10 Questions for an Artist: Illustrator Larry Doyle

Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.
Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.

Larry Doyle turns 26 today, but he cannot deny the velocity his 25th year took to get him here.

“This has been a great year of super high highs and super low lows,” Larry said during a New Year’s Eve interview at his studio in Tacocat Cooperative in Grandview. “I think you just learn how to keep the table from tipping over.”

At 25, Larry came out to his mom and friends as a gay man.

“I got really freaked out that I’d be 40 and married with kids. I want to be happy,” he said. “I kept it inside for so long because I don’t want to be somebody’s gay friend. I don’t want to be the gay artist.”

It’s fair to say Larry hates labels. Or, more accurately, I think Larry hates the way labels can dismiss everything else not under the umbrella of said label. Labels inherently deny genuineness, the dynamics of a personhood.

For example, Larry has been sober for years. It’s a big part of his art, but recently on vacation to Mexico he took a day to get drunk.

“I’d been wanting to for a while. Nothing changed. I drank for hours. I got drunk. But I didn’t have fun. I was like, I’m done,” he said. “I had to know. Sobriety became bigger than me. People who didn’t know me but wanted to talk to me just about being sober. It became bigger than who I was.”

It’s clear Larry wants to define Larry, I think in part because it’s challenging for him to define himself to himself. When other people’s generalizations get involved, it’s hard to not take that personally.

“I have an addictive personality in general. I found that out coming out, too,” he said. “This summer I started dating a boy and I was not myself. I was addicted to this kid. And it wasn’t anything he did. It was horrible. We were building Tacocat and I couldn’t focus on anything. Dating to me was like ‘Let’s move in!'”

Larry said he’s learning to channel all that addictive tendency into his work. And what’s so great is that you can see this in not just how more prolific he is getting (he admits to making and completing and selling more works than he ever has in the past year) but in what his art expresses. Larry’s quest for self-awareness is coming through in his art and the more he understands himself–or keeps trying to understand himself–the deeper that work will get.

He’s a man with a plan for 26, too.

“I want to go national with my artwork. I don’t how to do that. I don’t know what the fuck i’m doing,” he laughed. “Before I hit 30 I want to be able to happliy do this for a living. I want my creative outlets to flourish. What if this was my office? How fucking sweet would that be?”

Read on to see just how Larry’s subject matter is shifting and what challenges he faces as a young artist.


Doyle painting 1

See Larry’s art:



Cafe Brioso

Through January

14 E. Gay St., Downtown



The Oak Room in Deepwood

Opens Jan. 11, 2014

511 N. High St., Short North



What is your training as an artist? 

[Columbus-based artist] Dan Gerdeman was my teacher in high school. I showed him my really crappy sketchbook and he assigned me to Drawing 3, which was the hour-long drawing class. I moved into Junctionview and shared a studio there after high school. I did all the events, sold a few paintings here and there. I took a drawing class at Columbus State. I wanted to go to CCAD but it was too much money so we wrote it off. Then I looked at Full Sail University in Florida for a while and a two-year program would leave me thousands of dollars in debt. When I did go to Columbus State I hated all of it and didn’t really do well. i just dropped out of that. Academia is not for me. … There’s a roablock now because I don’t have the training. I just got a trial on my computer for Adobe Illustrator. There’s a lot of marketing I don’t know how to do, and I want to draw other things, I want to draw more Realism, I just don’t have the training. The first time I realized I could sell stuff was this series I did for, like, Agora Six. I made these little guys that had cigarette burns and they were screaming and bleeding. It was very Don Hertzfeldt.


What medium and tools do you prefer? 

Pen and paper all the way. I just got Adobe Illustrator two days ago. I’m always digging [Columbus-based artist] Clinton Reno’s stuff, the rock posters. I love the flat design. I want to push myself into making prints.


Doyle tattoo
A drawing of Larry’s tattoo of the heads that count his time sober.


What has been inspiring your work lately?

I love iconography, icons in art. I’ve been making this little guy, the guy I often draw, into a saint. I don’t know why; I just love the details and all the halos. There’s no name for him. sometimes they’re self portraits, sometimes they’re just… weird. After I quit drinking, I would draw these heads as date markers. I have a tattoo of a bunch of the heads and I keep a print of it above my studio door. I started to put wings on the heads, little halos. … I’ve always been interested in symbols. Being closeted for so long I’ve had to find different ways to express myself. We all attach different meanings to things. Icons, I love the way they look. They play with the symbols of what it means to me and people can put their own meanings into them too.

doyle studio details

doyle illustration halo new

What in your art career are you most proud of so far?

This piece I made last night [which Larry is holding in the photo that starts this blog post]. I really like it. Like I said, I make these guys, they all have golden halos. Last night I started drawing another one and I put an upside down cross and right side up cross near him. The upside down cross kind of represents blasphemy. He doesn’t have any gold in his halo but there’s a red circle around him that gives the affect of a halo–and also of a target.

