How to master a beautifully eerie, airbrushed style with Larissa de Jesús Negrón
If, like us, you’re obsessed with the artist’s hazy paintings, you can now discover exactly how she makes them – using airbrush, stencils and more.
- Olivia Hingley
- 14 October 2022
Larissa de Jesús Negrón’s practice is defined by exploration. Continually experimenting with the tools and materials she works with – incorporating airbrush, acrylic, soft pastels and oil paint – she also dives into the more intangible ideas of selfhood and psychology. When we spoke to her in January this year, she told us: “I enjoy the process of unveiling my identity to myself through my work. This is what keeps me coming back every day.”
It’s perhaps Larrisa’s use of airbrush that makes her work so unique; its hazy effect adding a surreal, eerie feeling to her pieces. Now a central component of her work, Larissa only picked up the tool in 2020, quickly finding herself excited by its unpredictable nature. Getting inventive with stencils and even sometimes deciding not to clean the tool for the interesting effect a clogged nozzle creates, airbrush has certainly added numerous layers to Larissa’s work. Read on to find out exactly how she created one of her most recent transfixing paintings.
Finding the right references
Once I have an idea, I need visual references to make it look realistic and I start searching for it right away. If I know of an artist who has done something related to what I want to make, I will look up that artwork and either use it as a direct reference or learn something from it. Sometimes, I use Google. For this piece, I searched “feet in ocean” and the one I ended up selecting caught my eye because of the movement of the sand and the interesting angle of it being shot underwater. I amped up the blues and darkened the blacks in the image so it looks more ominous, and I was ready to get started!
Experimenting with stencils
This stage takes the most planning because I need to envision the piece in order to create all the stencils beforehand. This means I have to figure out what steps I need to take, in order to use all of my materials correctly. For this artwork, I made a stencil with paper for the feet to be able to work on them individually with airbrush. I then taped the paper stencil to the canvas to cover the legs and began working on the background. These days, I switch up my stencils depending on the surface I am working on. If I’m working on canvas, I prefer using large paper stencils because managing large pieces of tape is a nightmare scenario for me. For smaller works on canvas and wood, I like to use either tape or contact sheets to make stencils. Whereas for all works on paper, the stencil would need to be on paper because of the fragility of the surface.
Making a mess with airbrush
Then, I begin using my airbrush tool. Ever since I incorporated the medium into my practice in 2020, I’ve been exploring its limits. This brush can be difficult to understand at first because of its many little parts and how difficult it can be to take it apart and put it back together – especially when cleaning it. I watched many tutorials and videos on how to maintain the tool before getting started to avoid messing up, but I still did of course. Those ”messes” – paint splatters caused by the airbrush clogging with paint – made the artworks look even more interesting, which gave me the confidence I needed to continue mastering the tool. Because airbrush is literally paint in the air, I wanted to figure out how to contain it and control it without it spreading everywhere, which led me to learn about stencils. I quickly realised that anything could potentially be a stencil. If it has a shape, it can leave a mark.
Trusting the process
When the feet were close to being done it was time to have fun. This is the time for the unexpected and unplanned – what I look forward to the most. Processing my life through my work is made a lot easier when I’m able to let ideas flow during the process of making them. Usually, when I don’t have a plan, my subconscious mind is able to take the lead and I’m able to reveal what’s really going on inside my head. With this piece, I decided that it would be cool to have things that reference my experiences in the water next to the figure. The first thing that came to mind when thinking about myself is art, so I included a little landscape painting made out of canvas fabric.
Embracing your fears
This stage is all about the details. After adding the small artwork, things evolved pretty fast, because the narrative started making more sense to me. Talking about art led to talking about money; talking about money led to me wanting to be free from it; the floating bikini symbolises letting go of restraint and bodily shame. Talking about money led me to think about my responsibilities at home so it got me thinking about cooking. Thus, the bloody opened can. I had cut myself a couple of days prior to making this piece opening some beans, so the wound was fresh. Finally, I added those judgmental eyes around her, symbolising that you shouldn’t be faced by the judgement of others and that as an artist, you should become comfortable baring your fears, anxieties and insecurities for the world to see. Once the narrative makes sense and is clear enough, the piece is done!
Larissa de Jesús Negrón: Liberación (Copyright © Larissa de Jesús Negrón, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.