artist interview: larry thacker

APPALACHIAN ARTIST CRUSH is a series of interviews with artists from around the East Tennessee region, whose work I admire and who I want to share with the world.

Larry is a self-taught artist who came to his mediums through instinct and pursues them with tenacity. His work is quirky and energetic, and his background quite varied.


Tell us about your creative beginnings. What was your earliest experience of artmaking, and what drew you in? Was creativity encouraged in your early years?

Nothing formal, ever. I've probably stumbled myself through a true outsider's experience, I suppose. I remember filling out one of those mail order art course applications when I was very young, where you had to choose a cartoon and redraw it and send it in. Someone ended up at our doorstep. I was excited, bringing out all my files of doodles and sketches. This door-to-door recruiter type thought I was a sure thing. Nothing ever came of it, but I knew at least I could manage something with a pen and paper. And I remember being obsessed with drawing tornadoes and stormy weather for a while. I think that's why I have those recurring dreams still. I only took the requisite art courses in school. Nothing at University. This fascination with painting, and art in general, came much later in life, beginning with a fascination with b/w decay photography.    

Tell us about your creative process--what makes it unique? How do you create your best work? What do you love most about your process?

I usually have painting, writing (poetry and fiction), and photography going on in my life at the same time. They all feed from one another for energy and subject material. One idea prompts another constantly, so I’m seldom without an idea for new work. Painting is usually a very kinesthetic and abstract process for me. I’ve found few things as therapeutic as the abstracted spreading of paint on new canvas, especially when you can listen to where the painting decides to wander. I’ve set out to paint “a thing” far less time than I have “a thing” found me within the work.

"All Seeing Being"

"All Seeing Being"

What has been a habit or focus you've had that's integral to your art practice?

Again, usually that there are several pieces underway at once. I seldom have only one painting underway. Of course, reading about and viewing the art of others, stretching my own knowledge of craft, even when I might not enjoy the form or even understand the point of a piece, is essential to growing as an artist no matter the medium or genre.

Tell me about a hurdle you've had to overcome in your artmaking or art career.

Lacking formal instruction has been an absence I recognize as both helpful and a hurdle. On one hand, it allows me to learning naturally that I’ll see later as existing. On the other hand, I’m limited occasionally as to some skills and terms that would be helpful. I feel out of the loop on some of the commonest knowledge at times. All in all, however, I’ve found this ignorance to be helpful in naturally discovering what I like and what works for me instinctively when working along with the material.  

What is your educational background, and how does it influence your creative work, if at all?

I started my education with a BA in History, then a Masters in Education in counseling after the army when I went into higher ed. I also have the Ed.S. in higher ed administration. But I've escaped that side of the aisle for a while and am finally pursing my MFA in poetry and fiction. I'll be finished in a year and hope to write full-time, along with my art, and teach writing part-time. If anything, I believe our everyday experiences boil out into our art. Often, at least. Now that writing is an everyday part of my routine, the life of the word affects the life of the painting. 


What are you most excited about in your creative landscape in the moment?

Having a painting showcased in April's issue of Global Traveler Magazine. Also, having art in three establishments on Main Street in Johnson City presently, Nelson Fine Art, The Local Company, and in my booth (K & L Relics) at West Main Antiques and Variety

Share your favorite local hangout & or another hidden gem.

Dos Gatos coffee bar is a constant hangout, of course. Who wouldn’t be inspired surrounded by art and caffeine? I also like working my both of oddities – K & L Relics – at West Main Antiques. Every antique and vintage item I add to the booth is like an art installation. They all carry stories. They have voices if we’ll listen. They want to star in the stories we’re writing on paper or with paint.  

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Instagram: @thackalachia
Facebook: Gallery LDT

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See all the Appalachian artist interviews here.