His dreams become a reality as his story, is told brush strokes of color, light and imagination dancing on his canvas. A part of his spirit goes into each brush stroke.
Lawrence comes from a family of several generations of artists. His great grandfather (of the same name) was originally from county Cork. He is said to have painted murals in churches and on clipper ships. His grandfather was a merchant mariner who would draw portraits for drinking money when he was in different ports. His father was a talented amateur artist who would paint in the style of the Realists. Thus, Norman Rockwell became his first exposure to art. During his childhood Lawrence learned drawing, pastel, and oils from his father with the reward of receiving his dad’s pastels or paint set when his talent matured. Brought up poor as the oldest boy of five, each medium and tool was treasured, as neither was easy to come by.
At the age of eight he won a scholarship to an art course by LaSalle Extension University by drawing a character and submitting it. He studied this course every month for three years, each month anxiously waiting for his next lesson to arrive and every other month a visit from an art professor. During that time he created a studio in the basement of his home. His art teacher at the local school gave him his first heavy-style classroom easel that he still has to this day. He studied art during his 4 years at Cumberland High School.
At the age of ten, a wealthy English art collector, only remembered as Mr. Hayter, lived a street over from his parents home. After seeing some of his paintings, he asked Lawrence to paint a picture of one of his collectible beer steins. It was a small piece on an 8″x10” canvas. The man would look at it daily and ask Lawrence to make changes with lighting, highlights and shadow. He eventually purchased it for thirty-five dollars. This was his first sale and first commission. Several more commissions from this same Englishman were painted over the following years. When the Englishman left for England, he wanted to take Lawrence with him to show in London. Offering to pay for his education, he was disappointed to learn that his offer was not acceptable to Lawrence’s parents. Lawrence had to work at an early age to bring money into the home to help support his family.
At fourteen years old, Lawrence visited his aunt and uncle in Chatham, MA where he would eventually meet, befriend and study with artist Ralph Shephard for most of the summer. Mr. Shephard would occasionally give Lawrence one of his used paintbrushes and Lawrence was thrilled. The elder Mr. Shephard painted nautical scenes and did touch up artwork for museums.
During this time in his life, Lawrence also had the pleasure of studying with another older professional artist named Steve Gusty. Mr. Gusty was from Pawtucket, RI and was Lawrence’s grandparents’ landlord. Mr. Gusty owned a sign company and art studio/gallery. He painted all of his signs free hand and Lawrence would learn by watching. He helped Mr. Gusty in the shop for hours in exchange for art lessons. While studying with Mr. Gusty, Lawrence’s grandfather, James O’Leary (also an artist), would take him to the water to paint boats and nautical items on canvas. Growing up in Rhode Island, Lawrence was exposed to over four hundred miles of coastline and over thirty islands in a very small state that is two-thirds water. There was much to see and paint.
Being a native of Rhode Island, Lawrence fell in love with ornate boats, ships and buildings. His passion for nautical expression on canvas flourished. He studied with an artist at the Woonsocket YWCA on Saturdays for a year. Her name was Mrs. Newman. During that time period he painted a large clipper ship which still hangs on the walls of the Cumberland High School Library today. He donated the painting to the school in honor of the school football team “The Cumberland Clippers”.
While serving four years in the U.S.A.F., he would draw to cope with the horrors of war. He volunteered to sketch pastel portraits of his fellow soldiers for family and friends back home. He took personal pleasure knowing that those going through a tough period in their lives, were comforted by his portraits.
Later in life, while continuing his studies at weekend art schools, Community College, and Rhode Island College, he fell in love with all of the arts. During his later years in life he has studied the techniques of the masters with Master artist Daniel Edmondson and Rhode Island School of Design thus, expanding his knowledge of fine art. Lawrence’s passion has always been to remain open to knowledge and explore new avenues of creative expression.
Passionate for the arts, he works as a professional artist, actor and musician. Lawrence has obtained a multitude of venues for telling his stories using color, perspective, brush strokes, texture, light and shadow to let the viewer take a journey. Each of his works are personal to him and as each painting finds a new home, he feels that a piece of him goes along with it to live on forever in the hearts and minds of the places where they hang.