Duluth Artist Lisa Stauffer Shares Plein Air Talent with North Shore Workshops

They arrived in a handful of cars at the public boat landing in the Rec Park the morning of July 7 as the Art Colony prepared Grand Marais for its annual Arts Festival. Bearing license plates from  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ontario, the cars carried artists attending a workshop conducted by Duluth-based Artist Lisa Stauffer.

While the attendees unloaded chairs, easels, umbrellas, and bug repellant, Lisa scouted the location where the En Plein air (in the open air) workshop would take place. The spot they chose was the southwest most place on the harbor, and they set up facing the massive rock outcroppings that separate the bay from the big lake. The artists spent a few hours in the cool breeze off the lake, and each painted the scene as they saw it. Observers could watch as blank canvas gave way to the beauty that is Lake Superior.

Lisa, recognized as an Eminent Pastelist by the International Association of Pastel Societies, says, “I love painting, and I like sharing my love of painting with others.” She considers herself an artist, a teacher, a mentor to aspiring painters, and a student herself.

Lisa graduated from St. Anthony Village High School, where she excelled in science, math, and art appreciation. The high schooler who thought she would pursue pre-med or pre-vet studies at university discovered Visual Design in her third year at the U of M. She loved how the study of the science of light and color in Visual Design combined her love of art and science. 

Earning a Master's Degree in Design from the University of Minnesota, Lisa taught art there for four years.

Pastel is more than just the soft pale color of bathroom fixtures and tiles in the 50s and 60s. “Pastel is a dry medium,” Lisa says. Pastel is the powdered pigment mixed with a binder. It is favored for plein air painting.

Lisa stresses that it is not the painting that results but the process of painting that is most important to learn. She has worked with and been mentored by some of the most significant painters of her generation, Albert Handell, Sally Strand, the late Elizabeth Mowry, and Richard McKinley. Each of them are members of the Pastel Hall of Fame maintained by the Pastel Society of America.

“I want to teach and mentor as generously as those four taught and mentored me,” Lisa says.

Reflecting on artists, Lisa says, “Masters paint until they die because their learning never stops. Look at world-renowned cellist YoYo Ma. He still practices eight hours a day, challenging himself.”

Lisa’s workshops are posted on her website, www.lisastauffer.com. “I care about communicating and sharing the joy of painting,” she says.

Lisa focuses on getting workshop attendees to learn to see as an artist and paint from real life. She teaches painting principles like color, value, and shape, along with the painting process. 

Beginners of any age are welcome at most of the workshops she conducts. “It’s not too late to start painting if you’re willing to be an amiable second grader,” she says. “We all start brand new.”

Lisa studies the works of great artists and contemplates the process they use. “The next thing I see that I don’t know how it was done is what draws me in,” she says. 

Lisa is gratified by her work with students and is never bored. As most artists at any career stage would say, she added, “It can be so much fun learning something new.”

Lisa’s work will be entered in the upcoming Plein Air Grand Marais Competition and Festival, although scheduling conflicts will keep her from attending Competition Week in person.  Painting for the event begins on August 14. Competition week is September 15-23, and the awards presentation is on the evening of September 22 at the Johnson Heritage Post Museum in Grand Marais. Details can be found at https://www.outdoorpaintersofminnesota.org.