Ivan Lloyd is not your typical painter whose art
is displayed at a local art gallery. He has traveled the world--from
the farthest corners of the West to Oriental China. This might explain
why the Orientalists are his favorite painters. But then, again, he also admires
artists like Jackson Pollock. I think it is safe to say that Ivan
is a world citizen in the true sense of the word. But this doesn't
take away from his essentially English character.
Ivan Lloyd working on a portrait of
Born in Coventry, England, at an early age he was sent to a boarding school where
they disciplined children in what Ivan calls "a barbaric English
tradition". The school "succeeded in achieving little more
than cultivating pupils who worried incessantly about upcoming exams,"
which produced boys destined "to become human machines best suited
to colonizing and ruling overseas," says Ivan in this most engrossing
What the strict discipline did was to teach Ivan bravery and to be
unafraid of world travel. And this is what he did. At a certain point
someone commissioned Ivan to do a painting related to the Baha'i
Faith and he travelled all the way to Iran to do some research. As
he studied more about the Faith, he realized that the philosophy
propounded by Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the religion, appealed
to him. Soon he was painting the Faith's heroes and produced
a book on one of its heroines named Tahirih.
Ivan Lloyd's commissioned works adorn the walls of some of the most
prestigious institutions and homes in the world. But don't ask Ivan
to talk about artistic glory, he's much too modest to invest any degree
of energy on vanity or conceit. Painting for him is a job like any
other. One becomes a pro at his trade and then shares this expertise
with others, a service done in the spirit of love.
I first noticed Ivan Lloyd's artwork about four years ago. At the
time he was unreachable. I had emailed him a comment about one of
his pieces but never received a reply. Perhaps he was in Iran? I didn't
know. Then, two years ago, again I ran across mention of Ivan's work, but this time I didn't email him. I came across Ivan's artwork again
last September (2002). This time I looked up beyond the towering tree
branches and asked if "He" was trying to tell me something.
So I emailed Ivan again, asking him if he would do this interview.
To my amazement and surprise, Ivan answered my email. He told me he
didn't feel he had anything to share with fellow artists and didn't
think himself well placed for an interview. I disregarded his timidity
and asked him to do the interview anyway. As you will see for yourself,
Ivan Lloyd is an extremely interesting artist whose views and outlook
are truly deep and different from mainstream beliefs. Was he ready
for this interview? You bet!
How long have you been painting?
Ivan Lloyd in 1962
When I was twelve years old I went on vacation to Cornwall (England)
and set up the easel on the harbor at Falmouth near Agatha Christie's
home. I began painting a seascape. A few people walked over, curious
to see what I was painting. Pretty soon a crowd gathered around me
and I was totally unprepared for an audience. I didn't have a clue
how to paint so I began to act as if I was experienced. So I went deep inside my
mind in order to concentrate. During the course of a few hours I became
increasingly more comfortable with the situation. It left a lasting
impression on me and several times, over the years, when I've been
painting a large mural in public, I work from that same familiar space
I experienced as a youth where no one's thoughts or comments distract
I read an interview with John McLaughlin, the jazz guitarist,
where he said that when he got on stage before an audience he strove
to achieve a mental state where he was in total communion with God
before beginning the performance. He said success with such a mental
state was rare but achievable. Is this the same thing as your "familiar
I can't say it's like that for me, because improvising as
a painter differs from the precision demanded of musicians. It's more
about warming up as I proceed to work. For the first half-hour I'm
dealing with that conversation in my head, you know, that inner voice
that brays like a parent. Instead of trying to suppress the dialogue
I let it ramble on until I don't listen anymore. About the same time,
my brush strokes become automatic and there's an inner peace. That
state of being has little do with identity, let's say, me the composer, or me the artist.
On the contrary! The thought process is more of an intellectual hindrance
to the creative process. Rather than impose my imagery on the canvas,
I strive to be an instrument, or conduit, for images to manifest from
another plane, in spite of my ego. It's a fluid organic process and
from that point of view it is that "familiar space," that
inner sanctum, if you will.
Ivan Lloyd in 1966.
In that case you would advocate artists should practice some
form of mental exercise or yoga as a way to silence the babbling that
goes on in the mind; babbling which interferes with the creative process?
The creative process is so uniquely individual, each person approaches
it differently. I don't recommend yoga or mental exercises to quieten
that babbling brook we call the thought process. You can't silence
or subdue this phenomena without concentrated breathing exercises,
leading to deep meditation, which implies shutting down the senses
to outside stimuli, in which case you'd be in no condition to paint.
The painting process in itself is good enough therapy, and letting
go of preconceived ideas is helpful in achieving the same results,
Is there any particular reason why you chose a career as painter?
It's a job like any other, but probably one of the hardest in which
to accomplish any degree of success. Many people use art as a therapeutic
process and that's understandable. I feel the art world, like the
music industry, is a big monster that you keep feeding. It will eat
you alive; take everything you've got to give and still ask for more.
Most people get out when they feel naked. Its easy being an artist
at 19, it doesn't make any sense when your 35 and your friends are
making tons of money on the stock market. Then at 50 it becomes easy
again and like water you find your own level of acceptance within
the industry. The big monster rises out of the water and you're sitting
comfortably on its back oblivious to how your former friends are faring
because you have an inner peace that money can't buy.
You can start anywhere. For example, as a teenager I was in a town
called Avignon in the South of France and needed some money, so I
walked down the main market street until I came across a sign above
a boulangerie (bakery) that was peeling and weathered. I asked the
shopkeeper, in broken French, if I could repaint it for him. He reluctantly
agreed, and after settling on a price I set to work. I made the sign
as beautiful as I could, putting far more effort in than the job demanded.
I was almost finished when another storeowner asked if I could paint
his storefront with lettering and assorted vegetables. The situation
soon changed from my begging for work to people inviting me into their
homes as an honored guest .
Ivan Lloyd in 1992
Do you feel your peers may have influenced the career path
A personal weakness in my character is that my friends influence me.
In the sixties, when I was at art school, that meant "Turning
on, tuning in and dropping out." Trying something new and having
the strength to say, "Its not for me" or, as in my case,
burning my bridges so often that crossing the river became a balancing
act on a high wire. In the final analysis, however, it may be better
than never having strayed from the nest. After all, as a councilor,
you can't tell a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, "Just say
no! " when you have no idea what demons they are dealing with.
That's too simplistic. Similarly, you can't naively approach the issue
of racism with a flower in your hand and say, "I'm not prejudiced"
and expect to be accepted because you're using a linguistic format.
Friends, family, all aspects of your past experiences, struggles and
triumphs go into the painting you're currently working on. This, simply
stated, is "soul", and something we all respond to when
we see it in a work of art.
Where were you born and raised?
Ivan Lloyd in 1992
I was born in Coventry England. At an early age, I was sent
to a boarding school in Rugby. This is a barbaric English tradition
that doesn't make any more sense to me today --as a parent of a five-year-old--
than it did to me at the time I was a student. The rigorous schedule
of discipline was a blueprint of mendacity, which succeeded in achieving
little more than cultivating pupils who worried incessantly about
upcoming exams and hated oatmeal porridge. The cold showers and regular
bullying produced boys destined to become independent and human machines
best suited to colonizing and ruling overseas.
The Water Bearer, by Ivan Lloyd
The Sacred Shrine, by Ivan
Can you tell us a bit more about your ethnic background?
Both of my parents are English. My Mother was from a coal mining village
in Wales called the Rhonda Valley. (Birthplace of Richard Burton,
Dylan Thomas, Richard Harris and Tom Jones). My great grandfather
was from Mongolia, somehow he jumped ship in Cardiff and passed down
a distinctive oriental gene through my whole family, on my mother's
Oh! That's interesting. Might this account for the
fact that you're attracted to oriental art?
Perhaps, but most people are attracted to the serenity
of the Orient and the distinctly calming influence of the
Far East. Strangely enough, that peacefulness comes from the extreme
pressures of life, the hustle bustle of the overcrowded oriental
street markets. Symbolically there's a correlation between oriental
art and the lotus flower, which represents Buddhist philosophy, in
the sense that beauty thrives in the polluted streams of India and
the Far East. From an artistic perspective, however, I work in the
traditional European style which is reworking and building up layers
of paint to achieve an illusionary effect, whereas Oriental Artists,
as you know, work with inks and are more concerned with a fluid line
and a spontaneous expression.
Can you remember any art influences during your childhood?
We had a reproduction of Fran Hal's, "The Laughing Cavalier,"
in our living room. We lived in a large farmhouse near Warwick Castle,
an area which, as the name Coventry suggests, was steeped in witchcraft.
The painting emanated such an uplifting energy that embodied the Royalist
side of the War of the Roses when Oliver Cromwell 's austere Protestant
army oppressed the free English spirit. I had a dislike for organized
religion from an early age and a love of the romantic tavern dwellers
as epitomized in that painting.
Later I learned that Frans Hals, a celebrated Dutch painter, had a rigorous brush
stroke that only gave the appearance of delicate and intricate lace work. This
left an indelible impression on my memory, and something I still attempt to achieve,
even though I spend months trying to obtain the same result. Nothing distresses
me more than an overworked or tight painting such as photo-realism which, in
my opinion, has almost nothing to do with the creative process.
Would you put the works of Adolphe-William Bouguereau or that
of Vermeer in the category of "photo-realism"?
No. I was referring to modern day illustrators and copyists
who reproduce photographs to the point you have to look twice to see
if it's a painting or not. It's close to being a clinical form of
expression, in my opinion. Wondering if a painting is really a photograph
is not a redeeming factor, or a good reason to be doing a double take
on a work of art hanging on a wall, and the emotion aroused is merely
one of curiosity. Such paintings, however proficiently executed, lack
soul. The artists you mentioned are part of an earlier art movement
one might classify as Classical or Baroque, who under pressure from
the Catholic Church painted as realistically as possible. Their desire,
it may be safe to presume, was to portray their subjects in a warm
compassionate light. Today we might regard their work as sentimental.
Ivan Lloyd's Studio
In what way would you say photo-realism has nothing to do
with the creative process?
Isn't it "art", just the same?
