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Lisa Mann’s growing abstract art community

IN THE trying times that we are living, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many have turned to the internet in order to be able to continue their lives and activities. From shopping to education, entertainment to information, it has definitely been a life-saver. For the art community however, it has also provided many artists with a voice and with a community. So many artists’ communities have evolved over the past year online, with special pages and sites being set up by artists and organizations offering platforms, lessons, workshops, talks. One such example is artist Lisa Mann’s online workshops and her ‘Abstract Academy’ on facebook, where artists get together and exchange ideas about their work, trying out her way of creating art, which for many involves the use of the cold-wax technique. Apart from her paid workshops, she also offers some for free, one of which (exploring colour), runs March 15-18 but can be rewatched on Teachable till April 1. Here’s a little Q&A with Lisa Mann, via which she talks about her unique creative journey, from Portland-based educator and councilor, to fulltime artist. Lisa Mann’s abstract landscapes are soothing, healing works, with subtle colour compositions. They walk the fine line between abstraction and realism, and they are about the journey of the artistic process:

Tell us a bit about your initial studies, and how you became an artist, after having worked as a councillor/educator. Was there a specific turning point or catalyst, life event, when you decided to commit yourself to art?

– I had always dabbled in all sorts of art. And that dabbling I suppose was a form of artistic experimentation, without realizing that art was happening!. And when I say art, I mean that interpretation loosely as I really believe that all forms of creative expression are linked and simply another form of communication. So as a student in grade school through university, I dabbled. In college I dabbled. When I was an elementary teacher and counselor I dabbled. The dabbling involved classical art classes, but it also involved photography, writing, creative work experience, and ways of traveling and seeing the world, creative ways of teaching or of counseling. I think I always approached things from the standpoint of wide-open possibilities…and that is exactly how I approach my art now! So when my own children were teenagers, and I asked my self-“what next?”, the common thread, was my need to create and express myself. And then when I discovered working with oil and cold wax and creating abstract art- a whole entirely new world of possibilities opened up, and I’d say that was the turning point to really dive in and commit myself to the process. I traveled to Ireland to study the process of creating abstract art with cold wax and oil paints in depth and the rest is history!

Your wonderful career as a self-taught artist, proves that you don’t always need an art degree to be an artist. You have achieved all the things that artists dream of: sought after art, gallery representation, works in collections and many exhibitions, and in 2017, your work caught the eye of chief curator Rebecca Wilson of Saatchi art’s online gallery, who included it in one of the site’s online exhibitions. What have you learnt from this art journey so far? 

– The journey has been amazing, and the one thing I have learned about art is that it is most powerful when it comes from your heart.  I know that sounds corny, but after learning the initial skills and techniques to create art and the solid principals of design – I learned that some of the most  powerful and successful art breaks all the rules. I know that when I create and express myself freely, it is more powerful and successful than any “cookie cutter” approach to art that rigidly follows the rules. When we dare to bend rules towards  self-expression, that is where the magic happens. And I learned, and I really believe, that each of us has an artist inside, wanting to express themselves (even if we don’t know it yet!).

You have now branched out into sharing your knowledge of art via online workshops. In the recent ’15 days, 15 layers’, free workshop (still available), you show us your use of the coldwax medium, and how to not be afraid of totally changing a painting! In fact one of your paintings ends up ending in 3 different ways and passes through many layers of colours. Each layer in fact could be a different painting in itself! What we learn from watching you, is not to be afraid of change, and that the journey is just as, if not more, important than the final outcome. Tell us a bit about this approach.

– I approach my art in an intuitive way. That means that I don’t know how the art will turn out before I finish the painting. I don’t know exactly what a painting will look like in its final form. I simply begin. Its a lot like the most wonderful and spontaneous adventure in a foreign land. You know, the kind where you don’t know the strangers that you will meet that eventually turn into great friends, the twists and turns your adventure will take, and how the final story will unfold. But if you pay attention along the way and are open to the journey, some unexpected and beautiful events will surely happen. Time and again, when I approach my art with this sense of adventure, this sense of trust in the process, the art unfolds in meaningful and beautiful ways as I respond to the painting in front of me. History is created in the painting, layer by layer. Some chapters are easier or more fluid than others, but they all contribute to the rich and wonderful history of each story, of each painting. Metaphorically, I put one foot in front of the other, one mark, shape, or color upon the canvas, and then respond to what is happening in front of me. It’s a lot like life  in that way I’d say.

Your painting has an emotional side to it: you want it to convey love and peace to the viewer. It has also been presented at the Healing Arts Gallery of the Monadnock Community Hospital. Tell us a bit about the healing power of art. 

– Art has the ability to transport us out of our comfort zone, into a world of possibilities. Creating art, and in my opinion abstract art, has the power to present the viewer or creator with limitless possibilities, wide open doorways, an imaginative and meditative world that feels just right. It can transport us from our armchairs to anywhere our imaginations can take us. In a world with an overdose of conflict and reality at the moment, What isn’t healing about that??

Abstract vs Representational: it’s a fine line between the two in your work. Would you agree?

– Absolutely! I like my art to walk that fine line between what we see and what we perceive! As a counselor I became acutely aware of how two people with identical circumstances could experience them in such different ways. I am so intrigued by our perceptions, our memories, our thoughts and how they influence our experience..I like for my art to have just enough of a sense of illusion of the unknown so that the viewer can interpret it in a way that they see fit.

There is also a Greek connection to your creative process.

-Yes there is a Greek connection! I first visited Greece and Naxos when I was 20 years old (a long time ago) when my own world was full of seemingly limitless possibilities. Now all these years later I have returned to Greece and hope to recreate that idea of limitless possibilities through art. I will be hosting art workshops and retreats at my studio in Naxos as soon as Covid will allow us (summer of 2021, or 2022- stay tuned!!).

* More more info, visit Lisa Mann’s website: http://www.lisamannfineart.com

  • The link to the ‘Creative Colour Challenge’ free workshop is here

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