In Her Element: Artist Lisa Graham
The Colorado artist's work evokes memories for people or feelings of place and time in their lives
Lisa Graham was 20 years into a nursing career when her art life began. “I sat down with colored pencils and drew a chair,” she says.
Forty-something at the time, Graham was stunned by her own assessment: “I could not believe I drew it!” Excited to keep going, Graham tried landscapes, shoes, backpacks and people. She copied Monet, van Gogh and the work of other artists who inspired her.
After a couple of classes at the CityArts center in Wichita, Kansas, where she lived at the time, Graham continued to teach herself, working to develop a style of her own.
That style—a bit of folk art, still life and whimsy—along with a blog, drew attention and encouragement from the art community. An Etsy account followed, and Graham’s work—mostly small vignettes, typically no larger than 16 by 12 inches— has found a loving audience.
Another benefit of her art awakening was that it allowed Graham to shift away from nursing to care for her critically ill mom. During that time together, she discovered that her mom was an art lover and museum-goer, a sweet connection that deepened their bond.
After her mom passed away, Graham’s husband landed a job in Colorado, prompting their 2018 move to Castle Rock. She now works from a loft studio at home, enjoying the companionship of her golden retriever, Hurley, and the freedom to paint what she wants when she wants. That usually translates to a few hours a day.
Her pieces are focused—a button-down shirt tilted on a hanger, an old settee, a dog looking over a windowsill…and lots of chairs. She comes back to chairs, because they represent where she started—and also because she loves them. “I used to have a collection of real chairs. There’s so much charm in them. When you go to an antique shop and there’s a little chair sitting in the corner for $10 or $15, it’s hard to resist.”
Graham’s art fans tell her that her pieces transport them to somewhere familiar. ”What I hear a lot is that it reminds people of something they’ve experienced or of something from their past. I love that it evokes memories for people or feelings of place and time in their lives,” she says. “I’m humbled by it, because it’s the reason I buy art myself.”