able to reach as many people as I want. And its not about the money, its never been about the money. I will paint for free. I would give every painting away if I could. I just need to sell enough to pay my bills. And once again its just the love of the art and the joy of doing it and its something I don’t really have a choice in. I no longer have a choice in doing it. This is what I was predestined to do. I guess that’s it.

ExtraImaginary: Thanks Reggie. You’re ExtraImaginary.

Tags: , , , ,

Affiliate Link

  • Dear Reggie,
    I loved to go through your interview and your thoughts.
    Your words are very inspiring for not only artists , but for people in all walks of life.
    It is never too late to discover the talents that god has endowed us with!!..
    It really motivates me to carry on painting- as i connect to the fact that i am as”self taught” as you are :-).
    I read some lines from an old master..that ‘self taught’ actually implies being taught by the Almighty Himself!
    so REGGIE….you have already achieved great success as an artist… and there is much more to come..
    God bless you
    all the best!!