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When in art school, all this information is thrown at you -  color, drawing, painting.  I tried to absorb everything, but it is like learning a language - it gets easier as you begin to remember words.  Those first words are the hardest.  So when I came to Disney I had lots of words but didn't quite know how to put them all together correctly.  I learned more about mixing color and painting in the first 3 months than I ever did at school.  Not because I partied or they didn't teach me what I should know , but I was doing it all day every day and was dissecting every little aspect of painting.  Having said all of that, I'm still learning.  Every day I learn something new and fun and it adds to what I already know.  Hopefully it's making me better and better.  These years in Animation have been all about learning.  Everyday I learn.  So what I paint would have to be a product of all that education. 

I like all the mediums.  I have worked with everything, guache, acrylic, oil, watercolor.  I work with the dogs in oil because I want to get weight  and substance.  It's a precarious subject and could get really sweet fast.  I'm trying to bring the dignity, personality, and joy of the specific dog to each painting.  Fur is tough and when every brush stroke matters for the feel and direction of hair it can be a real challenge.  Sometimes I have to look long and hard weighing a stroke before I lay it down.  If it goes down wrong it can ruin everything and then it looks over worked.   I have had my share of scraping something down and starting over.

I guess the old masters would be my greatest influence, with a little extra something something thrown in that I don't know where it came from. It has taken me years to come up with my style.  At first every single person I have ever looked at or worked with had an influence on me.  At one point a few years back, I wanted to begin painting for myself.  I set everything up, did my research, started my paintings , and the voices began.  Not that I'm crazy or anything but I could hear every director, art director, supervisor in my head.  And they don't necessarily agree with each other.  I was exhausted.  So I literally quit. 

Years later, I had an artist say the most single important thing I needed: if you paint what you love you will do it.  If you're just painting to paint, you will eventually quit.  So I look that to heart and started painting what I loved.  The challenge was to give dignity to the paintings and not make them sweet and over the top.  This also began because I have a children's book I want to do that is about a dog, it is tragic and joyful at the same time. The story is true and meaningful. - sort of an adult children s book.  That got me painting dogs and writing little personal stories of each one.  I guess I found that somehow the stories were important. 

The most important thing is knowing my subject - that thing that makes that dog special or unique.  I generally do not just look at any dog and say hey I want to paint the guy.  It's more of getting to know the dog and somehow the dog's story speaks to me and then I need to get the story out. - I hope that makes sense.  So by that time I have really observed that dog and watched it play, sleep, eat, go about it's day etc. Sometimes a dog is aloof or super affectionate, all these things I try and get into the painting.

Lighting is now what I begin to think about   I want a certain look; sometimes it is dramatic, if that goes with the dog, or soft like the fur on a puppy.  Ok, now I'm ready to paint.  If I do one of my own dogs, I can position them in ways that I find interesting, they have been trained to stay.  I try to capture something that has previously inspired me; some daily activity that I have previously seen, or personality trait.  I have found movie files to be the best.  I can capture every little moment and sometimes the best gesture is not the best lighting or composition.  So I redraw everything , an then watch the movie again.  Then draw again changing a foot because it was better in another frame or I just like it better because it draws the eye somewhere I want it to go.  Then I begin painting.  There is always that weird place about two thirds of they way through a painting that it starts to feel like I'm screwing it up.  I force myself to push through and that makes me focus all the harder.  If something truly isn't working, it is generally because I didn't do my homework not because of the application.

I have done these paintings for my artistic soul so….so far they are not for sale. I have had lots of requests though so maybe I should consider that.  Right now the paintings are hanging in the Disney Animation gallery show. I think it will be there until April.

See more on Lisa's website!

Images for this article are the property of Lisa Keeme.

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