Artist Lisa Gibson lives and paints in the mountains just outside the small town of Lincoln, Montana. Lisa’s soft paintings blend the very real beauty of nature with her own vision, new colors, and often hints of surrealism.
Our interview began with a discussion of the unusual beginnings of Lisa’s love for painting.
Jason: How did you get your start in art?
Lisa Gibson: I’ve always been an artist but did not become aware of it until later in life at 46 years of age. I had dabbled in photography, quilting, and pine needle basketry during my earlier years. Not really knowing why, I squinted at things ever since I can remember to better see the patterns. When my tendons gave out on me from basketry and gardening, my husband encouraged me to try drawing. Initially I scoffed at him, but when I wasn’t able to find a creative outlet that I could do with my non-dominant hand, I grumpily gave it a try and discovered I wasn’t that bad! My own journey sure makes me wonder how many other artists are out there who have dismissed the notion?
J: What other jobs have you held?
LG: As a young wife I thought I wanted to enter the teaching profession so I worked in a large daycare for 11 years. When that notion was dismissed, I entered the business world and held a few accounting and office manager type jobs. I had my own bookkeeping service for several years but I no longer do that. I still work from home very part-time as the office/bookkeeping person for my husband’s business.
J: Are there other artists in your family?
LG: Yes, my mother’s sister is an artist although she does not market her work. My mother, I believe, is an artist but she only dabbled in it here & there throughout her life. I’m hoping she will pick it up again, if only for her own fulfillment.
J: How much art related education do you have?
LG: My last formal art education was an elective class in junior high school. It’s puzzling to me why I never saw myself as an artist or was interested in pursuing art when I was younger. I think I was pre-occupied by too many other things to recognize it. Now I know my place in the world! I have attended some workshops, but mainly I voraciously read art books, magazines, watch videos, and study other artist’s work. I will never stop learning!
J: Did your family encourage your art?
LG: Oh yes – wholeheartedly! I’m extremely fortunate. My husband is my biggest supporter and has always encouraged me to follow a passion.
J: What is your medium?
LG: Mainly acrylic. Ink, watercolor and colored pencil play supporting roles.
J: Describe your style and subject matter
LG: My style is mostly representational, but I tend to add a twist to that from the colors I use or by adding surreal elements. My subject is Life. Nature and all it contains are fair game for the characters, but I’ve been bingeing on poppies for quite some time now!
J: How did you develop your style?
LG: It wasn’t anything I consciously developed. The many hours of drawing, painting, letting go and experimenting have brought out what’s inside of me.
J: What drew you to your subject matter?
LG: I’ve always been enchanted by nature. Long before I ever started drawing I would see metaphoric pictures and stories in my head between the things of nature and our human experiences. I had been told by some friends that I should try writing because of it, but my visual nature suits painting much better.
J: What do you feel is unique about your work?
LG: Nothing and everything! I see similar styles, palettes, and subjects in other artist’s work, but our own personalities come through despite any similarities. Each artist’s unique energy is in their work, so it’s going to attract a unique set of people. I do get a lot of comments about my use of color.
J: How much time do you spend in the studio on an average week?
LG: 30 hours is average, but it definitely ranges depending on the time of year and if I’m getting ready for a show or have other obligations that keep me away.
J: Do you have a daily routine?
LG: Most of the time. In the morning I check email and social media for my business and my husband’s. Any art marketing tasks are done then as well. Breakfast & coffee are musts as well as very basic household things. Depending on the day, I start painting either before noon or after lunch and continue for most of the afternoon. Some sort of exercise gets tucked in. After dinner & home things I get more painting in before bed.
J: How much work do you produce per month on average?
LG: Four per month is my current average, which is a mixture of large and small works.
J: When did you sell your first artwork?
LG: The summer of 2015 at my very first public showing. It was the local art fair and I had never shown anyone but family and a couple of friends. I was a bit nervous about it since I’m so new to the art world! I purposely waited until I felt my work was of salable quality.
J: Are you a full-time artist?
LG: Mostly, yes.
J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?
LG: This is always a challenge since we live in a town of 1200, a full hour over a twisty mountain pass from the nearest “large” (by Montana standards) town. And that town has a population of only 30,000! Naturally, my own website and newsletter are extremely important. I post regularly on my Facebook business page as well. I love to do art shows where I have my own booth or space – connecting with people in person is very rewarding. I have been accepted into juried shows in Montana and I’m always looking for more effective ways to promote my work online. I plan to branch out into out of state shows and galleries once I have enough inventory. I show my work at venues in the larger towns as much as possible such as the library, whole food market, art museum, and shows hosted by the art group to which I belong.
J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?
LG: Shows where I am able to be present and a large number of my works are on display. It’s been so rewarding to see the “wow” in people’s expressions when they see a grouping of my work. I always pick up contacts and buyers at those venues.
J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?
LG: Finding the venues where my collectors are. As I mentioned, distance is a barrier for me. It is all too easy to burn through hundreds of dollars in gas each month (not to mention the lost painting time), so I’m forced to be very selective. That’s probably a good thing, though!
J: What are your interests outside of your art?
LG: Oh my, what is NOT interesting about this world? Science, space, philosophy, animal and human behavior and life – so many whys, hows and wheres! I love to just BE out in nature. Sit, listen, sketch, ponder. We have endless public land right out our doorstep so we hike nearly every day. My husband is a musician, so I get to hear tons of excellent music. Curling up with a book and a bowl of popcorn is a real treat. Cooking and gardening fit in there occasionally as well.
J: Who is your favorite artist from art history (and why), and which of their works is your favorite (and why)?
LG: I’ve always dreaded this question since I never studied art history! I do not have one favorite but I tend to favor works that are highly saturated in color, have abstract elements in them or tell a story, and evoke that all-important emotional response. I also adore Chinese paintings. Their simpler composition, use of open space and calligraphic brushstrokes appeal to me. There are SO many artists present now and from the past that cause me to pause and say “Wow”! I’m continually inspired to stretch my own skills as a result.
J: Thank you, Lisa! To see more of Lisa’s work, visit her website lisagibsonart.com.
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.