Lisa McShane is an artist in Bow, Washington. She paints expansive, beautiful open air landscapes, waterscapes and treescapes. Her studio is bright and airy and filled with canvases. They are stacked against the walls, propped on tables, up on easels, hidden away in shelving and hanging on all of the vertical surfaces.
The amount of colors that she had to choose from was incredible. She showed us how she does blending to get some of her signature colors for her nocturne (night) pieces and shared with us the technique of layering to get the shiny depth in the night sky.
“One thing I often tell people who are starting out is the sky is never blue,” Lisa said as she mixed white with a couple shades of green together to create the perfect color for her sky.
One of the things that I appreciate about Lisa’s approach to her art is that she is consistent in her diligent practice and application of her work and craft. It is clear, viewing her years of painting, that she has honed her skills and continued to improve, never staying with one style or landscape for long, always pushing herself to improve her composition, style, technique and vision.
“Most artists are very rigorous in their schedules. It takes a lot of time and it’s not easy and it’s frustrating and you don’t know if others will respond to it,” Lisa said. “But you just have to spend a lot of time in your studio painting. Just know there is no substitute for painting—you just always have to be painting.”
As she talked, Lisa worked, laying down very thin layers of paint. It didn't look like much, but when taken in a cumulative effect, it’s clear the multiple layers of subtle colors create something bigger than the individual parts.
“You know, I’ll tell you something that really struck me really strongly at my last show,” Lisa said. “So they hung the show at Smith and Valley and I walked in and there was an entire wall of paintings of early dawn and it really hit me in the gut how many hours I spend looking at the early dawn. I get up early, I watch the sun go up almost every day and then I’m always like looking for sunset. And just the power of an artist’s focus on something and always thinking about the light and what colors I can use to create what I see. So, a lot of creativity is about observation and putting things together that weren’t together before and always a lit bit of emotion.”
When she started to glaze trees that looked perfectly finished already, it didn’t seem that perfection could be improved upon. But her subtle ministrations added depth and shade to the trees. It made me think about those tiny little details when we’re making soap: the perfect placement of the petal on the loaf of soap, the extra dash of titanium dioxide to get the color just right or the ideal mold and color design for the fragrance choice.
While most of her inspiration comes from the early mornings or evenings, sometimes she sees something that causes her to stop and take a picture. She takes that picture back to her studio and sketches it, trying to recapture what it was that caused her to pause in the first place.
“That’s how a lot of paintings start: that mix of experience and emotion.”
When she started to glaze trees that looked perfectly finished already, it didn’t seem that perfection could be improved upon. But her subtle ministrations really added depth and shade to the trees. It made me think about those tiny little details when we’re making soap; the perfect placement of the petal on the loaf of soap, the extra dash of titanium dioxide to get the color just right or the ideal mold and color design for the fragrance choice.
I loved visiting her studio and came away inspired to keep pushing the boundaries and limits on what I can achieve with the pigments at my disposal. By adding brown or black to some of the more vibrant colors, I can tone them down and create more moody batches of soap. I can (and should) get back to blending more colorants to take advantage of every color in the spectrum.
If you’d like to see Lisa’s work, head to her website.