Well, yes, gardening is an art form after all, so is cooking. I was
referring to the premise that when you're copying a photograph, or
using it as a devise, it's barely self-expression, merely clever.
You have one point as yourself, the artist, the second point as the
photographic reference, and the third point is the canvas, so you're
establishing the eternal triangle. A romantic relationship, by definition,
is one-on- one with your partner. Similarly, the creative process
is best experienced when there is a direct relationship between the
artist and the canvas without the interference of a point of reference.
What were some of the things that may have inspired you to become
an artist outside of family influence?
I had worked quite a lot at home during the holidays with
my oil paints. Painting traditional still life's and such. We had
a new art teacher one year and after our first class he put all our
paintings on the wall, in order of merit, not knowing who painted
what. Mine fell in the middle and as he critiqued each one he came
to mine and said "The soft style of this boy is most suited to
painting religious subjects. He probably works in oil paints or something?"
as we were working in tempera at the time, I was amazed that he could
tell something like that from my painting style. I realized there
was something mystical and recognizable to the trained eye about medium
Where was your very first art gallery show? My first
one-man show was at the American Legation in Tangiers, Morocco, in
The Garden of Sheykh Obeyd, by Ivan Lloyd.
Nile Valley, by Ivan Lloyd.
Trotters, by Ivan Lloyd.
'Abdu'l - Baha & Shoghi Effendi
It was a show for politicians who had a favorable opinion
of art, then?
Many diplomats and Consulate officials from other Embassy's came to
the show. But they weren't really au fait, because they kept asking
totally irrelevant questions. For example, we were looking at a nude
peasant girl holding flowers and the diplomat asked me, "Is this
representative of your view of the current political situation in
Did you stay on in Tangiers?
The show allowed me to develop a rapport with some of the residents
of Tangiers. I began giving private lessons to Madame Rose, a French
lady who made hats in her store named, "Chapeau de Paris."
She couldn't speak a word of English. She helped me establish a
rich clientele and I began to undertake portrait commissions. Pretty
soon I became accepted into a large circle of writers that included
William Burroughs and Paul Bowles,
and the Jazz musician Randy Western.
Tangiers in the late sixties was a veritable den of iniquity
and I lived the adventurous life of a Bohemian.
Can you talk to us about the subject of your books?
My most popular book entitled, "Tahirih: A Poetic Vision,"
is available through Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. It's the authenticated,
illustrated story of a Persian poetess named Tahirih, who heralded
a new age of equality for women in a male dominated society. Renowned
for her virtuous beauty, Tahirih had thousands of followers from
Baghdad to Constantinople. On one occasion she removed her veil before
an assembly of pious believers, which marked the breaking away from
traditions of Islam and the birth of a new Faith. Tahirih's popularity
challenged the authority of the despotic religious leaders so she
was declared a heretic and placed under house arrest. Eventually
she was strangled, with her own veil, for her beliefs and her dieing
words are reputed to be: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but
you cannot stop the emancipation of women."
Amazing! And in what year did all this take place?
Around 1852. It is significant to note that the Woman's Suffrage movement,
in the United States, took place at about the same time that Tahirih's
followers began to remove their veils throughout Persia and the Middle
East. As you might know, the removal of a veil was a completely scandalous
thing to do at that time, as it still is today in many parts of Iran,
Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The courage manifested by these women
had a rippling effect, providing encouragement to women in other parts
of the world to take charge of their lives rather than being dominated
by the whims of men.
Is any of your work licensed out to, say, companies that sell
posters and prints?
After painting scenery for the Southern Arizona Opera Company for
over eight years, I had a show at a Gallery in Tucson of a series
of figurative work that I'd been working on casually during the off
season. It was a sell out show and I was approached by a patron and
commissioned to document what I thought at the time was some obscure
Persian culture. It was quite a challenge, but fortunately I'd traveled
overland to India around 1972 so I was familiar with the architecture
and people of the region. I was presented with the stories and some
early photographs from the archives. What began, as a six-month project
became a ten-year odyssey as the more I studied the literature the
more I became absorbed in the subject. Those prints are distributed
by Images International, an organization out of Chattanooga Tennessee.
Tahirih Teaching in Baghdad, by Ivan Lloyd.
I don't understand. What was that "Persian culture"
you thought was obscure? And
what "literature" did you study?
I meant obscure in the sense that modern day Iran doesn't
appear to play a significant role in current world affairs. The region
is steeped in history and an ancient culture that once exerted a profound
influence on that part of the world. One might even say it has now
become another hotbed of Fundamental Islamic Extremism. So when I
was approached to document some of the heroic scenes from the Baha'i
Faith I had to look up the definition in the dictionary.
I agreed with all the principles the Baha'is held, such as gender
and racial equality, as basic truths, relatively easy for an intelligent
person to comprehend. At first I had a hard time accepting Baha'u'llah,
its founder, as a "Manifestation of God," especially as
I had always considered India as the spiritual center of the planet
and Africa as the cradle of civilization. The more I read, however,
the more I realized that Baha'u'llah had expounded these principles
in the darkest region in the world in the midst of a religious demagoguery.
Even more remarkable was the fact that this was way back in 1844 at
a time when here, in America, most people were struggling with prejudice
and bigotry. It was at this point that I realized Baha'u'llah's message
was Divinely Inspired.
