Lars Lerin’s Lessons

We met up with artist and tv-personality Lars Lerin to discuss his successful new series which focuses on his love for the nature of Värmland and the creativity it brings.

The work behind Lars was created one summer when his mother-in-law and sister-in-law were visiting. “I couldn’t be bothered to sit there and listen to the three of them. So I was always in the atelier, archiving.”

During the spring, Swedish viewers have followed Lars Lerin and his band of fledgling artists in the successful tv series Lerins lärlingar– Lerin’s apprentices.  From their very first tentative brushstrokes to the final exhibition at Lars’s museum Sandgrung Lars Lenin in Karlstad, it’s been an experience Lars himself describes as “a privilege”.   

“I can’t imagine any better project, except the work I do when I am alone.  It’s been fantastic to meet them.  We’ve shared such warmth, joy and laughter,” says Lars. 

That they’ve really connected with each other is very clear. What’s more, the participants and Lars have kept in touch since the cameras ceased rolling.

“They’re so sweet, you know. I love being with them. We meet on Wednesday afternoons.  You actually get to know them when there’s so much time.  They say so many smart things.  Like Per, for example. He’s fantastic. It’s like he’s reading from a book. He says such nice things.”

There will be another series. Lars can’t say much more that that, other than there will be a new series with another challenge.  For those that can’t wait, there’s the opportunity to see the apprentices’ work this summer; they’re holding another exhibition at Sandgrund.

"The apprentices arrive in May and the exhibition will run all summer.  They are the guest exhibitors this summer, along with Manoel “Junior” Marques Lerin (Lars’ husband, who also happens to be the head of the museum ).

Is Junior showing the elk? 

“That would certainly be something! But it’s photos from Mozambique.  But Junior really has to give his so-called “elk career” a go! There was a lot of fuss about it after what happened [on the TV show Skavlan]. He was so proud of calling an anteater a ‘smyeater’,” says Lars laughing.

Within the space of just a few years, Lars has gone from being a successful artist to national celebrity, popular with the general public.  In 2016 he received the annual “Kristallen” tv-award – the Swedish equivalent of an Emmy. It’s a roll in stark contrast to the monk-like existence of  solitude. 

“It takes a lot out of you having to work with people that talk so much.  I am a bit of a lone-wolf, so I think it’s pretty nice to be alone.  It takes a lot of energy to talk and be polite.”  

Lars is happiest when he’s in his atelier in the house on Hammarö. Even if he doesn’t describe himself as a local patriot, he says there’s something very special about Värmland.

“I’m always homesick when I am away so it must mean something to me. But I really enjoyed working in Lofoten (Norway) too. There’s also something with the language: you feel at home. The area around Sunnemo with its forests and small farm holdings. Everything I’ve experienced there.  I almost think it’s part of me.”

As well as all the exhibitions, Lars has published over fifty art books with paintings and text from his travels around the world.  A big part of his high productivity is, he thinks, due to the fact that he throws so little away. He isn’t afraid of making mistakes.

“I am quite stubborn. If it goes wrong I can just water it down, washing it away and then paint on it again once it’s dry. It doesn’t matter if it shows that I’ve really had a battle, or made a mistake.”   

Life is not so hectic now that Lars has a family. Together with his husband Junior, he has a son, Rafael, who is two-and-a-half, and during the course of 2018  they’re expecting another son.

“It’s a different kind of life now. Calmer.  It’s nice that there’s nothing major happening. I want it to be calmer. Everyday life is great. It has something with getting older. You have to accept your limitations.  I don’t have the same energy I had when I was younger, but I really enjoy working.”

The day starts with Lars taking Rafael to kindergarten. After that, he goes for a walk before heading for the atelier. He’s alwayspainted, as he puts it. He didn’t just start painting. The inspiration has always been there.

“I head to the atelier and carry on from where I left off the day before. I don’t need to feel inspired. It just comes.  Of course, it can go better or worse some days. I collect a lot of material, you know: photos, and pictures.  So I carry on working, adding to it or move on.  I don’t really remember much [about the day]. Not much more than the weather or the light.  I have tried to keep the pressure off over the years, so I tend to bare that in mind.” 

Up until now, Rafael hasn’t been allowed in the atelier.

“I can’t have him there because he picks everything up. It doesn’t work. But when he gets older he’ll have his own desk.”

Nature is a recurring theme in Lars’s paintings as well as the place where he goes for energy.  He hopes that his sons will share his interest [in nature] because Junior definitely doesn’t.

“Junior isn’t interested in nature or culture.  He would rather go to Bergvik.  So there’s no point.  We were going to go for a day out to Svartån by canoe and it was going to be a real adventure. But he just sat there in the canoe suffering.  It was horrendous.  So I always go on my own when I’m off on an adventure.  I’m looking forward to teaching my children to appreciate nature. But I better start with it early.”

Lars’s 5 Favourites

The Sunnemo Region

"The woods, lakes and forest lanes that I know so well. They are a part of me." 

Klarälvsdalen Dale

“I like the feeling of how it gets more and more confined in the dale, and how the river runs faster the more north you go.” 

The Vänern Archipelago

“Where I live now is very nice. Like Räggårdsviken and Skagene by the lighthouse.  I like wandering about there.” 

Tjälpet and Mokärrshyttan

“I love the fields and the forests to the east.  It’s so wild and solitary there.”

The village of Bastuknappen

“Right at the far north by the Norwegian border is Bastuknappen.  It is so beautiful there. In the summer there are daisies, which I painted when I was very small.” 

Five Quick Quotes

  • ... on his hero: - “Luther, my cat. He really seized the day, no matter what.
  • ... on Hammarö or Munkfors: – Difficult I better say Hammarö as I live there.”
  • ... on the typical person from Värmland – “I can’t really generalise.  Speaks the local dialect, is about as far as I can go.” 
  • ... if you weren’t a painter: – “I really struggle to see myself doing any other kind of job.  But if I had the grades, I probably would have been a vet.”
  • ...on you and dance bands: - “I don’t really like dance bands in general. Some bands like Lasse Stefanz, I like.  He’s funny and has a great voice.”

4 Creative Tips

  1. Look at art.“Go to exhibitions and look through art books. See what others have done, and what you like.  This is how I’ve learnt nearly everything.”
  2. Keep going. “Don’t have so much respect for paper and materials. Just dig in and really feel it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. “It doesn’t matter if it goes wrong. You can just redo it.”
  4. Dare to copy: “Don’t think that you need to have your own style. It will come by itself.  You can’t force it.”