These guys are saints and he doesn’t have any gold so he’s not a saint. But he still has a halo. Maybe I’ll keep going with them and put some gold in them, have them be targets but saints as well. … Sometimes when I look back on a piece I can tell if I was feeling lost or sad, and that’s not something I’m thinking about when I’m making them. Days later I’ll be like, “Damn. That was pretty heavy.” I like the heads that count my days of sobriety, but this most recent work is an expression of how I feel, not what I did.

When I came out I was like <snaps finger> “Solved.” That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve been struggling with how to pull that struggle out of myself this past year and put it into art. I always get super pumped when people make paintings that can do that. [Larry’s studio neighbor] Brian [Reaume] makes these amazing abstract pieces and I, of course, am a child and am like “I see a dinosaur!” But seriously, I get to see him make his stuff now which is so awesome. His piece for artist Stephanie Rond‘s Tiny Out Loud project was about creativity and sheltering it and the war on being creative and being yourself. It’s a painting of a house and the outside of the house had the words like fag and die and stuff like that. Finding the way to be vulnerable on the page like that is crazy.

Doyle illustration one

Doyle illustration 3

Has working in a studio near an intimate group of artists affected the way you work?

I love it. I’ve learned a lot from Brian. He is so about presentation. I’ve learned a lot being here, surrouding myself with people like Adam Brouillette. I’ve learned a lot by watching them and how they present their artwork and the steps they take. Like, when I take this show to Brioso, I will wrap each piece in paper so they don’t get scratched. I threw away a frame yesterday because it had a scratch. I’m not going to put all this time into a drawing and put it in this frame that is scratched. It’s going to ruin the whole thing. I know I am obsessive, that I have an addictive personality, but I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. This is the first year I’ve actually taken myself seriously. I’d done art before but it was like, my friends are here, your friends are here. Now I have people like Brian right next door telling me to get my ass there and work. I’m incredibly fortunate to be next door to these guys.


A present from Brian.
A present from Brian.

What do you do while you work?

I listen to music. Lately I’ve been listening to The Walkmen. Interpol. I like throwing it back a little bit. I’ve been trying to get through the top albums of 2013 lists. I’ve tried to watch movies before. I started watching American Horror Story but then I just shut the lights off and watched the whole thing. I just bought “Prefuse 73 Reads The Books” on iTunes yesterday and I’ve already listened to it, like, seven times. I sometimes draw better, too, when people are in my studio, just hanging out.

doyle studio detail 2

Do you ever experience artist’s block? How do you overcome it?

Yes. That’s really frustrating when that happens. I’m fortunate enough to have music and art, so when I’m here and I can’t get through it I go play music for a while. It comes in waves. I’ll be really into writing guitar stuff for like a month and then I will have to be here in the studio all the time. Sometimes the solution is just putting on a CD you haven’t heard in a while or driving to Cincinnati to visit the art museum. Sometimes if I don’t want to draw and know I need to I just scribble. Muscle memory. Even if you just take a canvas and just fuck with it. Sometimes just being here and putting that energy you will have a moment like that it clears out and it’s like fucking finally. Or Brian and I will “go for a walk” and just go to Target and walk around and stare at boys or I go to Giant Eagle and just get a piece of fruit or something. Sometimes just walking away from it is super refreshing.

What is the hardest part about being an artist?

The talking. There’s the business aspect of this stuff I always forget about. If you want to make money, you have to talk. I don’t really want to talk. It feels so cheesy using any kinds of sales tactics. Art’s so personal. I’m going to buy this piece because i want it, not because you’re selling it to me. It’s not a fucking couch.

It’s awesome to do this and be in music. I’ve done a lot of stuff this year. My band [The Weight of Whales] opened for Alt J at the LC. Things like being on stage or doing a show are so much for me, though. Like, when I’m done I’m like just hold me. You have to always be on. Playing a show is a lot of fun and you get to be a rockstar but you have to be on. If you fuck up everyone fucks up. Or being at long shows like Agora that are eight hours long. Afterward I just shut my door and get really depressed. It’s so draining. But it’s totally worth it.


What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?

A whole bunch. One of the things I like a lot is people telling me hard work pays off. It’s true. You just have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. The things that come together easily will fall apart easily. If it’s a strugle it will be worth it. That’s so hard to tell yourself when you’re sitting here and you’re like “I can’t draw anything” and all I draw is penises randomly. That sucks. But you have to be here. I can’t take naps anymore because I feel the need, the drive to be in my studio. If you want it, you’ll do it. Before this last year I didn’t finish a lot of things. It’s the closure. Moving on. Doing the next thing. It’s weird. It’s hard for me.


Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:

We’ll stay away from musicians because that list will just go on and on.

Spiritus Tattoo’s Mike Moses. I don’t know anything about this person but his Instagram posts are awesome. [Follow Mike @TheDrownTown] I’m obsessed with his artwork. I want him to do my next tattoo. I want two whales on my chest. Everything he does is so clean and thought out, and the line work is amazing.

Alex Pardee. 

Brandon Boyd. His work is phenomenal.


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