It might be safe to say art has helped shape Larissa Fogelman’s heart and soul, with the Columbus resident using her God-given talent to help both those in need of financial assistance and others who simply require a mental diversion from their everyday lives, aches and pains.
The Florida native has been drawing since she was just 3 and has kept her creative juices flowing since, with the exception of a break to take courses required to become a paralegal for law firms. While the legal career may be her day job, Fogelman, 26, puts plenty of time and effort into her own business, L’s Art, instructing classes for pretty much all ages.
For instance, her next gathering takes place on Valentine’s Day evening at Britt David Studio. Called “Wine Bottles,” it’s a step-by-step painting class that will give those gathered for it a light evening of fellowship while helping them learn a skill that doesn’t take much money to continue. There’s also the occasional girls night out, and she holds kids classes at the library while also having organized Free Art Friday locally to draw more interest to the art world.
The Ledger-Enquirer talked with Fogelman recently about her art job, why it is such a passion for her, and what people might expect if they check out one of her classes. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. You returned to art and painting after a break for school?
A. What got me back into it, a friend was trying to adopt some kids and I did a ‘sip and strokes’ (wine and painting) class and it kind of snowballed. People started asking, will you do this class for this (cause) and I was like, OK. So I got thrown back into that and I’m really grateful it happened because I love art.
Q. Have you had any formal art training or education?
A. Not formally. I never do things the easy way, that’s for sure. I worked at a studio in Griffin, Ga., for a little bit. The owner out there was great. I really felt like she was a mentor. She taught me some stuff (about art) and how to go about things. I guess that was traning, but I’ve had nothing really formal.
Q. How much time do you put into art?
A. Eight hours at least. But I do commission work, too, and private kids’ classes as well. So I would say at least eight hours during the week, and on the weekends I have classes, too. I basically don’t stop working. (laughs)
Q. What type of art do you like to do?
A. I really like mixed-media art. I’ve gotten into that the last couple of years. … I’ll do painting and go back with a pen (like etching). It’s using a lot of different components. It’s kind of like scrap-booking, if that makes sense. It’s just a collage of different types of art, pictures and paint and you might have 3-D fixtures on it. That’s probably my favorite form of art. I’m no good at pottery.
Q. Do you think of a message you want to convey before starting a piece of art?
A. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and I’ll just go for it. If I’m feeling some kind of way and have to expel it, that’s more guided. But if I’m just painting and something turns out cool, I’ll go ‘this is nice.’ Sometimes I don’t like it at all and just paint over it or I get rid of it … I have some (art pieces) that are mixed media and they have bible verses in them; and other ones from slam poetry that I enjoy. Whatever comes to mind, I paint it.
Q. This combines your passion for painting and getting people involved in art?
A. Yeah. I think my heart has always been into helping others, which sounds so cheesy, but it’s really true. So that’s how I started with my friend doing the adoption. She was adopting two girls from the Ukraine and, obviously, adopting one child is expensive, and then with it being an international adoption ... I think we raised with that class over $2,000.
It started from there, just doing classes and seeing what it did for people. I did a ladies night out, I think it was called, at a church and there were these two women that really made we realize I wanted to do art classes. One was this little old lady in her 80s, really sweet but she couldn’t get around as well as she used to. She had arthritis and almost canceled coming to the class because of her knee. But she came and you didn’t hear her complain once about her knee because she was so engrossed in the process. I don’t know. It takes people somewhere else, away from their problems, their physical pains, and just to see that is wonderful.
And there was another woman who had just lost her husband that year. She was so sweet and she was so surprised. She kept saying ‘I made this, look at this.’ She didn’t even know what she could do (with art). It was just amazing. They were both just so overcome with joy.
Q. So they were new to art?
A. Yeah. They had come to the class on a whim with the ladies’ group and it wasn’t something they gave any mind to. (They said) ‘Oh, I can’t paint.’ I hear that all the time. But anyone can paint.
Q. This seems to be therapeutic for folks?
A. Yes. It was so encouraging to me. Everyone needs this. Everyone needs joy. And art is just cheap therapy. I have friends that have had self-harm issues and stuff like that or (other issues), but life’s hard. So it’s a simple way to kind of escape, or like I do in my personal work, get something out (of your system) that you can’t say out loud.
