Lucia Heffernan, let’s start from the very beginning, where did your inspiration originate? Were your parents visual artists as well? I’ve loved to doodle and draw as long as I can remember. I was born in Taiwan, where my mother was a teacher, as well as an watercolor artist. So, I grew up surrounded by art and a passion for creating beautiful things. I studied Fine Arts and Design in college, and my first job was as a medical illustrator. In the early 1990s, at the dawn of the Internet era, I became fascinated with online design and started a boutique web design company called Lead Dog Design with two partners. We worked extensively with Fortune 500 companies, bringing brands and corporate identities to life, and won many awards in both online and offline media. After we sold Lead Dog Design, I moved to Utah and, inspired by the beauty of the natural surroundings, I started painting in oil. Although painting has always been a hobby of mine, I think the professional experience I’ve had working in digital media inspires a unique perspective when I work on canvas. kids to know that we are all responsible for the world we inherit.
Lucia, you’re very much drawn to animals, people and landscape but out of them all, which are you most inspired by and why? I am definitely most inspired by animals. Like people, animals each have a personality, but they don’t have the words to express themselves aloud. When I look into the light of an animal’s eyes, I can see and feel its spirit and its story. As an artist, I want to capture not only the beauty of an animal, but also its unique voice. Painting animals is also inspiring because it is a great way to use art as a vehicle for raising awareness and encouraging philanthropy. Our dog, Tiffany (see the 2 paintings below), is a rescue dog, and I’ve used her as a subject in my paintings as an example of how a loving home can save a homeless pet. In addition to donating animal paintings to causes such as breast cancer awareness, I’ve also created paintings for organizations, like the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, UT and No More Homeless Pets of Utah, to raise money for endangered animals and the environment. It’s so gratifying to be able to use my art to give back, and as a mother, I want my kids to know that we are all responsible for the world we inherit.
Your detail is extremely strong and sharp, how long does it take to create a piece of art? I understand each piece varies but do you have a system or just “go with the flow” and create? As a graphic/web designer, I developed a keen eye for composition and color, so my approach to painting is based on a solid technical foundation. My process for creating a piece begins with composing the ideal layout for the canvas. Whenever possible, I like to see the animal I am painting in its natural surroundings. Since my animal subjects won’t stand still for portraits, I take a lot of photographs to capture them in different poses and angles. Using the photographs I’ve taken, I use digital media tools to help me develop the composition of the painting. Once I’ve created the right digital image, I draw it onto the canvas. But, the real magic happens when I begin applying paint and brushstrokes. While my technique helps me to create strong, sharp detail, it’s my instinct that guides the transformation of the digital image into an oil painting that captures the essence of the subject at a snapshot in time. So, for me, the most time-consuming part of the process of creating a piece is in designing the composition. As soon as I put my brush to canvas, the animal just seems to quickly burst into life.
How would you describe your work to others before showing pieces?
If I had to categorize my work, I’d call it “contemporary realism”. In every painting, I create a focal point where your eyes will naturally travel first. The abstract background is subtle and intended to enhance the subject, which is carefully composed of complementary shapes and lines that are designed to lead your eyes through the painting so that you linger on the story it is telling.
How do you maintain a balance of being a mother, wife and artist?
I’m lucky to have a strong support team that makes the transitions between my roles as mother, wife, and artist virtually seamless. I try to paint only during the week, while the kids are at school, so nights and weekends are reserved for quality time with my family. In addition to being my biggest fans, my husband and children are occasionally subjects in my paintings and my daughter, Zoe, is a budding artist with a prize-winning horse painting of her own.
Sundance Art & Architecture Tour is a show you are currently preparing for. Can you please tell us a bit about it, where’s it located, what paintings you might show.
Since Sundance attracts so many visitors every year and Utah houses some of the nation’s best builders and homes, Utahhomes.com came up with the idea of showcasing art and architecture at the same time see here. They selected some amazing homes and invited several local artists to each furnish a home during the Sundance Film Festival. My work was displayed in a home by Sundance, as well as in a home in Park City. For this event, I showcased only animals.
I displayed a collection of about 12 chicks and ducklings. The paintings are only 8”x8” and show the baby animals in all different poses. Chicks and ducklings are among my favorite subjects. Last year, I created over 60 paintings and people love them. I use real chicks and ducklings from a local hatchery as models. I bring them home for the weekend to take photos, and it’s so hard to bring them back to the hatchery because they are so cute and my 6-year-olds always want to keep them.