If I look around me, I can see racial prejudice that keeps
a large portion of the population on this planet living in misery;
I can see organized religion taking gross advantage of the power it
yields because of that human need to believe.
You're right! Organized religion is somewhat of a contradiction in
terms, but we can't ignore the fact that a higher intelligence has,
throughout the ages, revealed its presence to humanity through a series
of Divine Messengers, called "Prophets". The artist and
his visionary insight has always been closely linked to spiritual
reality. Ethnic cleansing and Fascism do not work, this basic principle
is obvious to the artist. It's a child-like mentality that conjures
up thoughts like, "I wish I could surround myself with the friends
I like and get rid of everyone who doesn't agree with me." Although
ignorance continues to fuel the fire of ethnic strife in various countries,
any discerning observer will see that, on the whole, humanity is moving
towards a harmonious and peaceful coexistence. This is not some daydream
based on unrealizable idealism. It is humanity's destiny, happening
before our very eyes. In the process, however, there will continue
to be skepticism and cynicism. These emotions will simply be overwhelmed
by the goodness that surrounds us and eventually everyone will be
attracted to the New World Order. We have reached a stage in our collective
evolution where we no longer need spiritual guidance from priests
and clergy interpreting allegorical scriptures. I also have an aversion
for the traditional concept of organized religion but I'm excited
to share my knowledge of the Baha'i Revelation, which has no use for
a fiefdom of clerical hierarchy. The worldwide Baha'i community is
working together to raise the standard of living and education for
every person alive so that we can share this planet with love and
Mohan & Sent, by Ivan Lloyd.
What about your academic background? I suppose it's all
Yes, it is. The English school system is so different from the States
it's almost impossible to translate into comprehendible language.
During those formative years I attended St. Martins, an Art College
I hear many artists complain that they had to make great
efforts to undo a lot of their academic learning in order to begin
creating as "true" artists. Then I hear artists who have
not had academic training and regretting it. You've had a bit of
both experiences. Where does one draw the line between truth and
Interesting question. It sure is a mystery. It's not as easy as
saying all beautiful looking people are vain and shallow and all
plain looking people have an inner beauty. There is no generalization
that applies here. You have to figure in talent, a God given gift,
and education or lack of it. From the Sufi point of view "Life
is a book that was written before we were born." Some people
aspire for great artistic talent through a lifetime of Academic
study to no avail, while others have greatness thrust upon them.
Surely it has to do with one's station in life regardless of one's
aspirations. Going back to your question. Take a musical instrument,
say, a guitar, for example. It was designed to be played--rather
than just looked at--by applying logic and mathematical principles.
In fact, you can teach yourself to play with the aid of a book,
but if you hold your thumb incorrectly it's a bad habit that can
hinder your style, especially when you become proficient at the
instrument. It's hard to unlearn a bad habit. Similarly there is
a right and wrong way to control the medium and painting tools.
So, it's best to have formal training on basic technique because
you learn a lot faster with correct guidance. After a while, however,
one needs to open up one's perception to outside influences--and
it's hard to find that inner voice while inside the Academy. There
is only one quality worth nurturing in one's work, and that is,
"Soul". If you're fortunate, your efforts may contribute
to the well-being of this ever-evolving civilization. In that case,
one's artistic aspirations have some value, however insignificant
one may consider one's own achievements to be.
In other words, academic learning is not an end in itself
but a means to an end?
Absolutely. Techniques learned early stay with you and help you
master the upward climb towards the summit. Higher learning suggests
specialization, as in most professions, but eventually you have
to enter the work force and contribute to the support of society,
in whatever capacity you're best qualified to serve.
What about your first job as an artist. Do you remember that?
My first job was as a layout artist for a large Anglo
American Advertising Agency called Hobson Bates.
How long were you with them? And what did you "layout",
I worked for a couple of years as a layout artist. I drew
rough concepts and laid out the typestyle so that it balanced with
the graphics. We also made graphs, called visual aids, for presentation
by the account executives to clients. They demonstrated how the
increase in sales, over a given period of time, justified their
advertising budget. Methods were crude in those days, we used to
analyze warrantee receipts from Black and Decker, for example, to
estimate sales in a certain targeted area. Today, of course, it's
all done by inventory computers, so are the graphics for that matter.
Many artists take workshops and paint with other artists in order
to improve their skills. Did you do this?
I went to Paris one Summer with a couple of friends and
traveled on alone to Italy, Greece and Egypt, making sketches and
selling them to tourists at the great monuments to civilization.
I was really scared and out of my depth but that's when my education
really began as I absorbed as much cultural influence as I could
assimilate. As you may know, drawing the human form is forbidden
in Islamic countries such as Egypt, but as an "infidel"
I had some poetic license. My interest soon turned to the intricate
Arabesque designs on the fabric and architecture, however, rather
than the faces of the people. At every major city I visited Art
Galleries and Luxury hotels to find the best opportunity to arrange
a small show. The further East I traveled the easier it became,
as I was a pale skinned, English, artist from a long tradition of
explorers. So, this is how I mostly acquired my art education; by
traveling and learning via the hands-on approach.
