New painter can’t seem to put down brush
Until 2 1/2 years ago, Jorge Lacoste had never lifted a paintbrush. Now the prolific Ventura artist has close to 300 paintings to his credit.
Lacoste is exhibiting some of his paintings throughout August at the Simi Valley Senior Center Gallery.
“I was sitting and doodling at my desk one day,” Lacoste said. “The doodling just came to life a little more than before, and I thought, let’s see what I can do with this.” The resulting painting was of a hand holding the neck of a guitar.
“I gave it to someone at work to thank him for something he had done for me,” Lacoste said. When another person in the office wanted one, Lacoste thought he was on to something.
Lacoste works as a subrogation supervisor at Western General Insurance in Calabasas.
“From that day, the doodling started. I can’t control it,” he said. “I would paint all night long — it came like a flood, like a torrent. I paint every day, whenever I can. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s like a current inside; it seems like it wants to develop on its own. I just get out of the way.”
To see his work, you wouldn’t suspect that Lacoste has struggled with Parkinson’s disease for the past 30 years. It hit him a month after he graduated from law school.
“I couldn’t even walk across the street,” he said. But he has not let the disease get him down.
“I am the only person the doctor knows who has had this for 30 years and is getting stronger,” he said. He uses the analogy of an automobile with a bad carburetor.
“The carburetor isn’t working, but the driver is fine,” he said. “I shoot in the mid-80s in golf. After Parkinson’s, everything about my life got better,” he said. “I was forced to contend with my mortality. Life becomes more immediate, and I worked hard at doing the best I could with whatever I was presented.”
Although you may not have control over what happens to you, you can control how you react to those things, he said.
Lacoste has a number of paintings in the office of his doctor, Robert M. Hutchman, in Reseda.
“There is no discomfort in the paintings,” he said. “People respond to the vibrancy of the colors.”
Done in acrylic in bright colors, Lacoste’s paintings have peaceful subjects: quiet streams, pastoral meadows, musicians playing their instruments, peasants hard at work. He paints landscapes, seascapes, animals, religious subjects, portraits. His Heritage series, focused on the Lake Titicaca area in the Andes, is named for his father who was from Peru.
Lacoste’s talent may have come from his father, whose caricatures of sports figures were occasionally published in a South American newspaper.
“I remember when we were kids in Burbank, Dad would have drawing competitions,” he said. “I would take the Sunday paper and try to duplicate the cartoons,” he said. “But the idea of being an artist was never there. It was not something I could conceptualize.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UCLA before going on for his law degree at Loyola University.
Lacoste doesn’t have any formal art training.
“I have resisted taking classes because I think it would interfere with what I do,” he said.
He occasionally uses photographs to help with shading but doesn’t copy them.
“The photo is a leaping off point,” he said. Depth is important in his paintings.
“I like to make it so you get lost in the painting,” he said. “To be able to walk into it — you enter into the painting.”
When he began painting, he would have six or seven going at the same time, he said.
“It was a process of learning how to do it,” he said. “Now I am more selective about what I paint.” Sometimes it takes a week to finish a painting, he said.
“I know I am done when it doesn’t cause me any discomfort,” he said. “When I look at a painting and it radiates a reassurance, a calming, and there is nothing jumping out saying, fix me, fix me,’ then that painting works to comfort me.”
A reception for Lacoste’s show is set for 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 4 at the Simi Valley Senior Center, 3900 Avenida Simi, Simi Valley. For more information, call 583-6363.
— To recommend an artist to be profiled in this section, contact Nicole D’Amore at ArtProfiles@roadrunner.com or 405-0364