A Journey from Police Officer to Painter
By Aisa Feratovic
This interview is part of the "Studio Spotlights" series, which started in 2019 and features studio visits (both in-person and virtual) around Monmouth County with artists of all mediums. These profiles were born out of curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes at our artist members' studios. We look at the tools they're using, the objects they keep around for inspiration, and their current projects. Larry Boody is a member of Monmouth Arts and the latest subject of our series.
For Larry Boody, the path to painting took a circuitous route. Though he had a brief stint as an art student in college, Larry switched directions, and in 1988 he became a police officer with the Bridgewater Police Department, where he served as Firearms Instructor, Motorcycle Officer, and Detective. One day in the late 1990s, Larry decided to sketch a few portraits of his coworkers. Once his Captain saw his hidden talent, Larry's career took another turn, and he was recruited to became the regional forensic scientist in Somerset County. He honed his skills by attending a three-week course in forensic facial imaging at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and from 2000 to when he retired in 2013 Larry performed more than 200 composite sketches in nine New Jersey counties.
In 2014, on the one-year anniversary of his retirement, Larry painted a still life of his old police uniforms and motorcycle boots in his basement. He made 16x20 prints, took them to his former police station, and sold all of them in minutes. The image resonated with others as well; he later photoshopped the NYPD Highway patch onto his digital image of this painting, drove to the NYPD Highway precinct in the Bronx, and sold all of the prints again.
Larry's connection to law enforcement has continued. In 2019 he was asked to help create the portraits of fallen officers for the annual New Jersey police memorial service in Ocean Grove, which was the first time he had made finished pieces with black and white charcoal pencils.
Why do you make art?
To recreate and interpret the world I see.
You've experimented with various mediums. How did you get started with oil painting?
In September 2013 I took my first oil painting class with Scott Nickerson at Colorest in Red Bank. Like all good art teachers, Scott helped me "see" what's been in front of my eyes the whole time. Now, I can see the "warm" shadows when the subject is in a cool light, etc. I'm very happy I met Scott.
Where do you find or look for inspiration?
I look to the Old Masters – the Dutch, Italian, French, English, and American masters of the past. I also look to the modern traditionalists.
Where do you do your work?
No single place. At home at the dining room table or at a table in the basement. Sometimes outdoors.
What three words would you use to describe your studio or art-making space?
Improvised, austere, adequate.
Do you work in silence or with music or the radio on?
Whatever the mood strikes me: music, radio, TV.
How did your art change during the pandemic?
It stopped my studio portrait classes and really sapped my energy. But things are slowly coming back.
What's your quirkiest studio habit?
Whatever I’m working on generally needs momentum to continue. If I’m excited about a piece, I can work long hours on it until I finish. If I lose that excitement or if I’m interrupted too many times, I can begin to lose interest. When that happens, the piece becomes labored and sometimes overworked.
What have you been thinking about or obsessing over recently?
I want to paint snowscapes – snowscapes with brilliant sunshine, where deep blue skies and warm and cool colors in the snow are easy to see. I've never attempted this before. It's tough in New Jersey as the exact conditions I want are rare.
Is there a piece of yours you'd never sell or get rid of?
Two black and white charcoal portraits of my daughter.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Late last summer and into the fall, I started teaching myself plein air painting until the cold weather hit. I can see myself pursuing that some more this spring.
You can find more about Larry Boody and his art on his Instagram.
Interested in becoming a artist member like Larry? Join Monmouth Arts today!