Now, that really intrigues me, Ivan. Why is it forbidden
to draw the human form in Islamic countries?
Australia, by Ivan Lloyd.
For hundreds of years the pre-Islamic city of Mecca had
been a Pantheon of Idolatry for many established deities. When Mohammed
introduced Islam he destroyed the idols and established the Kaa'ba
as the most Holy place of Pilgrimage for Muslims. The creation and
display of all Christian art which in those days consisted of Grecian
pottery designs and Roman murals that portrayed human orgies, as
well as Hindu and Egyptian sculptures, was regarded by Mohammed
and his followers, as an expression of idolatry. Even Greek statues
were considered a direct insult to God. Consequently, they were
outlawed as pagan. Presented with these restrictions, artisans and
craftsmen gave birth to a new era of artistic expression. Sophisticated
geometric designs flourished in the form of magnificent architecture
and calligraphy, a lot of it was destroyed by the invading Mongol
armies, but a rich heritage remains everywhere across North Africa
to present day Turkey. The Taj Mahal in India is a classic example
of Islamic architecture.
We can safely conclude, then, that religion had a lot to do with
the progress of art in the Islamic society which, by extension,
had some influence here, in the Occident?
The irony is that, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, the
arts, in fact all the sciences, flourished on an unprecedented scale
under the effulgent light of Mohammed's dispensation, while the
Christian Civilization was mired in the ignorance of the Dark Ages.
Islam, as we perceive it today, has fallen into a similar quagmire
with its obsessive hatred of the West, our liberated system of free
enterprise and democracy, anything in fact that resembles progressive
thought. Neither system, not the segregated parishioners and fragmented
churches of the Christian world or the decadent Islamic world with
their despotic dictatorships and fanatical leadership, can lead
us into the lofty, but realizable, aspiration of World Peace.
I was wondering, how do you think fine artists can contribute
to world peace? What can they do?
From an idealistic point of view just being involved in
the Arts, in whatever capacity, contributes to the well being of
mankind, as compared to, say, working on the assembly line of a
factory producing weapons. In some sense the creative act itself
produces wholesome energy that is sanctified by the spiritual concourse.
One could even say that the very act of producing art is equivalent
to being engaged in an act of worship. Even creating controversial
works of art produces debate, which in itself is healthy as it promotes
consultation. It is impossible to measure the joy you bring to people's
lives just by following your muse. Being successful in that endeavor
is even more of a bounty and contributes to the establishment of
a World Unity.
Who were the artists that you most admired as you settled into your
career as a painter?
Part of being young is admiring people who push the envelope
even if their work doesn't posses a great deal of merit on any other
level. Salvador Dali comes to mind because his imagery was sensational
but his facile technique, whilst painstakingly executed, was at
best slick and superficial. I used to delight in saying my favorite
painter was Jackson Pollock as he was relatively unknown during
the sixties. I love all artists--and most paintings--however, and
regard each of us as a part of one collective. Every art movement
manifesto contains principles that we can apply today, without adhering
strictly to all their beliefs, which may have been totally valid
in their day. Pointillism is a great example. I use that technique
at a late stage of a painting at a time when the piece is beginning
to look too tight, but not as a means unto itself. I still apply
impressionistic techniques especially when working on foliage otherwise
you'd be working for years painting every leaf on a tree.
New Firends by Ivan Lloyd
So, what you're saying is that techniques (or "styles")
like Pointillism and Impressionism are not ends in themselves but,
rather, means to an end?
This is interesting. I've never thought of it in that light. Then,
must we conclude that all those painting uniquely in the Impressionistic
"style" have missed the boat, have misunderstood? The
History of Art, as an evolving process, can be viewed as a way of
teaching us how to approach a canvas in real terms. Hypothetically,
I break down my initial composition into areas, as demonstrated
by the cubist Juan Gris. I put in some dramatic color and soften
those hard edges as shown by Paul Gauguin and then break those areas
into dots until I have created a uniform piece as per Georges Seurat.
Those artists who are still emulating the style of the impressionists,
and call it their own style, are not exactly missing the boat, it's
kinder to say they're not comfortable moving forward. It's rather
like seeing an aging hippie wearing flowered shirts. I'm not sure
I see the merit in paying homage to a subculture of the past and
expressing your loyalty to it by the way you dress today. You may
as well broadcast to the world that you still smoke pot.
If I understand you correctly, you are proposing that artists
learn the several different "techniques" of painting developed
in the past should use these techniques for self-expression and
move on. My next question is: move on to where?
We have arrived at a point where we can acknowledge a collective
consciousness in which we are all involved. By utilizing the techniques
that have been visually demonstrated over the centuries we can produce
a new level of expression. After all there is only one way to fly
a plane correctly, and the same principles of applying paint artistically
and with skill are universally acknowledged. I no longer see the
necessity of portraying self absorbed images that convey the tormented
soul of the artist. It is now a question of subject matter and the
realization that a higher moral standard can permeate through the
tools of the artist into the work itself. A spiritual insight that
will resonate within the heart of the viewer.
Who are some of the painters you admire most today?
