Introducing Artist No. 20 – Lisa Wiser

Lisa Wiser grew up with art, in the home she and her husband now own. Her dad had a potter’s wheel in the room downstairs and she was always busy doing ‘craft’ things. She started college as a painting major, but in her junior year her mom gave her the advice ‘That’s great you want to be a painter but you might want to think of a way to support yourself, and I don’t know if that’s the best way.’ She agreed and got a degree from the University of Oregon in art education instead. “I liked kids and I’d worked with a lot of people and it was just kind of a natural thing. I did craft things, and I grew up with art. I grew up in a really creative family, so it was easier for me to do that. I couldn’t do math; couldn’t write.”

A pivotal year for her education was a year of study in Perugia Italy. This year affected her style “hugely”. She saw a lot of religious art, not Catholic, but learned a lot about it. “I did a whole series of works that were mostly still lives with gold leaf. Really fun.

“So I taught for three years and couldn’t stand it, ended up getting married and had three kids. Then I ran into my high school art teacher, who needed a sub. So I ended up subbing for about 17 years, in Tigard and Lake Oswego districts. I enjoyed it, and just quit 3 years ago.” She had started to do more painting, would get on a roll, and then have to sub for a couple of days. Going back to her own art then was like “climbing a hill, really hard to get going again. I was having some success with painting and thought that was just getting in my way.

“I have painted in oil, acrylic, newer products which are known as slow acrylics that dry slower for outside, and water soluble oils, which is currently my favorite thing. I have been doing photography for years.” She showed me one of her favorites, which I took for a landscape, maybe a field of wheat. But it turned out to be a close-up photo of a horse’s mane – amazing.

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For the last three years she has been working on, showing and selling central Oregon landscapes, typically grasslands with water and background. She frequently leaves home to go painting in eastern Oregon for weeks at a time. Schleps all her stuff over there, like a portable studio. She likes to paint plein air. She works from photos that she takes which is a key piece to her studio work. “I take landscape photos and make adjustments to them, then I copy them almost exactly. True artists say you need to change it up, but the thing is I’m out there hiking, and walking and I take the photo, and I see it as a painting when I’m out there.

“If I could live outside I would live in a tent, because I love to be outside – it’s probably from growing up in this house, because there’s a door in every room and lots of big windows. And that’s why the plein air painting is a natural for me. Because I can be outside. I don’t mind the rain, I have a big umbrella. I typically get up first thing in the morning.  At 3 pm I hit that hammock right there.” A lot of her paintings show that she paints in the morning. The bigger pieces are typically studio work and she takes the photos at all times of day.

She works simultaneously on different series. “I also do an abstract series that I show in the Big Five Hundred show.” What she loves about the abstract art is that it frees her completely from copying, “so it’s like a break from my landscape work. Totally manipulating paint with shade and color and, it’s just designing. And I come from the design background so – not all of them turn out – maybe one in five, so I just go back and do something else”

I asked about her process. “I arrive on the scene, scope out what I want to paint. I photograph before I start, so I have that initial look. I’ll set up and paint for a maximum of two and a half to three hours – because then the light changes so much. I take photos throughout so that if I have to come back and work on it I can kind of have a direction to go in adding finishing details to it. My goal however is to complete the painting when I’m out there, because I’m so bad. All those paintings tacked up in my studio wall are all pieces that I did over the course of 4 days, 8 paintings. I did this amazing amount, and then got exhausted. But most of those I was able to complete, not all of them. Some of those paintings I will then, because I have the photo, and if it was a successful painting out of doors, I will do a large studio piece, which are typically more detailed. And I’d say that process is different from when I was not painting as much, but my process is pretty much the same. Even in college I painted outside, even in winter. I have a painting I did in freezing ice. I had the back hatch of the car open, the painting canvas in the back of the car, then I just looked out at the scene and painted it. I didn’t finish it though, I finished it when I got back. I prefer not to do that anymore though.

“I do research. I have a lot of painting books, and I am a ‘researchaholic’. I will look at my subject, and if I have certain trees, or a certain shadow pattern, or if there’s a structure and I want to approach it differently, I will look at examples, and I consider looking at other people’s artwork research as well as reading – there are some famous landscape painters who have published how to books, but they are not really how to, they are basically what to look for and how to pull things off. They do a section on clouds, or a section on trees, and if I get stuck in the middle of a painting I’ll just sit down and read or get on the internet and read or look at demos. That‘s actually one of my favorite parts of working. I do one or two professional workshops a year with professional artists that teach. So that’s another piece of research.”

Best advice –

Simplify. I like to make things complicated. Simplify. Every person I’ve taken anything from has said ‘Simplify.’ Simplify the color, the lines, the pattern, the composition, especially in landscape paintings. And the reason that is the best advice for me is because I’m still trying to figure it out.

