by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Alisha Vernon, local painter and co-founder of LUMIN Art Studios, is driven by an inner world that emerges when her brush meets canvas. By expressing her thoughts, emotions and feelings through paint, she defines the world around her and shares her experiences with all who view her work.
Growing up on the Oregon coast with a painter for a father helped to integrate art into her life from an early age. “Because my dad was a painter also, he could really keep me entertained with markers and paints,” she recalls. “I have fond memories of going to his evening painting classes with him when I was little, and I would walk around and bother the other artists until he set me up with a little canvas and paints of my own.”
High school art classes and an influential art teacher, Mr. Widder, helped Vernon continue to develop her skills, and despite trying her best to not major in art in college (in favor of a more career-oriented discipline), she ultimately graduated as an art major after realizing the inevitability of her passion.
“From there I didn’t really know what to do or how to sell paintings,” she said, “So I just started blogging and sharing some of the paintings I had done in my classes; the selling part just happened.”
Her first sale came from someone in Australia who found one of her paintings in a Google image search. “I had never sold anything before, so I put on my ‘fake it till you make it’ personality and made up a price, and figured out how to ship it to Australia,” she laughed.
When Vernon gave birth to her son five years ago, her painting took a back seat to motherhood, but when the family moved to Bend two years ago and her son started preschool, Vernon jumped back in.
“I wanted to make some friends I could relate to, so I started the Young Women’s Artist Group of Bend,” she said. “The Meetup group attracted a lot of really great motivated artist women.
“At the same time I wanted to start doing some painting out of the house, so started looking for studios,” she explained. “I was open to sharing it with a group or finding a place just for myself, and when I saw the studio space [in Tumalo], I knew it was what I wanted. I called a bunch of the girls from the Meetup group and three agreed to share the studio with me.”
The space became LUMIN Art Studios, a shared work space between Vernon; Lisa Sipe, an encaustic, mixed media sculpture and acrylic painter; McKenzie Mendel, jeweler; and Natalie Mason, handmade accessories and home décor designer. The ladies have been using the studio space just over a year, and while they open for monthly events and exhibits, primarily use LUMIN as their working studio.
“LUMIN Studios has given me a space and helps to make me feel more legitimate and professional,” Vernon explained, “It has made me work more, which is really my goal.”
While primarily an acrylic painter, she has worked in other mediums, but returns again and again to acrylics. “What always brings me back is the immediacy of the paint,” she said. “I’m not very patient and I like how fast it dries and how fast I can layer… There’s not much in between me and the paint and the canvas…I like that there is no technology coming between me and my paint.”
A look at Vernon’s online portfolio will show a nice mix of abstract work and portraits. She attributes the two different styles to keeping her “artist brain” active. “Most of my abstract paintings are me letting off some steam, expressing something or just playing and not being too serious in general,” she explained, “but when I do only abstract I feel like my brain gets a little lazy. My artist brain, where I really have to think about light and dark and form and design, sometimes feels like it doesn’t get a workout, so then I like to go back and paint a figure.”
Many of her figures include pregnant women, an important subject matter to Vernon since becoming pregnant with her son. “When I was pregnant and my son was really new I painted a few and they really seemed to resonate with people,” she said. “I think it’s a universal pregnant woman, and I get a lot of people wanting to use the image for their dula business or OB office.
“I try to really go with my gut before I start a painting,” Vernon explained. “ I just use my artist instincts. Sometimes I have an idea and I sketch it out, but from there I don’t know where it’s going to go. I listen to myself: what colors I’ll use, how I’m feeling. I might have a plan, but I am really influenced by how I feel at the time, and I always have to be true to that when I’m painting or else it will look horrible,” she explained.
“One of my favorite painting teachers would say you have to listen to the painting and do what it tells you to do. I thought it was crazy at first…but now I would rephrase it as ‘listen to yourself,’” she said.
Music factors heavily in Vernon’s paintings, as with the cover image, Painted Music, where her goal was to listen to the music (a high energy station on Pandora) and let it flow through her. “I’ll let it affect me, and then put that onto my canvas,” she said.
In the future Vernon wants pursue wholesale accounts for her prints, and as always, to spend more time painting. “I make really high quality prints,” she said. “They are affordable, and I think like it’s a really accessible way for people to get interesting art.”
Vernon will be a part of the Young Women’s Artist Group show at City Walls in February, and also has work hanging at the Bend Library. LUMIN has regularly scheduled events at their studio, and a good way to keep up with future happenings is to visit their website, Facebook or sign up for their newsletter.