Interview with Arylic and Oil Painter Lisa Daria Kennedy
Artist Lisa Daria Kennedy knows many corners of the art world having worked as a product and surface designer, an adjunct professor and a workshop instructor. In 2009, Kennedy began her daily paintings, which means every day she wakes up and finishes a painting. To date she has painted over 2,500 daily painting.
For your daily paintings, you write that you use the same eight colors and the same surface each time.There are so many possibilities for acrylic artists. Have you always limited the variable? Why do you think it’s important to limit the variables you're working with?
I haven't always limited the variable. The daily painting project and the set limitations feed into each other. Before limiting the variable or creating rules for the project I felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the painting process. There were too many supplies on the market and as a result also in my studio. My studio time and work lacked focus and I reached for whatever medium or color within reach. At this time, each traditional painting session ended in frustration. I started researching oil painting techniques and simplified everything - the paint, the colors, the surface, even the subject matter and lastly, the amount of time spent on each painting. The rules act as a management tool which allow me to focus on the project and not the minutiae of the painting technique.
The rules have evolved over time and are as follows;
The daily paintings are;
- a specific size, 4 x 4" or 6 x 6"
- created that day between 5 and 8 a.m.
- painted from direct observation
- painted in an additive manner - mix a color, make a stroke and leave it.
When the painting is complete, I seldom go back into it - I might brighten a color or darken an area, but for the most part, I leave it alone - no fussing. Later I scan, date and title the painting in honor of something that happened that day - a sort of journal entry.
You work from life. Why not from photographs? What does life give you that photos can't?
Working from observation every day is a way to hone my skill, connect with the day itself and be in the moment. Working directly from life informs my ability to later work imaginatively or from memory, which is another component and a large piece of my studio practice.
Artists set their own schedule, which can be both liberating and maddening. What does a day generally look like? How important is schedule to you and why? How does that schedule permit general life things like exercise, grocery shopping, and friends or even larger pieces and new techniques?
Scheduling is a challenge. There are so many daily distractions if allowed, but I must show up for the job. I restrict social activities between 5 am and 4 pm - much like if I were working in-house for an employer, those hours are set aside for work. I break my day into 3-4 hour segments. If I work diligently for a predetermined set amount of time, I reward myself with other activities. For instance, I wake up each day at 5 and make my daily painting. Most mornings I allow until 8 a.m. for this practice. If I have extra time in the morning, I will reward myself by reading an article or book on art criticism. Sometime between 8 and 9, weather permitting, I'll walk the dog or go kayaking for an hour. I have friends that also enjoy these activities, so we often coordinate our time each day together - which combines the social and exercise. After this break, I head into the studio. In the studio, I work on much larger paintings and I paint in one hour increments.
Each one hour session is followed by a 15 minute break. During this break, I leave the studio - this allows me to remain fresh and engaged. Each hour in the studio is spent painting and not doing anything else. If I have computer work or sketches or drawings or new techniques I'm exploring those take place later on in the day or early evening. Although my laptop accompanies me into the studio so I can listen to online stories or music, I shut off all communication - no email, messaging or phones - I can return calls or messages during breaks. Tasks like grocery shopping take place during breaks or after a kayak or walk - and anything social after 4 pm is welcomed!
Your daily paintings are of flowers and you do larger interior pieces, but you are working on a body of work involving figurative women. How has what you learned painting daily flowers translated (or not translated) into figurative work? Have you had to start any learning from the beginning again?
I'm working with a totally different set of rules on the figurative and narrative pieces. For instance the paintings are not additive like the daily paintings but subtractive in process. These paintings are oil, large and take months. I've had to relearn how to address a canvas due to the shift in scale and medium. I learned that I cannot simply translate a small canvas to a larger one - the surface needs to be handled differently. I'm still interested in a spontaneous and fresh look and even though they are time consuming I do not want them to appear labored over. The best trick I've discovered for myself is setting a timer for one hour and working only until that hour is up. I find after one hour I talk myself out of decisions. The daily paintings translate into the larger work through observations in color and shape relationships.
You got your MFA at Massachusetts College of Art in 2013 after having a career as a graphic designer. What made you decide to pursue art school? What did art school teach you? What did it not teach you?
I attended art school in undergrad as well but my main focus was commercial art. I have worked as both a graphic designer and illustrator (and still do). I like to diversify my studio practices and commercial art is one such avenue because I like solving other people’s n design problems. My decision to go back for my MFA was a personal goal and challenge. After painting for three years, I wanted to broaden my studio practice and engage in a dialogue beyond what I already knew. I wanted to push my work and receive helpful, honest advice. The critiques in graduate school exposed me to critical ways of thinking and seeing. My undergraduate experience in art school taught me technique and persistence. Graduate school taught me to be resilient.
How have you approached the business side of your art? Where do you focus your marketing? Is it galleries or online?
I approach the business side of my art like any business - with a business plan. Although the trajectory of an artistic career might not be as direct as other fields, one must have a five year plan and goals. I keep a list with business, personal and professional goals. These goals are then broken down into smaller categories or tasks which make attaining the larger goals manageable. I also have a support group of other artists. We regularly share our plans and hold one another accountable by offering honest and helpful advice. I focus my marketing both online and galleries. Connecting online has resulted in a community of artists and resources that wasn't available just 15 years ago.
For those artists hoping to one day make a full time living from art, how long did it take you to get to being an artist full time and what advice would you give them?
I have always been a full time artist - every job I've ever taken after college has been in the art industry, but my focus has shifted from commercial to painting. I would recommend staying within the art field when looking for jobs. My best advice for artists hoping to make a full time living from art is simply to show up for the job - every day.
Kelly Anne Powers is a freelance writer for Creative Catalyst Productions. You can find her own almost (but not quite) daily art practice at KellyAnnePowers.com/news/blog