With the state-mandated order to stay home, business had come to a standstill for much of Tigard. Lisa Kaus, a local resident for the past 13 years and an artist for many more has noticed an uptick in interest for her creative and joyful artwork.
In current times, stressful situations seem commonplace with either boredom or nonstop tension filling the atmosphere. This is where Kaus finds her work to better her audience. “I try to make art that makes people happy and uplifted. A lot of my work is sentiment-driven while including visual elements that make people feel good,” Kaus described.
Kaus began her journey through the arts in her hometown of Astoria, Oregon. From small but elaborate homemade cards to her first project in a high school freshman painting class, she never saw herself as a painter. Her unwillingness to take part in class was apparent, but without her teacher’s recognition, she wouldn’t be where she is today. “I really preferred the drawing class, but it was already full so I got stuck in my alternate. Then, when my teacher asked us to paint a piece of driftwood, she walked by me, took a glance and said ‘Lady, you can paint! You’re not going anywhere.’”
After taking multiple art classes under her high-school art teacher, Nancy Kem, she grew into the subject through college, although finding out that she had much more to learn. “I took classes from the esteemed oil painter Royal Nebeker thinking I was it, but I was blown away looking at the students around me. I thought I knew it all so it was a very humbling experience at the tender age of 19.”
From college of the arts into working in the clothing industry. Kaus found that with the influx of apparel design in Portland, she could still find a way to use her reserves of creativity and pull it into something of use. Kaus was able to score internships at Nike, Columbia and InSport, but found that she wanted to return to painting.
“They’d ask for my input on designs and they’d take it and run with it, but I really wanted to do something different and do art. Once I got pregnant with my firstborn, Tucker, it seemed to be the time. That’s really when I started experimenting with color and getting a sense for what became my new style,” she said.
While exploring with many of her original paintings in the realm of whimsy, she started taking trips to the local print shop to scan in and print out miniature versions of her work on bite-sized cards. “I had to schedule multiple appointments with the print shop. I’d be dragging in all these pieces of art and my son. He’d just be in the background of the store eating Cheerios while I’m having all these artworks printed.”
Delving back into her original childhood days of making handmade cards, she took her new collection to a gallery in Astoria. “I was talking to the gallery owner, Pat Shannon, and she said ‘I like your cards, but I’d much rather have your originals. I’d like 30 paintings, and you should do a show too.’” When trying to only sell a couple of cards, she walked out with a full-fledged agenda and show to prepare for.
She kept her work at the gallery for years to come, all the while expanding her art business (now known as Lisa Kaus Art Studios) across Oregon and further across the US. After 25 years later, she’s still going strong. Of course, with a passion for so long, it didn’t come about without its adjustments.
Through art licensing with multiple manufacturers, she was able to see her craft in a variety of home decor products. From mugs to kitchenware to calendars, her work could be seen practically anywhere. But in recent times, she has seen a need to go back to her roots, producing more originals, and moreover handmade oddities. “I really enjoy creating functional work rather than it just sitting on a wall. It’s huge for me because I can innovate, think and design.”
When starting with a new piece or new design, Kaus often looks at her surroundings, taking a lot of inspiration from nature. All the while, doodling quick blurbs on scratch paper that could be used later on. Despite her vast painting background, many of her pieces include various hand-drawn elements.
“I love to create and try new unique palettes. I like my work to be busy too, I think I just have a lot going on in my brain and I end up emptying it out onto the canvas.”
Once she’s got the idea, she pulls ahead. Starting with very loose sketches, she turns out those sketches onto a canvas and paints with fluid acrylics. “It’s layers upon layers with a vibrant palette of color. Sometimes I include collage elements, sometimes it doesn’t seem to fit.”
And then it comes down to the final touches. A bit of detail on the sides of the canvas, some burnishing to the edges and a thin layer of wax over the piece to add a mellow sheen; ready to send to a customer or hang onto for a bit. “There’s something really rewarding about putting those finishing touches on pieces. Sometimes I just want to hurry, hurry, hurry so I can get to the last five minutes.”
As for where she sees herself in the near future, “I would like to see myself grow and change with my work while adding more functionality to my work. Whether that be through growing my local business or online business and national fanbase, I’m not sure.” One thing is certain for Kaus, she is exactly where she wants to be; creating art that brings a sense of happiness and joy to peoples’ lives.
To see more of her work, please visit