The Princess of Pop Art: Our Exclusive Interview with Allison Lefcort
In the world of Pop art, Allison Lefcort is regarded as royalty, which makes sense because she’s painted everyone—from Mickey Mouse to the King and Queen of Jordan.
One of the best known Pop artists working today, Lefcort has used her trademark style to create vibrant, larger-than-life portraits of some of the most recognizable figures of the past century.
Her works brilliantly contrast colorful backgrounds with bold, black-and-white renderings of her subjects. Lefcort is a master of balancing color and shadow and, as a result, her paintings transform familiar, emblematic images into stirring pop culture icons.
She’s painted her unique imagery for The Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers, MTV, VH1, The Grammys, and countless other cultural institutions. Recently, Lefcort was kind enough to talk to Park West about her path to becoming an artist, her inspirations, and why she loves Pop art. We invite you to meet the “Princess of Pop Art”—Allison Lefcort!
1). When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?
This question always stumps me, but it takes me back to my “Pivot Point.” I had left college and was painting for my mother’s gallery. As constant supporters, my parents found out about a show in New York City called Artexpo and suggested that I apply to include myself in that year’s show. The offer my parents put in front of me was this: “If you have the courage to stand in front of 20 of your paintings and let the critics (and everybody else) say what they are going to say, we will get you to the show and see what happens. If you do well, then we go to the next step, whatever that is, and, if you don’t do well, then you can still paint, but please go back to school or get a job and do something productive with your life.”
I decided to take a chance on myself and that’s my moment—the proverbial click—when I took that leap and set my sights on my passion. I’ve since learned that no matter what I do, I’m an artist through and through—the way I think, the way I feel, and the way I see the world.
2). What inspires your art?
I find inspiration literally everywhere. As a pop artist, I try to immortalize cultural icons and celebrities in my own style. Often, I go for nostalgia and icons of yesteryear. I love listening to music. When I paint, I find music extremely inspiring.
3). Have any artists in particular influenced your style?
I am, of course, influenced by Andy Warhol! His art made sense to me the first time I saw it as a kid. I loved that I didn’t have to think about his subjects—I was already familiar. And I really liked it. Our techniques and styles differ greatly, but I am always flattered when people categorize us together.
Another artist who inspires me is Keith Haring. I have always related to his social message and forward-thinking about art and society, and, in my portfolio, I also hope to connect with people and “do good” or “bring change” to the world.
4). Your fans call you the “Princess of Pop Art.” What is it about Pop Art that appeals to you?
Pop Art means Popular Art—art of the people. If it’s important to you, then it becomes relevant to me. I love exploring new ideas as our popular collective continues to expand and change. I mean, I never thought, even twenty years ago, that I would be painting emojis (in my style) and how iconic they would become!
5). From Star Wars to Disney, you’ve painted some of the biggest icons in the history of pop culture. Do you have any favorite subjects—real or fictional?
In my world, every painting on my easel is my newest favorite. I think if I didn’t keep it that way, I would never finish a piece! Albert Einstein is one of my favorite subjects to paint, as is John Lennon. And it’s never a bad day when I wake up and paint Mickey Mouse either!
6). You’ve also created portraits of senators, celebrities, and even reigning monarchs. What’s the hardest thing about painting a portrait?
I understand when people say to me, “Faces are so hard to paint… how do you do it?” I thought that way too when, in high school, I was assigned to paint a portrait. How do you start to explore a human face? I know there are “proper” ways to break down the human face and execute a portrait, but, at the time, I hadn’t a clue.
Faces are daunting, for sure. People are funny looking. Fortunately, I recalled another art project from middle school and remembered the technique I used to create a woodcut—positive and negative fields, shapes, important shadows, etc. I channeled that “sight” to approach my portrait, and that’s kind of where that one assignment became the origin of my unique style.
Since then, I’ve taught myself to see everything in this way. Now my art is more than just faces of people. I have painted “portraits” of cars, sneakers, even a totem pole and other famous paintings! Portraits can still be very challenging, but, these days, I welcome the new challenges and find myself painting subjects that, years ago, I never would have tackled! That’s the evolution of my art.
7). In your studio, do you have a favorite art supply? A paint or a tool that you find yourself returning to again and again?
My studio is full of my “things”—tchotchkes and souvenirs—little inspirations all around. I surround myself with my happiness. The most important item in my studio is an easel that I inherited from my paternal grandfather, Joseph Lefcort. He was a very good palette knife artist even though painting was only a hobby to him.
He painted 90% of the art displayed in his home, but I don’t believe he ever sold a painting. I remember drawing and painting with him when I would visit. When he passed, I was given his easel and a toolbox full of old oil paints. The oil paints have long been tossed, but the easel is a very sentimental piece of my family heritage and I intend to keep creating on it for a very long time.
8). What do you want collectors to take away from your art?
Simply, I want my collectors to take away a smile. I want people to enjoy my art as I have enjoyed creating it. I’m a pretty happy person and I want to impart my joy and happiness through my art.
9). What do you enjoy doing when you’re not painting?
When I am not painting, I enjoy being with my family and friends. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. As much as I miss home when I’m traveling, I do enjoy exploring places when I’m there and find that exploration very satisfying and inspiring.
10). Do you have a favorite color?
Blue. A real bright cobalt blue. But, as I think about it, I’m super attracted to deep bright reds, too. I don’t want to choose just one color. Do I have to?
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