Inspired by the Environment with Lisa Williams

Inspired by the Environment with Lisa Williams

July 23, 2018

Lisa Williams is inspired by colour, depth, and light. She forms a connection as she works on each piece and hopes to bring out the emotions, creating something that is more evocative. Lisa likes to generate a hint of drama in her art, taking advantage of the elements.

South African artist, Lisa Williams at work in her studio


What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?

There was plenty of art happening around me as I grew up. My mom is an art teacher. I initially became interested in photography and in more recent times I have become attached to the paintbrush. I started to experiment by splashing wall paint and turpentine around along with a couple of acrylics and found the effects exciting. My passion for the craft began to take off. My art takes me to another place.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I use vibrant contrasting colours. I feel you need to have something to look at and every time you do, you see something new. I believe a painting needs to have meaning. Certain elements should pop out at you. This is why I like to work on that sense of depth.

What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?

I began painting seascapes because I love the ocean, and it was the sense of tranquillity that inspired me. However, it is exciting working with more colour and creating a touch of drama, yet, nothing that is frightening.

What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?

My surroundings. Wild waves, dark, stormy clouds and fires that have been set off in the background. Sometimes, I paint something which has touched me. I hope to touch people with my work as well.

"A Breathe of Fire", Lisa Williams, Mixed Media on Canvas, 102x77cm, 2018


Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, may be even other artists?

My mom encouraged me to be creative as I was growing up. I have always loved the way Monet uses the light and how he incorporates colour with this.  I have been inspired by the powerful works of John Constable and William Turner since I was still at school. I love the mood that they set.  Some of the work of Georgia O’Keefe is really beautiful as well. She was way ahead of her time, and as a woman this is something I admire because she made a statement for herself. Gerhard Richter is a favourite because of this use of colour.

When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?

At the moment, water based oils are my preferred medium. Sometimes I use acrylics as well, and I often use a glaze or medium. I use a palette knife a large majority of the time.

When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?

There is some emotion that is involved here. It can be part of my journey or something that has happened to someone else. Sometimes you don’t have the words – as the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words. However, sometimes, it is an image I have in my head or a photo I took of a couple of clouds just before the sun went down.

Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?

As I’m inspired by my surroundings or a particular situation, I will have that image in my head. If I can, I will take a picture. It often happens that the painting may take a new direction as it develops.

"Creeping Through", Lisa Williams, Acrylic on Canvas, 81x29cm, 2018


Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?

I’m quite random, which is not great. I like some variety. I usually paint in the evening when things are quiet and when I have completed admin and the likes.

When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?

Usually I like to work on two different pieces. I rotate them because should I get stuck with one, I feel that it is a good idea to take a couple of deep breaths and move onto something else for a while. It can give you some variety at times. Occasionally, you also need to wait a day or two for further inspiration.

How has your art evolved to be where it is today?

Initially, I was trying to find a style that would sell. I gave up on that semi abstract, and allowed my style to develop naturally. I now, enjoy the way I paint.

Which of your artworks are you most proud off?

I can’t really say that there is one piece in particular that I am proud of. There are definitely pieces that I completed at various stages which are meaningful in different ways.

If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?

I love Florence and Rome. It would be great to go back here during the Renaissance period for a short while. There was so much going on. So many developments. People were passionate about the creative process. Humanism is an interesting philosophy that artists bring out during this time.  

"Two Sides", Lisa Williams, Mixed Media on Canvas, 61x46cm, 2018


What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?

Artists are fortunate to be living in this digital age. However, there are certainly obstacles and it is important to be aware of these.

What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?

Just to enjoy it. Don’t set your goals and your aspirations too high. Don’t look for a certain style so that you can market your work according to a trend. Your style will develop over time. If you have a passion for the craft, you will sell your work.

Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is their another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?

Portraits always bring out the best in people. Those that are painted in a more abstract fashion tell you so much, in my opinion. I’m definitely drawn to that, and maybe will explore it in the future.


"Connecting", Lisa Williams, Oil on Canvas, 102x77cm, 2018


We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go?

Knowing when enough is enough? I have learned the hard way. I tend to overdo things. I will feel that I need to persist with something when in fact you may be doing more harm than good. Less is more would be a good way of thinking before deciding whether you need to pick up the paintbrush again.

Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expressing your creative nature?

Everyone is different. I don’t get involved in politics – not for the time being, anyway. I do try and convey a message which will hopefully trigger the emotions. Recently I painted something relating to the devastation of the recent volcanoes which were in the news. I will paint something like this so we don’t forget it, so we don’t forget what people went through, the lives that were lost. Great tragedies are so quickly forgotten.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve started a diptych. I have just completed a rectangular piece using copper acrylic. It is a moody blue skyscape. Now I am beginning with the second canvas. I’m quite excited about it.

"A Beautiful Devastation", Lisa Williams, Oil on Canvas, 101x76cm, 2018


Have you ever been part of an artistic group / movement? How did your work benefit from that experience?

At the moment, I am involved in art therapy. This is a group that is organized for older people. Many of the people have had strokes and can’t move very well. But art therapy has proven to be incredibly effective for everyone. The non-verbal process is hugely important. I can see this with my own journey.

When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?

I plan to have an exhibition at the end of the year. It will be a group exhibition. It is in Cape Town in a community where people are interested in art. There will be different artists displaying their works here.

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