Heidi Lanino: Figurative forms in vibrant abstraction

Heidi Lanino is many things, but most ardently, a career, female visual artist. A head-and-heart first, leap of faith into the arts is not easy for most, but luckily she’s always had the support of her family. Back in the late 1980s when she began her  four-year, full-tuition scholarship at the Pratt Institute, it was mainly her parents; now, it’s her husband (also a Pratt graduate) and their two sons.


Heidi and I chatted via Skype from our respective home offices in Warwick, New York and Hamburg, Germany. Her enthusiasm in her work and openness to share her views is infectious; her artistic journey captivating. Here’s what she shared about her drawing background, life as a female painter, local grassroots engagement and what she’s learned when creating work with 5-year-olds.



Sandy saw my work on Facebook. She approached me (it’s all very flattering), and I liked her concept, what I heard, the look of the site, and the other work represented. The art world is very different now. When I was in art school, in the way of self-promotion, they only taught us to look for galleries. But today’s reality is very different. Many things happen simultaneously and quickly. I used to have wait until I’d created a body of work large enough to fill an exhibition before I could show or sell anything. Now it’s possible for me to sell directly to clients or designers, people can find my work on the web, follow me, contact me directly, and if the opportunity presents itself, I can sell work without gallery representation.



I think it’s fantastic. It has really opened me up to new audiences and opportunities to share my work. The things I sell through my own outlets online are different than those I might sell in person. My sketches and works on paper are convenient to sell and ship. I also paint on unstretched canvas, so framing is not an issue either. It can be an expensive additional cost, and you never know if the frame you’ve selected fits the collector’s style. Sometimes I wonder if those frames just get thrown away. With Artisster, it’s not an issue.



I am very much inspired by movement, dance and the space between. The concept and interpretation of physical memory is important to my work. I see my work as “figurative abstraction”. I try to capture a gesture, a moment, the feeling of a subject rather than the representation of it. I sometimes sketch first on a smaller format, then start a piece by drawing, often attaching charcoal to a reed to enhance the gestural qualities of a piece, before I paint (see Dance #5, sketch and acrylic).

It’s a technique that happens organically in the studio. I need that distance from the canvas to arrive at the perspective I want to complete the work. I wanted to draw it as it would [later] be seen. Moving back and forth. It’s like I’m creating a dance of my own. In the creation phase, I am moving as much as the piece is moving.


I wouldn’t say I’m a political artist, at least my work is not political in nature. But absolutely we [artists] have a responsibility. When you look at history, you can see those movements through art. Personally, I think it’s important to start small. I do a lot of community-based projects. The arts have the power to connect and to change. “I have always had a passion for teaching creativity and knowledge through the arts. I teach art to both children and adults to inspire creative thinking,” says Lanino. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from 5-year-olds. It is a gift to be able to create with them, they are so open and full of ideas.



A medium that I really have enjoyed working in, and I’d like to explore more, is recycled materials. I work each summer with our Warwick Summer Arts Festival and help create a collaborative community project. I worked on a reuse plastic bags project, we created a huge installation piece made from used plastic bags and discarded soccer nets collected throughout the community and then exhibited. A visual metaphor as it moved, for our air and water. It showed the community that even though we made something amazing out of these dangerous material, it’s still better to forgo bags which do not fully decompose. We donated the project to a local group whom knitted them into reuse bags.


Projects like these keep her in the flow with growing movements in the arts. Her engagement hasn’t ended with creating work herself, she’s also recently curated a show featuring reuse bags.





Heidi in 3 words: Open. Passionate. Conceptual.


Best part of being an artist: Being an artist in and near NYC is phenomenal. In the City, you can spend your time going to museums, galleries and shows. There’s a salon feeling there. Artists exchanging views. It’s just like you may imagine. Here in Tuxedo, I’ve been able to concentrate more on developing my work. I have a generous studio space now where I can spread out and work! Also, I have a wonderful artist community around me to share ideas, and creative process.


Memorable piece of advice: “Be truthful with your art, put truth on the page.” My drawing teacher from Pratt used to say that.


On moving past creative block: I can’t really say I’ve ever had it. I love to work. It’s not really creative block, but more the beauty of the struggle of pushing through with your art to the next piece. I always tell my students to differentiate between the good vs. great idea. Not all ideas are worth fully pursuing. Focus on the great ideas and bring those to life.


Last thing she painted: I always have 4 or 5 things going on at a time. Yesterday I walked into my studio and had 2 sketches on the floor and 3 canvases in process.


Favorite art supply store: I’m buying more and more on line since I am not that close to an art store. I go to Blick, Pearl, or Jerry’s Artarama.


Guilty pleasure: Buying loads of great art supplies. Oil paints, oil sticks, and pastels. Chocolate and wine, but they are part of life, no guilt.



Fully committed to her work and her family, now that her sons are older, Lanino is allowing herself the freedom to return to more concentrated efforts. While at Pratt, she conducted independent study stays in Italy. So the idea of a creative retreat or residency is tempting, and one she plans to pursue in the near future.


Lanino’s ‘Roil Redux’ painting is highlighted in the March 2017 issue of The World of Interiors UK. Of her experience getting the work shown in print, “It was really great to work with the staff at Condé Nast magazine, for the Art and Design March issue. This is such a beautiful magazine filled with stunning photography, art, art exhibitions, interesting articles, and great design ideas.”


“Into The Storm” is an acrylic and charcoal on canvas (38×48″) which was part of  the show, “The Nude” which exhibited at the Chris Davison Gallery from 25 February to 11 March 2017 in Newburgh, New York. Lanino states, “This piece expresses the beauty of a man and woman caught in a storm, inspired by Pierre Auguste Cot.”

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