Lisa has a dream project. She wants to put together a show. She’s done some curating and has always wanted to collaborate with other people to create a show that has some component that runs between all the participants, so it’s cohesive. She has two friends that she spent some time with last spring and she suggested that they do a show together that they create work for specifically. They are in the process of getting it set up. In fact, they’ve already titled it ‘Three Squared’ and then subtitled, ‘Line, Layers and light’. The one component that will connect it all is the format which will be a square.

Be sure to include Lisa in your tour this fall – you won’t regret it.

News from a mentor

Annamieka Davidson recently sent us a report on her intern, Sidney Oster, and we wanted to share it with you all.  It’s so exciting to hear from our artists about how they are doing with their interns.”

“I met with my PDXOS intern Sidney Oster (and her dad Mike) today for the first time at my studio We discussed her career goals and interests, her experiences at various art camps, and her art interests in sculpture and ceramics. She showed me examples of her work. We talked about what inspires her work.

“I gave her an assignment to come up with a place that she likes to visit for her creative inspiration – she suggested the metal scrapyard. I suggested that she visit the scrap yard, pay attention to what inspires her while she is there, and then make a reflection of that via writing, recording, video, sculpture, or any creative medium she wants. She will show me that at our next meeting.

“As for our work in the studio together, we discussed the upcoming Portland Open Studios tour and several projects related to that, trying to find something that she was interested in doing, with an emphasis on hands-on work. There are many projects going on in my studio in preparation for the October event. The project that we chose for her to work on felt like the best fit given her experience and interest. She will be learning how to make archival art prints with my large-format printer. We will work on this together over the next two months as we prepare for open studios in October.”

Introducing Artist No. 64 – Maude Anne May

I think what I love most about Maude May is how many different mediums she uses to create her art, and yet is able to bring it together into a cohesive, recognizable whole. She mixes photography, stitching, painting, fabric, wax, and more photography together in her creations so you feel you must touch a piece to actually know what process she has used. As she says “Creating is what gets me going. Curiosity keeps me on the path and assists me in arriving at my final destination which isn’t always where I thought I’d end up. The push/pull “randomness” vs. “structure” of art making and graphic design continues to challenge me and draws me into the studio daily.”

Lately, she’s captivated by the shape of houses, what she calls ‘kid houses’ – the simple house we first learn to draw as children. She collects houses, photographs houses, draws houses, uses them in her encaustic pieces, and makes stitched art works with houses. She’s been thinking a lot about the idea of home – what is home; the safety of home, when people have to leave their homes; tiny houses.

Maude has been making art in one form or another since age three, “when I began drawing bones on the playroom walls – much to my parents’ dismay. Stitching pre-printed samplers, fabricating elaborate collaged drawings and designing tiny dresses for my troll dolls soon followed. With advanced degrees in ceramics, photography and textiles, my passions have led me in many directions and my career has encompassed a wide variety of professions: pastry chef, art director, location scout, miniature golf course designer, event coordinator, photo stylist and paint-color consultant.

“Until 2014 I was the sole proprietor of Spark Art & Design, my graphic design business in Seattle – creating custom invitations and favors and designing logos and related collateral for both corporations and private individuals – winning industry awards with this work. After 12 years, I closed this business and moved with my husband Bob, to Portland.”

A pivotal experience for Maude happened when she worked as an Art Director for a large public relations firm in Washington, DC. “Until this job I had always assumed that I would need to be very proficient in many mediums in order to make a living as an artist. I soon realized that this was not the case. I hired and worked with many nationally known artists – illustrators, calligraphers and photographers – all masters in their chosen field. Through this experience I learned more about artistic passion and choice and it enabled me to winnow down my options and follow my own paths.

“I work in both fiber and paper collage. Books, along with collections of papers, ribbons, stacks of ink-jet, printed IPhone photos and other ephemera clutter my small studio. Hand and machine stitching are integral elements in many pieces and my extensive cache of cotton embroidery floss and two sewing machines are always at the ready. In 2014 I began working with hot beeswax and Demar resin, incorporating photographs, collage, pan pastels and oil paint. These encaustics not only function as stand-alone works but can also be photographed and then transferred to either paper or fabric and incorporated into new pieces. By using these encaustic images as a starting point, I am coming full circle and combining all my favorite mediums and techniques.”

If you visit Maude’s studio on the tour (and I highly recommend that), this is what you can expect: “Everyone who visits my studio (aka dining room) will be able to make their own encaustic collage. To me, simply demonstrating my process isn’t as impactful as giving visitors the opportunity to work with wax and experience the joys (and sometime frustrations) of this age old medium. By making a small work my visitors not only get to create but also appreciate the time, effort and skill needed to make art on a daily basis.”