I love Jean-Leon Gerome, especially his accomplished pieces such
as "The Moorish Bath." I love the work of David Roberts,
too. I have often wondered why historians who write those ubiquitous
art history books drop artists such as these--and Alma Tadema. Painters
who were extremely successful and wealthy in their day, but through
some quirk of fate have fallen from grace. One can surmise that
they didn't contribute dramatically to the ever-evolving art movement
itself, but neither did William Holman Hunt if it comes to that.
Their isn't one artist whose work I don't admire and it would be
great to see more extensive respect paid to the unforgotten Masters
who's work is dismissed as irrelevant.
Jean-Leon Gerome was truly a great artist. I agree with
you that it makes one wonder why writers don't make more mention
of such great painters as Gerome. Might it be because the owners
of the artwork themselves are restricting wider publicity?
Also, one has to consider the fact that Gerome did not have a favorable
opinion of Impressionism. This may have worked against him. If I
were the owner of an original David Roberts, I'd relish the publicity
as it would increase the value of the painting so I'm not sure I
see the logic in that premise. I'm almost embarrassed to call myself
an artist when I see Jean-Leon Gerome's accomplished brushwork.
I tend to believe that it's a subconscious rejection, by art historians,
to overlook anything that challenges our own culture. They only
document different artistic styles that are deeply rooted in our
own Western culture. Their preoccupation with the Pre- Raphaelite
movement and the suggestion that a secret society of elitists could
have played a significant role in the evolution of art, is questionable
and serves to emphasize my point. Especially as they symbolized
a reformation posture rather than playing an adventurous role.
To what extent do you feel these painters continue to exert
their influence on you?
The "Orientalist's" are still the artists I admire the
most. I firmly believe the hours of love and devotion an artist
puts into a work is worth more than some visionary statement made
with a total lack of respect for the medium. I like Tim Cox , a
western artist, and Robert Bateman the popular wildlife artist.
To some extent these guys are illustrators who have found a voice
in a commercially saturated field. It's possible that what elevates
them to the top of their genre is a soft style and warm palette.
Earlier you mentioned Jackson Pollock, saying how you delighted
in saying he was your favorite painter. I suppose today you have
a changed opinion of Pollock?
Not at all, I still like his work, and one can't knock anyone whose
made it into the History books. It's just that today his work is
so familiar you no longer see that puzzled expression when you mention
his name. The outrageous has become mainstream, but it's nice to
see something you once believed in strongly enjoy the recognition
Can you give us an example of someone who paints "visionary
statements made with a total lack of respect for the medium"?
Jean Michel Basquit readily comes to mind but you can
pick up any copy of Art News and you'll find a whole slew of artists
who fall into that genre. As long as an artist's painting style
is instantly recognizable I'd say they're vision has value, even
if it's not my taste. There has always been a place for Infantile
Expressionism, but some sensational images such as bright blue dogs,
or pieces of little garden cottages with orange lights on, I mean
it's okay. but I'd end up jumping off a bridge if my name was associated
I can't understand why you have such strong feelings about
Kincaid. I mean, jumping off a bridge is a pretty strong reaction.
What's wrong with what Thomas Kincaid is doing?
Understandably, you didn't quite see my point. I don't
have strong feelings about anyone's success and I'm not judging
any artist's style or accomplishments. We are all programmed differently,
with built in principles, in our makeup, that prevent us from doing
something that is quite natural and comfortable to someone else.
In that sense I have that reserved British sense of nobility, sometimes
referred to as a 'Stuffed shirt.' My thoughts on my role as an artist
are very lofty, so I was thinking along the lines that if I was
to meet Goya up in heaven I hope he'd say "That was a good
effort" not "Did that painting come with a free box of
You've got me laughing now, Ivan! But I'd like to get back to the
East and the Westquestion, What do you feel is the
fundamental difference between Islamic and western art and artists?
Desert Oasis,by Ivan Lloyd.
Islamic Art covers Andalusia, North Africa, Turkey, India,
Malaysia etc. etc. All of them producing different kinds of artistic
expression under the same umbrella. Beginning with the Palaces of
Cordoba and the El Hambra, in Granada, Spain the use of plaster of
Paris to create a honeycomb effect, (muqarnas) on the ceiling is a
breathtaking and awe inspiring experience. As you look up, the complexity
of design is the height of esthetic beauty. On the walls three-dimensional
highly stylized Kufic Script replace the figurative iconography of
Western Art. The emphasis has been shifted to the written word as
sacred instead of the image. As one travels further Eastward the ornate
inscriptions, crafted by skilled artisans, become increasingly more
difficult to read. The widespread use of the flowing Jalil Script
is the work of highly evolved and sophisticated craftsmen.
What would you call your particular style of painting?
I paint in the classical style of the "Orientalist".
The term has fallen into disuse as it comes from the pre-Victorian
era when pioneers were just discovering Asia Minor and the Holy
Land and thought it was the Orient. Predating photography, these
highly respected artists documented the expeditions and brought
their work back and produced books and lithographs for the European
market. The term is somewhat antiquated now and since the Crusades
the West has an aversion for the restricted Islamic viewpoint regarding
artistic expression. Recent events have heightened that sense of
alienation for the Arabesque and purely mathematical designs. I
can't help but imagine, however, if an alien visited us from another
galaxy they would be able to comprehend the message of a geometrically
complex design more easily than, say, the enigmatic smile of the
Mona Lisa. Indirectly we are being exposed, more than we realize,
to Islamic names and the Arab culture and, it's reasonable to predict,
that our own sense of style and fashion will soon assimilate that
Would you say you have a personal style of painting or do you strive
to achieve the styles already recognized in the world of Fine Arts?
