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Lari Jacobson paints everything with trained, talented eye for design

Golden Dragon

The golden dragon Lari painted at the Cleveland Botanical Garden for the orchid show awed everyone, especially those who witnessed her painting it freehand, without a sketch.

by Martha Towns

“I can paint whatever people want,” Lari Jacobson said with the assurance of one who truly knows her abilities.

We were standing in the long hallway of the Botanical Garden where Lari had painted an exquisite golden dragon, 75 feet long on a red wall, part of the ornamentation for the recent orchid show. While I was waiting for her to arrive, two women I know from the library at the Cleveland Museum of Art told me they had seen her working on the dragon. “She didn’t even have a sketch,” said one in amazement. “I just started painting it,” said Lari as we talked later in the restaurant.

Another of her works was a pair of large, four-sided screens in the main gallery. The pale jade screens were overlaid with delicate Chinoiserie and someone who works at the Botanical Garden had already asked to purchase them. They will certainly make a stunning statement wherever they are placed.

Lari Jacobson has been painting all of her life. “Even as a child, I sensed that art would always be a central influence in my life,” she says in her curriculum vitae. She has studied at Miami (Ohio) University, at the New York Studio School in Manhattan, Boston University and the Rodger Newton School of Decorative Finishes in London. For five years she was head designer for the Frederick Cooper Company in Chicago where she did decorative painting and designed lamps and furniture.

Her background in traditional studio arts and the opportunities she has had to paint and draw, to say nothing of sketching her way through Europe and Africa, have given Lari an encyclopedic knowledge of technique and medium. Literally she can paint anything on anything from a sheet of paper to a stone wall, from a lampshade to an armoire. She has painted on wood, metal, brass and probably anything else you can think of.


Pictures of her work don’t do it justice. I have in my hand a sheet of glossy paper which shows a dozen samples of her designs. Whether it’s a pair of pears or a landscape, Lari’s eye for design and color is exquisite. Her business card is one of the most charming farm scenes I’ve ever seen.


Lari (“my mother named me Lara [as in Dr. Zhivago] but my sisters couldn’t pronounce it so it became Lari”) has painted murals and decorative finishes for residential, corporate, and nonprofit clients on walls, ceilings, floors, canvas and furniture.


You can see an exhibition of Lari’s work through May 5 in the Guren Art Gallery at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. On Sunday, April 7 and Sunday, April 14 Lari will be in the gallery for an artists’ reception.


Lari Jacobsen amidst orchids at the Cleveland Botanical Garden backed by Chinoiserie painted screens which have already been purchased by some lucky person.