2 easels with 2 of Lisa Garrison's paintings in the Paint Studio

Paint Studio Demo Artist Lisa Garrison

Lisa Garrison will be in the Paint Studio demonstrating painting light with watercolor noon–3 pm on February 15-16, 2020. The Paint Studio is included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and under.

Lisa Garrison is an award-winning artist from Littleton, Colorado. She began painting in 2009 while living in Illinois, focusing on realistic watercolors. Her watercolor paintings are created with layers of glazes, bringing out the reflection and contrast of light and shadow.

Lisa is passionate about teaching and demystifying the unpredictability of watercolor. As a data analyst by trade, she is very detail oriented and equally left-brained and right-brained. Watercolor is a fluid medium that can be difficult to control and adjust. She enjoys teaching the planning and forethought that realistic watercolor painting requires and teaching others how to be successful with the medium.

Her work has been exhibited in many national juried exhibitions in Colorado and New York. Her paintings have also been seen in Tatler magazine.

Lisa currently works out of her home in Centennial, Colorado, where she lives with her family.

Art is magic. There’s release in the creation of it and in the viewing of it. Everyone benefits with more art in our lives and I’m so thankful that I can help provide that through teaching.

– Lisa Garrison
a vase flanked by 2 wine glasses with sugar skulls on them
Life, Death, and Wine by Lisa Garrison. © and courtesy of Lisa Garrison.

What will your demo at the DAM look like? What can visitors expect?

I’ll be working on my new series of paintings, so everyone will get a sneak peek. I’ll have paintings in multiple stages so people can get a look into my painting process and how my paintings evolve. I’ll also have paintings from my most recent food and drink series on display.

You reference a variety of motifs and subject matter in your paintings, ranging from abstract to still life paintings and portraits. Can you explain some of these choices?

I paint what inspires me in the moment. I’ve evolved over the years and so has my work. I don’t confine myself to a medium, subject, or style because I create art to help me feel free.

I began painting watercolor flowers. They were an excellent subject to master my watercolor painting techniques because I would build my paintings up in layers and work on individual petals while other parts of the painting were drying. My flower paintings were pretty, but once I felt comfortable with the medium I wanted to explore other subject matter that had more meaning to me.

My most recent body of work focused on light and reflections in glass, especially wine glasses and bottles. I think the way light goes through liquid and the reflections are beautiful. I also really enjoy text, so I incorporated wine labels and corks in many of them.

However, the amount of detail made me feel confined and I wanted to feel free again so I started exploring other media and more abstract subjects. I then got into abstract pastels, which made me feel so incredibly free—like I could express all of my emotions even if I didn’t understand them. Art is extremely therapeutic for me and I needed to find a new way to express myself.

Most recently, I went on vacation to Iceland and was awestruck by the Icelandic landscape and my experience there. I’m currently working on a series of watercolor paintings based on photos I took in Iceland, which will be more abstract.

I also teach watercolor and it’s important that I’m proficient in as many areas as possible. I’m currently teaching Portraits in Watercolor at the Park Hill Art Club and have plans to teach other classes this summer.

Is there anything that you think about before painting? What is your process for beginning a new work?

I’m always interested in contrast—light, dark, and reflections. Once I get inspired by a subject, I start by making thumbnail sketches in graphite to work out the composition and values. I work from reference photos. Most, I take spontaneously in the moment when I see something that inspires me. My still lifes were staged, sketched, and photographed.

What do you hope people see or feel when viewing your work? Are there any takeaways or outcomes from your demo that you hope people will leave with?

With my food and drink paintings, I wanted people to remember times with their friends and family. So much of our time spent together is in the kitchen or at bars and restaurants. We use food and drink as a means to connect with each other. Those paintings aren’t so much about the subject itself, but about the people you’re with at the time.

My new body of work is a series of paintings inspired by a recent trip to Iceland. The people who founded Iceland left their home and all that they knew in search of a better life. The land that they discovered was new and exciting, with had no native humans. Completely uncharted territory. There was so much risk in that move and so much faith in settling there. Also so much danger, because the island is an active volcano with harsh winters and rough seas. It’s a land created from fire and ice.

I connected with Iceland on so many levels. I got divorced in 2016 and I didn’t grow up knowing any split families. I also have two kids. I had no idea how to handle it and I was terrified. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but also the bravest. I decided to chart a new land, one I had no idea how to navigate or whether I would survive, but I had the faith that it would be better. I had so many emotions. I felt like I was made of fire and ice.

Iceland was the perfect place for me to visit because it was scary, dangerous, and exciting. The landscape was so incredibly beautiful and unique, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. All of that is what I want to convey in my Iceland paintings. I want people to feel strength, power, and wonder—the excitement of a new adventure.

Why do you teach?

I started teaching beginning watercolor because I wanted to pay forward what a great teacher did for me. I tried to teach myself watercolor painting over a decade ago and wasn’t getting the results I wanted. While I was living in Illinois I saw a sign for a beginning watercolor class at Hobby Lobby and signed up. My teacher, Peggy McGahan, explained watercolor in such a way that I understood it. She also helped me understand how important the quality of the paint and paper, which was causing most of my frustration.

Art has always been a release for me; it’s my form of meditation. There have been times in my life that I didn’t create any art for months at a time, and I learned that I need it to be happy. When I started teaching beginning watercolor, I was surprised by how many people said they came to my class because they were feeling lonely, depressed, or grieving and were either encouraged by a therapist to take an art class or came on their own intuition. Although it surprised me, I complete relate to that, because I do that for myself. I also know friends and family who have used art as formal therapy to help overcome grief and trauma.

Art is magic. There’s release in the creation of it and in the viewing of it. Everyone benefits with more art in our lives and I’m so thankful that I can help provide that through teaching.

What are you up to next? Where can visitors see more of your work?

I’m showing two of my new Iceland paintings at SYNC Gallery from February 20 to March 14. The opening reception is February 21 from 5:30 to 9 pm. I’m continuing to teach watercolor classes at Park Hill Art Club. I’ve also created free introductory tutorials for anyone interested in learning a bit more about watercolor painting. I’ll be expanding my tutorials later this year.

You can visit my website to learn about exhibitions, classes, and view and purchase artwork. You can also sign up for my newsletter and download my PDF tutorials.

Full disclosure—I recently got married again and will be changing my name to Lisa Riannson in the near future, so keep an eye out for my new work under my new name as well.

Lindsey Bell is a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum.

Read more on: Colorado artists studio