What I do was done better by Edwin Lord Weeks over 100
years ago. It's hard to be ahead of the art movement, let's say
helping shape its direction. Usually it requires a sacrificial dedication
to a progressive style or technique. If that's your inspiration,
or motivating force, you'd better be prepared to suffer in obscurity,
or seek funding from Academic grants. If you're a photo realist
today, for example, however good you are, you're just following
a trend that's about 30 years behind the curve. Sometimes I go to
an art show and see some new rendition of sunflowers done in Van
Gogh's style, it's a pretty common occurrence. That means the artist
is about 120 years behind the curve, so obviously developing their
own painting style is not important to them. Paying homage to some
art movement or keeping some spirit alive is probably more meaningful
to them. I don't consciously have the gift of innovation that trend-setting
demands, but I have tried to bring Persian miniatures to life by
using a western sense of perspective. That theory has not born spectacular
results, however, as my lack of appreciation for Persian miniatures
probably shows through in my work.
Most of your work consists of figuratives. Do you do anything
Advice given to me by an art instructor has remained with me throughout
the years. "Don't be too eager to enter into the abstract world
before you have a firm foundation of figurative painting. Firstly,
because your abstracts will reveal a lack of discipline and, secondly,
because you won't want to return to the figurative art form."
This is sound advice and I still don't have the experience to venture
into those trepid waters. There are salient foundation flaws displayed
in the many abstract and non-representational pieces I see around
the Los Angeles area, for example. The artwork clearly reflects
a lack of awareness that art is a discipline. My favorite works
to hang on my own walls are reproductions of non-representational
paintings from the Spanish schools around Madrid, so I do love that
painting style when it's well done.
Do you use a limited color palette?
Dawn Meadow, by Ivan Lloyd.
I'm regarded by many of my friends and clients as a colorist,
but I seem to remember, perhaps erroneously, that Georges Braque said
color just adds charm to a painting. That statement could be taken
different ways but if it's to be taken literally, I disagree, as it's
one of the most basic components for creating a mood. I don't like
to be conscious of color in the early stages of a painting, as it
can interfere with the struggle to bring a form to life, so I deliberately
eliminate a color from my palette. Usually its blue as it tends to
be so dominant and easily upsets the color balance. I had the honor
of studying cooking under a Sufi Master when I lived in Fez (Morocco),
and he said, "All your vegetables should be in the same color
range. So, don't mix tomatoes with cauliflower." I'm always on
the look out for unique color combinations. For example, if I see
a pretty, yellow dress with strawberry fruit and little green leaves,
I'll write it down and at some future date layout a palette of cream,
scarlet and lime green. I'll then ignore which of those colors I'm
using until the very final stage of finishing the piece, when it then
becomes a dominant consideration.
Can you tell us a bit about your personal evolution and how
you arrived at the determination that painting would be your life's
The dictionary definition of the word "talent," as you may
know, literally means a gift from God. Everyone is blessed with something,
whether they choose to cultivate it or not is another issue. In my
case it was obvious from an early age that it was painting. I enjoy
communicating but as I have nothing to say artistically, I feel as
if I'm drawing something from the unknown and nurturing it on the
canvas in an effort to bring it into focus rather than imposing my
vision by controlling the medium. I've been working on my technique
for over 35 years and only last week figured out how to paint. It
may be that I'm a slow learner, but there is a certain amount of clairvoyance
involved in my painting style. Creativity comes from God's grace,
so, no amount of ambition or determination can maneuver one into any
dizzying heights. There comes a point in one's life when you discover
that you bring joy to someone's life when you see one of your paintings,
or prints, on the wall of their living room. When that person is a
dignitary, or person of significance, as opposed to a relative, you
know you're responding to that gift within yourself. The Divine forces
will bestow more confirmation upon you as you continue enriching people's
lives. Eventually you reach a position where there isn't the slightest
consideration of giving it all up to become a car salesman.
Do you give workshops?
Rarely, but I do consider myself in the communication business.
For eight years I painted scenery for the theatre and was a silent
supporter for actors who love to cavort on stage in the spotlight.
I support a teaching program dedicated to women's equality, but
I can better support the movement by spending my time in front of
the easel rather than standing at a podium expounding basic principles
that, to me, seem self evident.
How far do you think we've come in America to empowering
women and providing equal rights? How much more must be done?
This is a very hot issue, especially if you're referring to creating
a level playing field after hundreds of years of suppression. Some
people are crying foul because we've tried affirmative action for
a few years and the taste of reversed inequality doesn't feel too
comfortable. There is no way they can turn the clock back, I'm relieved
to say. It's wonderful to see minorities and African Americans achieve
such success and respect in the political and corporate world. We
all benefit from what they bring to the table, and it feels great
to be a part of this society. I have been behind the iron curtain
where the human spirit has almost been crushed, and it's a very
oppressive society. Here in the States what we are witnessing is
still just a token of what untapped human resources are out there.
