Go behind the scenes with Omar Lawson, an exciting new talent whose unique approach to portraiture is capturing the art world’s attention.
The first thing you notice about Omar Lawson’s artwork is the grand scale. At six feet tall, his portraits carry a weight and presence all their own.
But it quickly becomes apparent that Lawson’s portraits are not only life-sized; they are larger than life. His bold use of color and dynamic composition transports the viewer from an art gallery into a shared human experience. Lawson’s portraits simultaneously capture an individual’s unique identity and the universal human experience.
Q&A with Omar Lawson
In this brief Q&A, we share a glimpse into Omar Lawson’s work and approach to portraiture. To take a deeper dive, check out the recording of our recent Illuminate event, where we peeked inside Lawson’s studio and talked about his life, art, and working methods.
Q: What do you find most compelling about painting portraits?
Making something that many people can identify with—while also knowing there’s an individual out there who perceives my creation as a representation of their identity—is unbelievably satisfying. Though portraiture headlines my paintings, the focus is always on the collective narrative.
Q: You paint with oils, acrylics, and collaged elements. What are the benefits and challenges of each medium and how do you decide which to use for a painting?
The reason I work in mixed media is so that I can skip over all the challenges and shortcomings of each medium and really play to their strengths. I exclusively paint the skin and hair with oils because the slow dry time allows me to really define the physical characteristics of my models which is crucial to portraying their identities as individuals. On the other hand, the mediums that I used to create the clothing and spaces that my figures occupy are chosen the minute that I decide to work on them.
Every decision informs the next and even though working this way can make every painting feel like a visual test, it’s my way of engaging with the work and continuing to improve my decision making skills.
Q: What’s something new you’re looking to explore in your artwork?
I’ve begun to integrate perforated or “dotted” lines into my work. These are typically used in early childhood education to teach children how to write letters and symbols that they will continue to use throughout their education and everyday lives.
I plan to use the perforated line in my work as a vehicle for my commentary on the education that we receive outside of the school system within concepts such as culture, societal norms, and nuanced experiences.
For more from Omar Lawson, watch a replay of Making Art That Sparks Conversation, an online event exclusively for Artists Network members.