Lisa Gilley

When I'm not in the studio I am paddling the rivers of the Puget Sound, riding my horses, and hiking in the our Mountains. I've lived in Washington state my whole life. Raised in the Skagit Valley farmlands, I now have my own farm on Marrowstone Island. You could say my hands are planted in the dirt, my feet in our tidelands. I've always been drawn to to the narrative landscape paintings of the Early American Modernists, such as Rockwell Kent and Georgia O'Keeffe. There work, as many other artists of their time, placed importance upon an individual's ability to experience direct and powerful emotional experiences in nature. Maybe this is why my paintings always seem to come back to the land, no matter what.  I was raised on it; I live on it; and I want it to remain unscathed. There is a sign at the rim of the Grand Canyon which reads: One minute, don't read, don't talk, no photos, just look....and see. When I saw that sign I said to myself, this is why I make my art.


For years I worked in soft pastels, building layer upon layer with finite strokes to enhance the movement and depth of space. But then I discovered oil. And I have carried that same technique into my oil paintings, now using layers of glazes until I finally arrive at the right depth of realism—even though the content often borders on abstract. Towards the end of making a painting I use the tiniest brushes. They help me apply the rules of Chiaroscuro to increase the drama. I spend obsessive amounts of time in a small area such as a mountain peak or a slice of a stream. Each fragment becoming its own experience for me. "Little paintings within paintings" is what a friend once said about my work. When layers of oil paint glazes are laid onto a board or canvas, they continue to cure and dance as the painting ages. This is why I chose to work in oil, because of its ability to enhance the movement already intentionally laid down by my brushstrokes. All in hope to create its opposite effect—to invite the viewer to experience stillness. Just for a moment. Just long enough to notice that which surrounds us.

Artist Biography

Upper Teklanika (denali National Park, Alaska) :: 49" x 91" | Oil on Board | 2014