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Meet Van Arno

Today we’d like to introduce you to Van Arno.

Van, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m mostly known in fine art as a figurative painter. I attended Otis (Otis Parsons at the time) but the mid-eighties were not a good time to learn technical painting skills, so I went into illustration, which I did for many years. Otis was located by MacArthor Park at the time and it was insanely dangerous. I mentioned this to a young Uber driver recently, who asked if I was afraid as a student. I was surprised to realize that I wasn’t. Everywhere I went, Hollywood, Venice, Echo Park, DTLA, were all equally dangerous in the 80s.

I ultimately ended up working for several magazines, digital game companies, and doing online animation. Thru all this, I was able to cobble together a painting career in fine art, and that allowed me to have 20 solo shows in galleries around the world.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Fine art is always a tough road. I’ve had work and money stolen, and if it takes place out of town there’s not a lot I can do about it. I’ve dealt with unscrupulous people at the bottom and top rungs of the gallery system.

Early on, I showed at the Zero One Gallery on Melrose which was run by an infamously awful gallerist. After months of attempts to wring money out of the place, I waited for the next art opening they were hosting On that afternoon, I went in with a can of spray paint and told the desk person to take a break. I must have looked serious because she went out in back to smoke. I painted “PAY VAN ARNO” on the floor in the largest lettering the space could accommodate.

No, I never got paid.

Please tell us more about your art.
When I started painting, I decided to paint things I wanted to see, things I wanted to hang on the wall. I have never had any faith in my ability to create something popular, but I felt strongly that if I liked something, someone else would too. I think this led me to do different and unexpected things. This gives me a strong individual identity as an artist.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I strive to create work, either commercial or personal, that is the best and most creative interpretation of the initial concept. In this way, the work I do for hire and the work I do for galleries is not that different. I feel my work is successful if I can make that happen.

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