Artist Lara Ivanovic captures a surprising beauty in junked cars and abandoned buildings. See more of her remarkable paintings by visiting her website.
As a young child, I drew the usual fantastical scenes of girls with flowing locks and tiaras, riding palomino ponies, “That’ll be me one day…” I thought. Well, far from it—I was never a girly girl. Thinking back on it, I drew constantly. I sketched people everywhere—in cafes, restaurants, in the park, on the beach—just observing the way a woman’s hip juts out when she holds her baby, the way an old grandma’s legs looked like stalks.
While attending college, I began to make conceptual artist books, a painstaking craft, using Japanese papers and letterpress. These books were intensely personal, giving me meaning and joy.
After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration and book design, I found I did not want to work as an illustrator. I couldn’t find work creating letterpress books, so I took a job as a graphic designer. Later, I became an art director for many years, proficient at something I never intended to do but which actually has been very useful in my life.
Fast forward to a trip to the Australian outback. I went to stay at a million-acre cattle station in the forgotten part of Western Australia. Once I saw the car graveyards in the outback, I found what I was looking for.
I fell in love with the big bowl of blue sky and all the wonderful colors the cars had turned in the heat of many years. The patina and rust made them appear to be reclaimed by the earth. They shimmered in the heat and I felt in them some mysterious ghostly sensation. I made drybrush strokes blurry over semi-dried paint to convey what I saw and felt.
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I discovered that there were abandoned vehicles all over rural Australia. As I traveled, I knocked on farm doors to ask if I could take pictures. I was intrigued by the incongruous jumbles of cars, some dumped on top of another with one headlight gone. I’d even see the odd London bus.
When I worked up large oil paintings from my watercolors, sketches and photos in my studio, I was asked to take part in a huge group show in Sydney at a gallery for emerging artists. I propped these gigantic paintings against the gallery wall. The gallery owner said, “You got any more? I’ll take two, and if you sell one, I’ll give you a solo show.” I ended up selling all forty-something works!
I had no idea how these paintings could appeal to anyone but me, but was pleasantly surprised when I was taken on by a high-end gallery. Every show was a sell-out and I was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald several times—I became known as the “Car Girl.” I sold the most paintings of any artist who had ever shown there!
I continued painting cars for twenty years, and have recently found some wonderful rural salvage yards, where I had to literally hack the vegetation away so I could see the vehicle.
I took a brief break from painting cars during which I captured the interiors of some wonderful, haunting old factories. The light was very dramatic as it poured through rusty holes in the roof. I would often lie on the ground to get the most dramatic—often foreboding—effect.
Perhaps you could say I discovered my dark side…
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