Terry Lacy

Contemporary Realism



I always had an interest in art, enough so that when it came time to go to college, I was sure I wanted to be an art major and went to the University of Utah. In college I drifted into the Fine Crafts department and took classes like stone carving, glass blowing, metals and pottery. Pottery became my love, both wheel thrown and ceramic sculpture. I graduated as an Art Major with an emphasis in Designer Crafts. I pursued the idea of making pottery and selling it for about a year, got discouraged, and turned my attention to making jewelry. In 1978 I started my small jewelry business in Old Towne, Petersburg and called it “Ladysmith”. I designed and made gold and silver jewelry, did stone setting and repairs. I specialized in one-of-a-kind pieces, both fabricated and cast. Making jewelry is an intense process. Precision and attention to detail are extremely important. This endeavor went on to become a 40-year career for me as a self-employed jewelry artist. I had a retail store for 16 years and the remaining 24 were spent working out of my studio in Chester. I retired in 2018. 

During my time as a jeweler, I also had the desire to learn to paint so in 1990 I started taking watercolor classes. I always loved the transparency of watercolor paint on a white surface. The early lessons stay with me now and are still important in my work in oils today. I began painting with oil paint the year my mother passed away, 2010. I inherited her paint box which was full of brushes, paint and mediums. I treasure her wooden palette which is still covered with the paint colors I can see in the few paintings I have of hers. She would be happy that that inheritance got me started in my serious pursuit to be an oil painter with the goal of making great paintings. 



My eyes constantly search for beauty. In my daily life and while travelling, I have taken thousands of photographs. I am almost always thinking about my next painting when composing my shots. I have been doing this for many years. I am a studio painter and use photographs as references. When I feel it’s necessary for the painting, I will adjust the lighting and color intensity of the photographs using the computer. Often, I will do a composite painting combining 2 or more references. My goal is to make the best painting I possibly can. I start by making sure I feel a strong connection with the subject. Since I usually work with my own photos, I also think about the conditions under which that photo was taken. There are memories evoked which could be a cool breeze, a scent, feelings of awe or a spiritual connection. When I recognize these intangible things, I try to instill them in my work. I also attempt to portray how I feel about my subject. 

I almost always start out a painting by drawing on the canvas with a light paint. This provides me with my roadmap for guidance, since my paintings usually are somewhat involved, and proportions are important. Bold color and contrast are especially important to me in my work. My work is strong, in that it is bold. My paintings are my form of self-expression, like music is to a composer and poetry is to a poet. Painting is my music, my poem, my voice. I am a quiet person which makes it interesting that my paintings are so bold. 

My studio is just down the hill from our house so I can easily walk to work carrying my cup of coffee. The first thing I do is turn on the music! Music is good company while in the studio. I only work on one painting at a time. I can usually complete paintings within one-to-three-week periods of time. I stand at the easel rather than sit, which gives me flexibility and ease in stepping back from the work to judge it from a distance. 


I consider myself an eternal student of art. I want to stretch and grow as an artist. I have found that taking workshops and classes have helped me to take leaps and bounds. I have been doing this on and off for the 31 years I’ve been painting. So, other artists have definitely had an influence on me. I remember some wise words passed on to me along the way. Such as:

“Don’t just go to the edge of the precipice. Jump off!” 

“Paint what you love.”

“Be fearless. What have you got to lose?” 

I repeat that last one to myself constantly. It seems sometimes the thing we lack the most is courage.

I am inspired by nature, just as my jewelry designs always were. I am an active outdoor person and need to get my daily “fix” of fresh air and exercise out in nature. The rays of first light coming through the trees, filtering through the leaves inspires me every time. I garden and enjoy watching the growth and change in my now established flower gardens.  

I subscribe to several art publications, and I see lots of contemporary artists there and on social media. I belong to the Oil Painters of America and am exposed to that group’s talented members and their work. There is some really great work being done out in the world now and that is very inspiring to me. 


If you were to look at my website, you would see my work placed in five categories. They are Flora, Animalia, Faces and Figures, Land and Sky and Western. I really work in all five categories and switch from one to another readily. The western category is special to me. I love the west and travel there as often as I can. I feel like I am at home when I’m there and am very attracted to western subject matter. I painted a series of prickly pear paintings that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. 

I am a person who loves a challenge. I never paint anything that is easy. It is important for me to grow as a painter and that comes with constant challenge. Painting faces and figures are always good challenges. So many things must be right such as anatomy and proportions, not to mention achieving a likeness. I do love painting portraits and the challenge of portraying personalities or relationships between people. I recently read that “every painting you do is a self-portrait.” I connect deeply with that because when you pour your heart and soul into your work, you are revealing yourself. 

I previously mentioned my gardens. I love to paint flowers and have done many paintings of them. I usually focus up close on flowers to examine the subtleties and details. 

“Paint what you love”. Well, I love my dog, Eli. If I had to pick one favorite subject, it would be him. Eli is my 10-year-old English Springer Spaniel and I have painted him often over the years. I like to capture his moods. He is usually at my feet in the studio while I’m painting. One of my favorite paintings is called ELI-MLY. The image is of Eli and our Border Collie, Molly, looking out of the rear window in my Volvo. I captured their personalities well in that one. It brings me joy to look at the painting daily. That’s what you hope your art can do- to bring joy and enrich your life and others. 


The first thing that comes to mind is “You have not yet done your best work.” This is a real incentive to better my work with each painting and to keep striving forward. This can also easily be applied to life in general in terms of improving yourself and your relationships.