Tampa pop art artist Lisa Landsman is living, in her own words, “the perfect life.”
By Jenny Carey
Her artwork is in demand, she has a wonderful family and a great job. Artists often are disappointed when another vocation takes them outside of their own studio. Lisa Landsman has managed to let it inspire her best work.
She juxtaposes the elements in her day-to-day environment with her own artistic style. Her day job has become her muse. Landsman creates neo-pop wildlife paintings and mixed media pieces. The paintings contain the vibrant colors and geometric shapes that personify pop art, with a twist in content. She changes the content from the urban, consumer elements found in television, magazines or comics of popular culture (hence the pop) and includes the insects and animals she is exposed to daily at The Florida Aquarium.
For the viewer, and those who own the work, the change in content doesn’t matter. The works contain a sense of optimism and warmth, while the geometric patterns and shapes define the painting.
Landsman’s artist bio describes how she “showed an interest in he visual arts at a very young age. Her parents encouraged this by enrolling her in various coursework in art technique.” Landsman’s mother even went so far as to enroll her in art classes with nude models when she was only 12 or 13. Her mother was not deterred when administrators required a parental signature on a waiver form.
The well-rounded, maternally nutured arts background still left time for Landsman’s other childhood interest, zoology. It was her love of science that took center stage during college; Landsman graduated with a degree in biology. It has turned out to be a fortuitous choice.
She says, “I went on to work in my field and yet continued art on the side. For a while, I painted masterpiece reproductions by artists such as Miro, Picasso and Matisse, all the obvious ones, for an art reproduction company. I learned great technique but didn’t have my own style. That really developed when I came to The Florida Aquarium.”
It is there that Landsman meticulously researches the environmental requirements, including light for the insects and animals. Her paintings feature many of these animals, including grasshoppers, frogs and red ants. She says she always has “a running list of animals that are cool” to paint.
Landsman’s work is large in scale. Paintings can be up to 60 inches, which can make for a large animal or insect element, yet the background still seems to take center stage. Unique considering when beginning a painting, whether for commission or for her own body of work, “the animal or insect definitely comes first.”
Landsman says, “I create the background based on the animal’s habitat/environment and behavior. Sometimes, the colors I use are also based on their natural environment.”
The painting titles come from “quirky behavioral descriptions of the species. For instance, ‘In Search of a Little Amplexus’ was the title of a painting of a frog climbing up a tree branch – amplexus refers to its mating habits. ‘Follow the High Pheromone Road’ is the title of a painting of red ants marching across a canvas of flames because their movements are based on pheromone levels.”
As with all artwork, much can be learned from a conversation with the artist. While the inclusion of animals and insects in her artwork demands the wildlife component be added by description, she says, “Pop art is how I like to be categorized.”
The work is hard-edged, with the geometric backgrounds and other various geometric aspects outlined. The paintings are all freehand, created with a small paintbrush used to paint the details of the outline.
Landsman professes to be organized and methodical. She says, “It is reflected in my paintings. The perfect geometric shapes are what appeals to me visually.” She is very attracted to mid-century modern design.
“Most of the time, the shapes represent something. For instance, in ‘The Pollinator’ ( a bumblebee painting), the circles in the background represent the flower. In another piece called ‘Ride With Me,’ the geometric background represents a carousel.”
In a painting called “Picasso Triggerfish,” she says, “the stripes represent layers of water in the ocean. I paint in sections of light and color to define dimensions.”
Landsman paints in acrylic, though early on she used oils but quickly lost patience for the slow drying medium. She creates a painting and usually, unless it is a commission, reproduces the work in prints.
Her work attracted the attention of designers working on the 2004 Coastal Living Idea House and her paintings were featured in the Idea House and the magazine. The results of the exposure – lots of commissions.
Landsman is not represented in a gallery locally. She is part of the new generation of artists that have made having a web site a financial benefit. Her commissions come in part from word of mouth but often are generated by her web site.
The web site www.lisakarenward.com has an online gallery of past and current work. Besides the animal and insect paintings, it features some of her commissioned work in lifestyles, abstracts and florals.
Landsman is very active in the local art community as a core member of the artist collective, Gala Corina, and a member of BRAVA, a critique group of women artists, among other endeavors. She makes it a commitment because she wants to be a part of “showing the community that Tampa is an artsy town.”
Landsman only works at the aquarium two days a week but loves the job. It leaves plenty of time for her husband, young daughter and art.
Her work now, Landsman says, “is inspired by her love of zoology and entomology, conservation, pop art, mid-century modern design, bold color and a desire to create an appreciation for the most unloved of earth’s beneficial creatures.”
She admits she is fortunate. “I’ve never had to make up my mind between biology and art. It’s the perfect life.”
Landsman is a fifth-generation Tampanian. Her family owned one of the original cigar factories in Ybor City, Arango y Arango. She is married to John Landsman and has a daughter, Adelaide. Visit her web site at www.lisakarenward.com.