Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Visit with Jeffrey T. Larson, Founder of the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art

Jeffrey Larson, Self-Portrait
Andrew Wyeth was one of the most recognized American painters of the 20th century. N.C. Wyeth, his son, followed his footsteps as an artist/illustrator. Today a third generation is carrying the Wyeth torch, grandson Jamie.

In similar fashion, artist Jeffrey T. Larson has reproduced a passion for painting in his son Brock and together they have undertaken an enterprise that goes far beyond making art. After much deliberation they have undertaken to start a world-class art school here in the Twin Ports on Duluth's West Central Hillside. This past weekend the school had its first annual Student/Instructor Exhibition, and the impression one gets is that a very fine school has taken root, the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art.

I first met Jeff Larson at a talk he gave at the Tweed Museum last fall, no doubt designed to coincide with the launch of the school. Since that time I've taken a keen interest, and very much looked forward to this past weekend's open house.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in an art career?

"Chopping Wood" by Jeffrey T. Larson
Jeffrey Larson: I was always the "class artist" growing up. Loved to draw, carve and create but never thought about it seriously as in a career util I discovered the Atelier Lack.

EN: You're a masterful oil painter. What was it that led you to take up classical oil painting as an avocation?

JTL: More correctly, it took me up. It was the moment I went to visit Richard Lack at his personal studio after having been to visit his school, Atelier Lack, during my senior year of high school. He had asked me to bring some work when I went to his school. I had gone out of curiosity only. When I walked into his studio it struck me that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Avocation is too strong a word to use to describe how I saw it. Avocation implies career and income, the furthest consideration from my mind at that time actually. Young and dumb, I just knew this is what I was meant to do and assumed the rest would fall into place.

EN: Your paintings show a great admiration for light. How do you choose subject matter for your work?

JTL: Living in the Northland offers you a lot of green and blue half the year, white the rest. The laundry series is probably my most successful attempt at trying to have as much control compositionally outside. With the sheets I can convert them to foils of color and pattern, bounced light, reflected light, flat light, transparent light, translucent light and shadows... The subject is primarily a means to an end for abstract composition.

EN: What prompted you to start an art school? What is the school called and 5. what's your vision for the school?

JTL: A number of reasons. I have always been extremely grateful that I had had the opportunity to receive classical training, especially given just how rare it has become. It laid the foundation for my life. With my son's path following mine it seemed like a wonderful opportunity for us to work together. We both enjoy teaching, having both done it towards the end of our training and after graduating. The idea started small but given our personalities it soon began to grow. Stumbling across St. Peters and recognizing the potential it held ramped it up to a whole new level. Our goal now is to create and develop it into one of the finest classical studio schools in the world. (There are about a dozen schools worldwide passing on this information at a higher level.)

EN: What makes your approach to teaching different from what other art schools are doing?

JTL: There have always been two major lines with the visual arts, the romantic/classical which has turned into the academic/impressionistic. My training was impressionist based with a foundation of classical academic. I've added 25 years of full-time painting experience to this and have learned much in those years. Brock's interest and focus is much more academic-based. Just about all the other schools in the world are purely academic. We will be offering a combined training of the two approaches, what we are calling Classical Impressionism.

EN: Who have been your influences? Favorite painters or artists?

JTL: I can honestly say that I have learned much from so many of the artists of the past. One tends to become obsessed with one artist for a time, absorb what you can and then move on. A few of my lasting favorites are Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velázquez, Sargent, Sorolla, Zom and Rodin.

EN: For people who missed your exhibition at the Tweed this summer, where can they see more of your work?

JTL: For those who missed the open house this past weekend, you can find many pieces displayed at

I am currently in a couple shows in New York's Cavalier Galleries, and at the Salmagundi Club as part of the Art Renewal Center's 12th annual International Salon Exhibition. I also have pieces on display at Collins Galleries on Cape Cod and Helena Fine Arts in Charleston, S.C.

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I know that I am not alone when I say that the school Jeff Larson has started here with his son is a welcome addition to the local arts scene and the community-at-large.  Thank you Jeff, for sharing your vision and making sacrifices to make it a reality. The very best to you in your endeavors.


Karen said...

Correction: Jamie Wyeth is Andrew's son. Andrew is the son of N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was one of the most respected American illustrators.

Ed Newman said...

Thanks for the correction.