From Cleveland to New York City, Artist Don Lisy Brings His Abstract, Emotive Style to the Fine Art World

don lisy

Photos Credit: Don Lisy

From his upbringing in Cleveland to his big move to New York City, Don Lisy took to the notion that expression through art is as close to the core as one can get. From there, Lisy reshaped his life from a drummer in a band to a full-time visual artist with his own distinct style.

The creation of art involves much more than putting brush to canvas, and Lisy has developed his own technique that has become an integral part of his visual style. His works—many large in size, energy, and zeal—are completed in just one sitting. His tireless process results in paintings which emit a bold passion by way of vibrant brush strokes. His unique work and abstract perspective have landed him in galleries and exhibitions throughout New York, Italy, Germany, and more. In between series and shows, Lisy took the time to tell JustLuxe about his paintings, process, close relationship to color, and just how New York has become an integral part of his work.

don lisy

How did your interest in art begin? What was your first major project?

My interest began in the 5th grade. I was in Cleveland in art class, and that week the focus was on one-point perspective. So I drew a city with tall buildings and a road down the center. Of course, being an 11 year old boy, many of the buildings had been damaged by explosions or were in the process of being blown up during a bank heist/gun battle that was raging. Somehow, the art teacher selected it to be hung in the hallway and I received an award for it. My first major project was making my decision to go to art school and begin the process of getting my portfolio ready to submit to the Cleveland Institute of Art.

What do you believe are your main sources of inspiration?

I’m inspired by the incredible gift I was given to paint. To be more specific, the process and the subtle changes that come along with working such as the types of paint, surface, and more recently the size.

Are there any artists or artistic movements that influence you?

The top three influences in my work have been Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele & Frank Auerbach. The way each of them handle paint has informed some of the techniques I use. My work has been compared to the New York school of action painters, however, I don’t feel that my work is derivative from any one school.

don lisy

How is working in New York different from working in Ohio? How has this transition impacted your work?

NYC has changed my work in a number of ways. First, my Ohio work was all done on an easel or with the paper taped to a wall so the top and bottom were defined at the beginning. My NYC work has all been done flat on the ground working on my hands and knees, which has given my work more freedom to develop without having to define the top until almost the end.

Second, my Cleveland paintings and drawings were heavier, darker. In NYC I have embraced the negative space. The paintings and drawings breathe, and have more contrast and depth. Last fall I began to paint on a larger scale so I am not able to reach across the entire surface kneeling on the ground. Now, I have to decide the top much earlier in the process and also stand the painting up to finish it.

Why is it that you complete a piece in one sitting? How do you know when a piece is finished?

When I was at the Cleveland Institute of Art, beginning to work with oils I always found myself excited and inspired in the morning and in the afternoon the painting would be lost. It would becoe overworked and muddy, which was easy because of oil's slow drying time. One evening, I completely re-worked a painting assignment that was due the next morning. After a flurry of activity, I was quite happy with the results so it seemed my working pace and going with compulsion was how I painted. After I left CIA, I really began developing my process. Over years of refinement, I learned to listen to myself and trust my instincts.

Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship with color? What are some correlations between color and emotional energy you’ve worked with?

As for color, I typically make the decision right before I begin to paint. Lately, I have been using 4 colors per painting (up from 3 last summer). The colors are chosen based on how I’m feeling that day with respect to combinations I have used lately.

don lisy

What are you up to now?

Obsessing over my next painting!

What would you like the viewer to take away from your work?

I want the viewer to have a reaction no matter positive or negative. Indifference is what insults me. I'm looking for the viewer to connect with my work on any level. For example, my mom loves what she considers to be "pretty colors" in my paintings and she would email me periodically to let me know how the painting she owned was treating her lately. 

Where can people see your work?

I will be in two exhibitions both curated by the Creators Collective. The first, will be a Spring Party on Saturday May 13th, at Salzy 506 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215. The second is a three week group exhibition titled “Human Connection” opening on Thursday, July 27th at 100 Bogart Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206.

don lisy

Carly Zinderman

Carly Zinderman is a Senior Staff Writer for JustLuxe, based just outside of Los Angeles, CA. Since graduating from Occidental College with a degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies, she has written on a variety of topics for books, magazines and online publications, but loves fashion and style best. In her spare time, when she?s not writing, Carly enjoys watching old movies, reading an...(Read More)

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