As she got older, she took supplemental art classes over sports or dance or any of the other activities her friends in St. Louis—her hometown—were taking.
“I take the photos first and then bring them back to my house to paint . . . Once I do that, I use the photos as a guide and I take artistic license with my paintings to make them more colorful,” she says.
Her calendars can also be found at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave., in D.C., and a little store in Alexandria called Reunions. Lewis loves that she’s able to run her own business while her three kids are at school, and can paint around their schedules so there’s always enough time with them. “I came to this area in 1993 and worked full-time as an art therapist for about 10 years, until I had my third child,” she says. “This is a way for me to supplement my income.”
When it was time for college, Lewis headed to the University of Notre Dame and received a degree in printmaking and art history. She followed that up with a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from George Washington University.
Throughout the year, Lewis sells her work at art fairs, in some stores and on-line. The biggest surprise of her career was when one night, over a couple of glasses of wine, Lewis decided to send her images to the buyer of the Smithsonian stores, and one day later, she received a reply that they were interested in carrying them.
“My mom and dad were not big on extra curriculum activities but I do remember in the early ’70s, my parents took me to the local arts and crafts store and gave me $5 to buy anything I wanted,” Lewis says. “I would buy a bag full of supplies and that would keep me busy for a week.”
“I learned lithography (printing from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface), that was my specialty, and at the time it was done on a really heavy piece of stone,” she says. “It wasn’t really something that was portable that I could do easily in my home. Later on when I had time to get back into art, I decided to check out oils because you can bring them anywhere.”
Once the kids go off to school, she works at the kitchen table and paints for hours while her dog sits at her feet, listening to everything from Van Halen to Prince to
It’s a decision that she’s glad she made. Today, the Arlingtonbased artist uses her oils to paint some of her favorite places in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia, and puts them on calendars and prints to sell. “I take the photos first and then bring them back to my house to paint. I don’t have the time to stand there and paint what I see. Once I do that, I use the photos as a guide and I take artistic license with my paintings to make them more colorful,” she says. “My kids help me find places to consider, and so do my friends.” For any calendar she does, Lewis usually chooses four or five places that anyone would recognize and then for the remaining months, she does some extreme close-up paintings to add some uniqueness and other months featuring places that people might not be familiar with, but which she believe very much add to the fabric of D.C. Once Lewis takes the photos, she transfers them on to a canvas and then paints. Once the painting is done, photographer Greg Staley takes professional photos of the paintings and she can send the Tiffs to her printer in Richmond to make the calendars and prints.
JANUARY // FEBRUARY 2014 ◊
Published on Dec 26, 2013