The charming side of life
This story was featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Like many artists, Lucia Heffernan enjoys painting from life. Luckily for the Utah-based painter, two of her models currently live in her home: Salt and Sugar, a pair of furry white mice, share a “mouse condo” complete with exercise equipment in the family’s laundry room. “I love using mice as models. So many artists come up with illustrations of animals, but they don’t look real,” Heffernan says. “I want my animals to look like they are jumping out of the painting.”
Heffernan graduated with a degree in fine art and design from Binghamton University in New York and eventually started her own design firm with her husband. The couple sold the multimillion-dollar agency in 2000 and retired to Utah, where, Heffernan says, she shifted from digital design to oil painting.
The ideas for her paintings spring from daily life, as she observes people’s expressions in locations ranging from movie theaters to romantic cafés. Heffernan often finds humor in such scenes, particularly when imagining the insertion of her mini-models into human-like roles and poses. In the painting SCARY MOVIE, Heffernan’s mice mimic the expression on her children’s faces while they watched a movie recently. She often makes a mental note of such scenes, sketches them later, or sifts through a bank of animal images on her computer for reference material. If it’s Salt and Sugar she is using as models, she begins by setting up a box on the dining room table where she deposits the mice. She then reproduces a lighting situation similar to that of the scene she wants to create. “I just put the mice in the situation and wait for them to pose,” Heffernan says.
In her paintings the artist depicts not only mice but also a menagerie of other creatures, from gorillas to mountain goats. Her imaginative works feature rabbits driving cars made of carrots and shaggy-haired dogs staring curiously at a can of Big Sexy Hair product. Heffernan says she uses the animals as metaphors to portray the quirky and charming moments she regularly encounters among the human species. “I enjoy depicting the twists and turns that make our life stories a little more interesting,” she says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art June 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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