However, I see no cause for concern or any way of accelerating the
process. The fetters have been broken and we must let the rest happen
naturally without too much interference. Nothing can, or should,
hold back the dramatic changes we will soon witness.
So you're expecting great things to materialize in the near future?
Will these "dramatic changes" affect the situation of
women in the fine arts, do you think? If so, in what way do you
envision such changes?
There has always been a notion that women's ability to create art
is somewhat different from a mans. That idea could come from a subconscious
resentment as man is unable to bear children which, by its very
nature, is a more primal creative experience than creating art.
Lack of recognition of women's rightful place alongside men is more
easily categorized as belonging to that familiar misconception of
women's inferiority that still permeates all levels of society.
Other than Artemesia Gentileschi, a contemporary of Carravaggio,
there are few women painters who have reached the colossal stature
of the celebrated masters. If you consider the merits of the artwork
of say the Impressionists Bertha Morisot and Mary Cassett, one can
draw only one conclusion.
Lack of education and opportunity are the only factors that have
prevented women from creating great works of art. In this highly
evolved Western culture, I imagine we'll soon witness women making
great strides as they exercise their assertive nature and bring
a refreshing new sense of aesthetic into works of art.
Lazy Moon Ranch, by Ivan Lloyd.
How important is it to paint regularly?
I plod along like the hour hand of a clock. If I don't
paint every day I'm irritable and bad tempered, more from a personal
anxiety than from anger directed outwardly. I have a couple of artist
friends; one paints only when she's inspired--a luxury I can't afford--and
the other claims to work 16 hours a day. Both approaches I consider
extreme and I believe in enjoying your work but not being a slave
Sounds like a very oriental approach. Is this something you learned
through your travels in the East?
Frankincense has a distinctive quality. It's strangely
Biblical and has a timeless history. I believe it's petrified resin
from specific trees in Saudi Arabia, and maybe parts of Africa.
It is used extensively in the Holy Land and not easy to obtain here.
I buy it by the pound. Incense on the other hand is more of an Indian
or Far Eastern tradition, but the smoke from the wood tends to interfere
with the fragrance. It's hard to generalize about different artists'
approach to how they prepare themselves for their work. I would
suggest that it's not so much the preparation but how you live the
life. How you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis is conveyed
in your efforts. In that sense Art indeed is a naked form of expression.
Thai Dancer, by Ivan Lloyd.
How do you handle galleries, fulfilling gallery needs,
advertising, and travel to art events?
theatre work. You have to specialize in the medium that best suits
your temperament if you want to become proficient. You can't master
them all. I work on three paintings at once, nudging each one along.
I always work out my compositions on the canvas and oil allows me
to try something new and if I don't like it, I wipe it out. Sometimes
I've wiped out three or four hours of work. It can be unnerving as
you can't ever get back to the original, but its close. No other medium
offers you this flexibility, but it does require patience as an average
painting worked on this way takes several months to finish. How do
you approach this business of having to clean a brush in between color
changes? I use silk painting rags and use the same brush, wiping it
on the rag between each color, after awhile, however, the colors can
become sullied. At other times I hold five brushes in one hand and
each brush is loaded with a different color. I switch brushes when
I need a different color. This way I use about twenty brushes at once.
I work in three-year cycles. That is to say I devote three
years to a project or a series and then a year on attending shows
and conferences that I have arranged in advance. I seldom go to
other artists' events and I rarely socialize unless it's related
to my work. At the moment, that relates to visiting large Arabian
horse stud farms and Equestrian events to meet clients.
What is your preferred medium?
I only paint in oils these days, unless I'm asked to do a mural
for some inside job at a department store. I've learned to turn
those jobs down, especially
Kristina, by Ivan Lloyd
Black, by Ivan Lloyd
Before beginning a work, do you think in terms of composition,
overall effect, lines, forms, or is it all dependent on inspiration
on the spur of the moment?
What is the thought process here? I base everything on composition,
that is to say how the canvas breaks down into basic areas of color
and light. I begin with large areas around the outside and smaller
areas towards the center. What I've heard referred to as the Spanish
school of painting uses paint upon paint for an image to evolve on
the canvas. This is different from the rather technical approach of
carefully drawing in a well-planned cartoon and coloring it in, a
technique used by most illustrators.
Are you represented by galleries? I'm an independent artist and
not affiliated with any Gallery, although my work is featured regularly
in "Equine Vision Magazine" and "Arabian Horse World",
two Equestrian publications out of California. I'm not sure I fall
into the category of a successful Gallery artist, but perhaps it's
the next logical step for me. It's a lofty aspiration I have only
recently considered as I have survived for over 35 years by painting
independently, in step with my unconventional lifestyle. I'm evolved
enough now, as an artist however, that publicity would not affect my painting
style--a consideration that has always concerned me. Painting in
obscurity has been a conscious decision on my part, as I believe
the public spotlight will eventually shine on my career, elevating
me to a level I could not aspire to with my own efforts.
been a pleasure talking to you.
The pleasure is all mine. And thank