“I’ve always enjoyed making things. In our house, art and creativity were the norms rather than the exception.”
Lisa Sabo Brown comes from a long line of artists. Her grandmother was a painter and ceramist, her mother an ardent ceramist and sculptor. Her father was an art director at the outset of television when everything was new and experimental. He would bring scrap paper home from work so the eight kids could draw on the backside. With these origins, Brown’s creative side flourished early. In kindergarten, she was dubbed the class artist and never looked back. In high school, she won an art scholarship that provided travel to Europe the summer after graduation. A long way from her Michigan roots, she visited countries from England to Italy and art museums from the Tate to the Uffizi. Through travel, she gained an appreciation for ancient art through contemporary art as well as love to travel. Upon her return, Brown studied fine art at Wayne State University. Located in Midtown Detroit, Wayne catered to hardworking, get-your-hands-dirty individuals, which fit Brown’s work ethic and aesthetic very well.
“Advertising taught me how to look at things differently and make a connection between how things look and what they mean. This is also how I approach my painting.”
With her BFA in drawing and painting in hand, Brown began a decades-long “American Diversity” | 10’ x 6’ career as an advertising creative. She found that her background in drawing and painting helped her to think differently about the relationship between style and message. Her art evolved during this period too; in the office, Brown’s commercial work emphasized clean lines and clear distinctions between topics, but in the studio, she started to explore more ambiguous spaces. She explored new ways to be messy and precise. Her work toys with the edges of the canvas as a way to leak into the gallery space. She likes to focus on moments and details that might otherwise be overlooked. That might be a leaf resting on a pool of water or the way one brush stroke interacts with another. Brown is now a full-time artist with studio space in the College Cultural District in Flint, Michigan.
“I want the viewer to be aware of the medium, the paint.”
Though Brown’s early paintings utilized oils, she soon changed to acrylics, preferring the spontaneity and immediacy of the medium. Her paintings are expressive and multi-layered, with rich colors and bold brush strokes. The subject matter of Brown’s paintings is inspired by life. Sometimes it is recognizable, often abstract. Representational subjects are treated with an eye toward the abstract. The influence of Jackson Pollack and abstract expressionism is evident but never determinative. Brown’s sense of adventure and is evident in her work and she invites the viewer to share in it.
“Sometimes, when I begin a painting, I think I know where it will go then it turns into something else. The painting will be what it needs to be.”
You come from a long line of artists in your family. Do you remember the moment when
you’ve discovered that art is your purpose? Tell us more about that.
Lisa: Because there were artists in the family, and art was an accepted part of life, my Ah-ha moment
may have been less pronounced than some. I remember in kindergarten the teacher holding up one
of my drawings and commenting I was the class artist. I liked the idea and just kind of went on from
How would you describe your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Lisa: My paintings are abstract. Colorful. Layered. Give the viewer much to engage with.
What is the most challenging part about working with acrylics? And what is the best part
about working with acrylics?
Lisa: With acrylics, the plus and the minus are the same. The drying time. Sometimes they seem to dry
too quickly but since I work layers on layers the quick drying time is a plus. I usually have more
than one painting going at a time so with acrylics I can move back and forth between them. The
momentum of that helps keep them fresh.
What is the message you are trying to give with your art?
Lisa: There’s a quote I like from Ralph Waldo Emerson “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the
miraculous in the common.” I can’t claim to be wise but I do like the reminder to look around at the
everyday. To recognize the beauty in the random. I find that my paintings often reflect what is going
on in my life.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a specific routine or process? How
much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork?
Lisa: It’s important for me to spend time in the studio every day. Even if I’m not feeling inspired just
showing up and doing something helps. Having spent a long time in advertising, when I decided
to paint full time I fashioned my routine to what I was used to. I usually spend the morning in the
studio painting. Break for lunch with my husband. More time in the studio. Then spend time on the
computer taking care of the business side of things. For the studio, I follow the idea of always leaving
something undone so you have a natural place to start the next day. I keep a running to-do list for
things I like to procrastinate about.
What is the process from start to a final artwork, do you envision it from the beginning or is
it a different process?
Lisa: I usually begin a painting with an idea of what it will be or what I’m trying to do. As the painting
progresses I have to be open to where the painting will take me. It can change a lot but ultimately it
will be what it needs to be.
What are you currently working on?
Lisa: I usually have several paintings going at a time. I’m trying to go between large paintings and pretty
small. They each take a different discipline and it keeps me on my toes to alternate. I also like to
paint on unstretched canvas so I’ve recently returned to that. It is more raw.
What artists influenced you the most and why besides your family?
Lisa: Looking at my work there is certainly a Jackson Pollock influence. Not just in the dribbling paint, he
is known for but his breakthrough attitude toward the medium being important in itself. I’m also a
big fan of many of his contemporaries as well. Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Lisa: “This speaks to me,” “This makes me happy.” “I can feel the energy.” I like to make a connection.
I know these have been said to others but when someone says it you it’s like they are
complimenting your child. You tend to believe them.
You also have a lot of experience in advertising. What is the best way to reach people that
are interested in your art?
Lisa: The biggest hurdle is to get noticed. Take part in shows. Have a website. Post on social media.
When I was working in advertising, I have to admit, social media was not my favorite part of a
campaign but I realize its very necessary. I’m getting ready to also do some more traditional
advertising. No one thing is going to work.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Lisa: Like for many artists COVID has certainly impacted this. Many things have been canceled. I do
have a show coming up in the Spring in my local area. Have others in the works waiting to see if
they can happen.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Lisa: Paint. Paint. And more paint. I’m experimenting with some
new techniques incorporating mixed media, and collage into my work. Seriously I’d like to just be
creative but I’m also learning the discipline of the business side.
To find out more about Lisa and her art please visit: