Starting Fresh at 66: This Artist's Painting Journey Began Just Four Years Ago

Paige Simianer | June 6, 2024

"With an innate desire to share the beauty of God's contradictions, my work reflects what I find to be beautiful and wholly notable within those contradictions."

Artwork Archive’s Featured Artist Gary LaParl is a realist painter working in oils and mixed media, with a deep passion for reflecting his core personal values: respect, equity, and a strong belief in our spiritual nature. 

Drawn to a variety of media and armed with a passion for painting faces, Gary predominantly paints vintage men, capturing the essence of lovers, brothers, friends, or strangers from bygone eras. As he finds vintage images of men, he brings them to life, honoring the relationships that might have been constrained by the social structures of their time. 

Ultimately, Gary LaParl aims to contribute to the vast library of ideas and perspectives that foster greater understanding and empathy. He hopes that as his work evolves, it reaches someone who feels as though they have finally been seen and heard. 

At 66 years old, Gary considers himself a relatively young painter. And, just four years ago in 2020, he took up painting, realizing that every step of his journey had led him to this point. Each experience has contributed to the strength and depth of his work, culminating in the vibrant and empathetic pieces he creates today. 

Artwork Archive had the chance to chat with Gary LaParl about how he came to pursue painting, the advice he has for other artists, and how Artwork Archive helps him manage his studio and art career! 

You can see more of his work on Discovery and learn more about his art practice below.

Gary LaParl, The Space Between, 24 x 30 x 1 in

Can you walk us through your creative process? 

I am a realist painter working in oils and mixed media, and I love painting faces.

Since I’m drawn to masculine energy, I mostly paint men—vintage men. I love finding vintage images of two men, whether they be lovers, brothers, friends, or strangers, and bringing them to life with colorful fabric or paper and oils.

I carefully select a vintage photo, modify it in Photoshop and Lightroom—sometimes blending images together—and use that as my reference, which I transfer to a gessoed cradle board.

All skin tones in my collages are in oils, and the clothing and backgrounds are either paper or fabric. I quickly select fabrics or paper that I feel will work well with the image (I really don’t want to think too hard about this!), cut them, and attach them with PV Glue to the board. Then I apply two coats of clear gesso over the medium before starting to paint.


What role does empathy play in your artistic vision and creations?

I have loved and collected vintage images of men for years. 

Whether you perceive them as friends or partners, many of these images convey both melancholy and excitement about sharing their friendship or relationship through a photo. I love adding color to these images and enhancing their positive elements.

If these men were indeed romantically linked, it's sad to think about how the fullness of their lives and loves might have been taken from them by the social stricture of their time. 

Recently, I visited the tomb of Oscar Wilde at Père-Lachais in Paris and was overwhelmed thinking about his story and how he was mistreated.

Gary LaParl, Timmons One, 24 x 30 x 1 in

In hindsight, what’s something you wish you knew before becoming a professional artist? 

I’m a relatively young painter, although I’m 66 years old. 

In 6th grade, a friend of mine and I discovered a darkroom kit in his basement. I was hooked on photography from that point on. Then, I discovered theater and acted in Chicago, Philly, and Boston before transitioning to stained glass in 2000. 

When I started painting in 2020, I spent about three minutes wishing that painting had come to me sooner. Then I realized that everything I had done had led me to this point. 

Photography taught me composition, theatre taught me storytelling and design, and stained glass taught me patience and color. Without these important lessons, I don’t believe my work would be as strong as it is. 

They have all led me here.


What’s next for you? 

I'm preparing for my first solo gig in December 2024 and January 2025, which I'm incredibly excited about.

I'll get to feature a wide range of works, including some of my glass pieces and selections from a series I'm doing on performing artists in the Sarasota, FL area.

This series, which I'll be working on over the next few years, will hopefully culminate in an exhibit.

Gary LaParl, The Celestial Womb, 30 x 40 x 1 in

Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to manage your art career? And, how do you use it on a daily basis?

From the very beginning of my painting journey, I prided myself on being smart enough to recognize that I needed a software program to help organize, maintain, and inventory my work.

I 'trialed' several programs before selecting Artwork Archive. It offers website integration, exhibition coordination, provenance tracking, and financial tracking—it really is the total package. And, I know I’m not taking advantage of all it has to offer. 

Just last week, when I had three exhibits to prepare for, it was so easy to check whether any of the pieces I was thinking about submitting had already been exhibitedLabel making is a breeze, reports of all kinds are available and easy to customize, and although I haven’t used them yet, I love the idea of the Private Rooms you can set up for specific clients. 

I also appreciate that the team is always on the move with adding new features and informational webinars that are accessible anytime. Did I mention their incredibly insightful blog or their monthly lists of artist opportunities?

What advice would you give an artist who’s just starting out in their professional career?

Have FUN!  Break the rules!  Be yourself! 

Seek out a mentor who speaks your art language. 

But, most importantly, connect with a community of artists. Even this passionate introvert has been lucky enough to find a group—no, a family—of artists who share ideas, nurture each other, laugh uproariously together, and encourage each other in the most loving way.

It’s out there. Find it.

Gary LaParl, Stirrat, 24 x 24 x 1 in

Gary LaParl uses Artwork Archive to keep track of his artwork, prepare for exhibitions publicly share his portfolio, and a lot more.

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

Purple graphic with screenshots of Artwork Archive's system. White text reads: Artwork Archive: An online portfolio + business management platform for artists. Get the all-in-one platform artists use to manage their artwork and career. Green button that says Try it Free leads to Artwork Archive's main sign up page.



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