Welcome to the first installation of our monthly 10/10 interviews. Each month, UART will feature interviews of a pastel or colored pencil artist. We will ask each artist ten questions followed by ten rapid fire questions. The idea was to have fun and share with you a slice of life of some of the most talented artists in the pastel industry.
You may or may not already know Lisa. But you have definitely seen her paintings. For all of you who have purchased our products, you may have asked yourselves who is the artist featured on all of UART’s packaging?
Lisa Ober has been a dedicated UART fan from the get-go. The native Missourian has been a major factor in the growth of our company, promoting the brand wherever she goes and helping us understand how to offer a better product for the artists. We felt it was the smallest thing we could do to introduce our new monthly interviews with Lisa. We hope you enjoy her art as much as you enjoy discovering the person behind the art.
UART: Can you tell us more about yourself and your background?
Lisa: For as long as I can remember, probably since birth, I wanted to be an artist. I had a grandma who was a self-taught artist, who had a studio set aside for her artwork that mesmerized me. I dreamt of growing up and having my own room to paint and to paint like she did. She did a lot of portraits and that was really the first thing that I was interested in. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, coloring and learning tricks and tips on how to draw and a little bit of painting. That’s what got me started.
I was always from the St. Louis area, though I’ve lived other places. The sort of running joke here in St. Louis is “You may leave but you always come back.” So I did come back, but all through grade school, middle school, high school and college I did art. I started doing portraits for extra money when I was in college and I never did anything else really. I had a couple side jobs here and there for supplemental income but that’s it. I did a one year stint as a customer service manager for a home improvements company and realized I am not cut out for office work. I fell asleep at my desk every day at 11:30am.
UART: Why did you choose pastels as a medium?
Lisa: It’s funny because I actually don’t remember where I got introduced to pastel. I think it was my grandmother who had a set of Rembrandt pastels and a little art book on how to paint a face in pastel. I remember practicing with those and then you don’t get any pastel training in college, which to me is a crying shame, but I had that little taste of it from my grandma so when I started doing portraits for extra money in school, I thought what’s the fastest, most immediate, nicest looking and most rewarding medium I could pick to get these done in a reasonable amount of time for people? I think I just picked up pastels.
UART: Can you describe for us a typical day in the life of Lisa Ober?
Lisa: The alarm goes off at about 11:30am or noon. I spend most of my afternoon meeting with clients, taking reference photos or, every once in a while, working at the gallery that I co-own. Then I get to come home, have dinner with the family and immediately go to work downstairs in the studio, which is in my home. That I do from anywhere from 3pm until 4am. That’s pretty typical. At least from 7pm until 4am.
UART: What are some artists you grew up admiring?
Lisa: Daniel Greene probably was the biggest inspiration of them all. He is a portrait artist. He does other things as well. I think when I was 15 years old I went to a demonstration that he did in my town that awed me. I was stunned at the results he was able to get with pastel. He mentioned brands I had never heard of before and then I began paying attention more to the materials I was using. That was great, he’s superb!
UART: If you did not become a painter, what would have done?
Lisa: If there was a job where you could eat, talk on the phone and meet people, I would have done that job, whatever that is. Maybe food critic? As long as they don’t mind me just constantly repeating “That was fantastic! This was really great!”
UART: Can you say your style has changed/evolved over the years?
Lisa: I think that it has evolved, I don’t know that it has changed. I’ve always been orientated towards representational work and realism. That’s where the challenge is for me, to try and convey that in different ways and those ways change over time, whether it’s changing technique, changing materials, changing color, changing composition. The hope is that helps your work evolve over time.
UART: What is the most challenging aspect of working with pastels?
Lisa: The sensitivity to damage before it’s framed. The ease with which you can destroy a really good painting by getting your elbow in it. Part of that problem has really been solved with papers like UART. It used to be that pastels sat on the top of the paper, not really penetrating any part of the surface, which was much more susceptible to damage than it is now.
UART: What is the most rewarding aspect of working with pastels?
Lisa: It’s still the same thing for me. It’s the immediacy of it. That it is instantly rewarding. You don’t have to wait for anything to dry and quickly, before your eyes you can have a pretty believable realistic painting.
UART: What advice would you give someone who is just starting with pastels?
Lisa: Never give up on pastel. It is worth the reward. It is worth the few little challenges that it poses, like the susceptibility, the smearing. It is worth figuring out a work around for that because the luminosity you get with pastels is spectacular. The amount of layers and textures you can create in pastel is rewarding. If you don’t give up on pastel you will end up loving it.
UART: What projects are you working on at the moment?
Lisa: Right now I am looking at about 28 more commissions before the end of the year. They are a mix of people portraits, animal portraits, a few landscapes and still life. It’s kind of all over the board, so that’s one project. The second is increasing my workshop schedule for upcoming years. To me, that’s the best way to share the materials I work with and spread the fun of working in pastel. Doing those demos and workshops is a great way to get other people involved in pastel painting.
Lisa’s Rapid Fire Questions:
Favorite Food: Steak
Favorite Drink: Diet Pepsi
Favorite color to work with: Fuchsia
Most amazing place you’ve been: Jamaica
Next place to visit: Europe
Favorite brand of pastels: Unison, Terry Ludwig. Sennelier, Caran D’ache cubes, Mount Vision and Diane Townsend.
3 things you can’t live without: A car, people, great food options
Band/singer/artist of the moment: Anything heavy metal
Last book you read: “What’s So Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey
First thing you do in the morning: Coffee
You can find more information about Lisa on her website: www.lisaober.com