Lisa Kaus sips a frothy cappuccino as she reflects on the textured walls of the Blue Scorcher Bakery and Cafe. They inspire her, as do all things Astoria. With familial ties to Warrenton and Astoria, Lisa returns to Clatsop County often from her Portland home to enjoy the atmosphere. She makes the rounds with her family to old stomping grounds, a tour guide for her two sons telling them about her history and connection to the county.
Lisa spent her elementary days in Warrenton, a lover of school supplies and card making, then attended Astoria High School. It was here her love of art was recognized and encouraged by art teacher Nancy Kern. “I was slated to take a pottery class, but it was full,” Lisa recalls, so she got ‘stuck’ in painting. Their first assignment was using driftwood as a canvas. Mrs. Kern took Lisa aside after day one to say, “Lady, you can paint!”. This was her first boost into the world of traditional art, as most of her childhood had been spent folding and manipulating paper for cards, crafts and doilies. Throughout high school Lisa followed this encouragement, taking classes with Nancy every year, learning about color and composition, which are now Lisa’s strong points as a professional artist.
After graduation, Lisa attended Clatsop Community College and was privileged to enroll in a class taught by Royal Nebeker. From basic drawing to painting, Lisa worked on mostly still lifes in his offerings, and admits the work was challenging. He was “out there,” Lisa recalls. He immediately served as an inspiration and later a mentor to her craft. “I followed,” she explains of his style. “And then my own art came out of it.”
Lisa’s art is a combination of watercolor, crayon, marker, collage, found objects and touchable surfaces. “It’s figurative with a whimsical element,” she explains. “I start with a paint idea; that determines what else is needed.” Which could be anything from a doorknob to jewelry or a special antique. Much of her work is three-dimensional, which is what makes it therapeutic. “I want it to have texture, a sculptural feel,” Lisa says. This encourages play and interaction with her art, one canvas even features a BINGO board complete with movable curtains. Most of her artwork is chunky and covered on all sides. Lisa adds vintage papers and books in layers and covers the text in beeswax to create a tactile element. “I don’t want to be pretentious, I want to create movement,” she explains.
Lisa has been an artist her whole life and is now nationally recognized, but her career as an artist began at Riccardi’s, a gallery owned by Pat Shannon in 1995. Lisa went into the gallery to sell greeting cards, unwilling to expose more of her work yet. Pat looked at the cards and decided to take a risk on the young artist, but not on the cards. “I like them, but I don’t want them,” Lisa recalls her saying. She told her to bring in her original work instead. This sent Lisa home to get busy. Four weeks later, Riccardi’s featured Lisa Kaus’ first gallery show, and it sold out.
This led to more shows and selling her work on consignment, then she found her way into commercial art. She began her own business, creating a piece by hand, then digitally altering it for sale. “I had to learn composition and scale on the computer,” she recalls, moving elements around to find the subtle differences and just the right fit. “My strength isn’t in drawing, but in composition and color,” she explains, so this was a perfect avenue for her art to access.
Commercial art has been a great boon for her work and her family, but she says she is ready to go back to her roots, and begin showing her art again, “I’m at that point where I have to reach out and figure out what’s next.”
Wherever her art takes her, her love of Clatsop County will always be a part of it. Her goal is making others smile and making life brighter for all she says, “People find a level of joy in my themes, floral, landscapes, birds. It’s feel good work.”