This month we are featuring Lisa Bernstein for the Capitol Hill Art League’s Mind of the Artist series. Read Lisa’s story and check out her artwork below.

You can view more of Lisa’s artwork here:

Art has always been my way of escaping from, and engaging with, the world. My earliest memories are of drawing pictures, especially of animals and birds. I started painting watercolors when I was in junior high school. Even though I continued drawing and painting, I never considered myself an artist. I thought that artists knew they were meant to be, and I was not one of the anointed.

Summer Bouquet

I studied abroad in Paris my junior year of college, and found my way to the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Montparnasse, where I did open study nude figure painting in oil, alongside art students from other parts of Europe, and many from Japan. Serendipitously, my next-door neighbor in the attic chambre de bonne (maid’s quarters) I was renting was an art student from Argentina, who had come to study at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, but had stayed eight years to continue painting on her own. Laura and I spent evenings painting together over baguettes with Bonne Maman preserves and instant coffee.

Rock Creek Park Golden Hour

Once I returned to the U.S., marriage, children, graduate school, divorce, work, and single motherhood left me less and less time to paint.  At some point, I became blocked and could not even take up a brush or face the blank canvas.

Marshall the Cat

After too many years, in April 2019 I took a weekend workshop with Artists U in Baltimore at a friend’s suggestion, and I began painting again, first water colors and then oils. I took a few classes with the Smithsonian Associates, and started meeting artists who helped me find my way back to the painting self I was meant to be. It has taken me thirty-six years to get back to my own sense of self and to the love of art I had buried.

Leafy Arbor Steps

I find inspiration for my painting in my surroundings, and from family and friends. In my neighborhood, on my walks to the library and the nearby Arboretum, I take photos on my phone, and I collect other people’s photos of people, pets, and places that are important to them. After I sold my first major painting, I used the money to buy a plein air easel, so that I can paint from life. I always have multiple paintings in process at the same time, so that when I feel stuck with one, I put it away and work on another. Later, I go back to a painting after a week or more, and can see it with new eyes. My non-painting life revolves around language for expressing ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Painting is for me a means of escaping the intermediary of words, to represent and access the immediacy of senses and emotions. I strive to put what I see and feel around me into paintings to create a record of memories for myself and for others.

Duplex Diner

IG: @art_escapes_by_lisa

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