Q. It can be an emotional release?
A. When you can’t control stuff in your life — and we can’t control a lot of stuff in life — we can control what we create, and I think that’s very powerful.
Q. How do you come up with a theme for your classes? I see there’s a wine bottles class on Valentine’s Day.
A. (laughs) Because who doesn’t like wine on Valentine’s Day? Sometimes I’ll get inspiration online, like from Pinterest, or I’ll just come up with something silly and goofy, especially if it’s kids classes, which I love teaching those. It will be something fun that I remember when I was a kid, like macaroni art. Or there’s this string art you can do that I want to do for Free Art Friday. You can do string art where you squish yarn that has paint on it, then pull it out of folded-up paper and it makes a design. I thought that would be fun.
Q. So you’re not just into having students paint?
A. Anything that gets them involved. Like Free Art Friday, a friend of mine (in Thomaston, Ga.) got me involved in that there. It’s a nationwide thing. You have a theme monthly and you draw art and hide it around town. When I came to Columbus I talked to the artists here … I put it on Facebook and it just took off. It’s every third Friday in the month.
Q. So participants hide their art?
A. Hide or just leave it out in the open. There’s a little note with it. I’ll do an event page on Facebook and that’s really because it’s like a photo scavenger hunt. You’re supposed to take a picture of where you hide it. People will see the picture and recognize where it’s at and go get it. And then they post a picture showing that they found it. It’s just a cool way to get people involved. I have people who aren’t ‘artists’ and they’ll do it. It’s just fun to track who’s picked them up.
Q. They get to keep the art?
A. Uh-huh. It’s free art. And the next theme is stars. I love the constellations. I was a little bio and astronomy nerd coming up, so I’m going to do a bunch of those and put them out.
Q. As an artist, do you sell your pieces sometimes? Is there a market out there?
A. I’m getting into that. It’s so competitive. One of the reasons I moved to Columbus is my twin brother lives here with his wife, and there’s more of an art scene here … I have an Etsy (page) and I do commissions and people will just contact me because they know I paint. So that’s picked up a whole lot. And I sell a lot of ceramic coffee mugs because I have this cool ceramic paint. That’s been really fun.
Q. Could this ever become a full time job for you?
A. I would like for it to. I feel ideally that someday I want a café and studio (combination). I’m bad at the business side of it, though. (smiles) I’m more about the art.
Q. As an art instructor, can you recognize good talent when you see it?
A. Yeah. Usually, they’ll be a lot better at realism than me and I’ll be like ‘stop showing me up.’ (laughs) But it’s really fun because there will always be at least one rebel in the class. A lot of that, I feel, is that if you’re already artistically inclined or you don’t have that doubt (about your abilities), they’ll take off with it. They’ll get the paint and kind of half listen, not because they’re rude, but they’ll just go for it. So there will always be a rebel or a table of rebels in the class and they’ll just do their own thing because they get inspired and add their twist to it.
Q. That’s something you don’t discourage?
A. No. I’m like, ‘That’s really neat. I love your technique with this. Tell me why you did that.’ I really love talking to people, because there are so many stories, so many different walks of life.
Q. Finally, what can people expect in a class?
A. I think my biggest class was 50 people. The only reason I wouldn’t go over that now is because I like to do one on ones. Generally in a class I’ll do a brief introduction, going over brush care and what the things are called, like your pallet. Then I’ll instruct and demonstrate. The next step is walking around and helping people, and if they have questions — maybe they’re not bold enough to ask me while I’m up there — they’re like ‘how do I do this?’ So I spend a lot of time walking around and giving them pointers or helping them (develop) their own techniques.
Hometown: Lake Wales, Fla.
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 2008 graduate of Pike County High School in Zebulon, Ga.; earned a legal certificate in 2011 from Connecticut-based Post University; and took some college courses
Previous jobs: Was an art instructor at a studio in Griffin, Ga., and has been a paralegal since she was 21, in Macon, Ga., and in Columbus
Family: Parents Edwin and June Fogelman; three brothers, Ian, Aaron and Heath; and several nieces and nephews
Leisure time: Enjoys painting, running, hiking, watching movies, going on coffee dates with friends, and reading
Of note: She traveled to Guatemala for an art mission trip, where she did murals with a team; she also has worked on mural projects that included a preemie’s nursery and a waterfall/nature scene at a nursing home; she also would love to own a café-studio combo someday