Lisa Marie Sipe article for Ignite Magazine in Phoenix Arizona

Abstract Expressions Inspired by Nature

Lisa Marie Sipe

Story by Mark Greenawalt,©August 1, 2006

Originally published in Ignite Magazine, (August 2006)

Artist Lisa Marie Sipe draws her inspiration for her signature style of painting while hiking in the mountains. She surrounds herself with grandiose vistas while traversing trails in Flagstaff or Payson, but ironically she is inspired by the naturally occurring patterns in tree bark.

It was her passion for hiking that led her to take up residence in the foothills of Ahwatukee where she would have easy access to the trails of South Mountain. Throughout her innumerable trailblazing adventures, Sipe has captured macro images of lichen, stones, and a kaleidoscope of bark textures with her digital camera. Eventually she wondered to herself what she could do with hundreds of pictures of tree bark. For her the answer soon became clear: Create art! She has since translated dozens of these photos into colorful abstract paintings that express the essence and form of patterns in nature in conjunction with her personalized artistic expression.

Sipe graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design. “ASU provided me with a great foundation of what good design is. The curriculum encouraged me to be unique within certain constraints and empowered me to trust my instincts,” she said. This training allowed her to see the balance of design in nature and her artistic skills permitted her to transpose them to canvas. College introduced her to a wide variety of mediums and exposed her to many artistic forms of expression. It was acrylic and encaustic paints that eventually garnered her attention.

Sipe has distinguished herself as one of the elite few encaustic painters in today’s art world. It is an art medium that requires a little extra effort, but the results can prove very rewarding. Encaustic paint is a custom mixture of bee’s wax, microcrystalline and oil paint for pigmentation. The mixture is heated to 200 degrees on a warming plate and then applied to a wooden canvas with brushes, heat guns and sometimes from a direct pour. Lisa recalls a story of heating encaustic one afternoon in her garage, “I had the garage door opened half way to allow ventilation and went in the house while the encaustic was warming up. When I came back, the garage was full of bees and I was freaking out!” Pressed for time to complete a painting assignment, the melting bee’s wax had attracted a foreboding swarm. Her husband, Jim, jokingly suggested she wait until nightfall when the bees would all simply go to bed. “Later that night,” she continued, “I tried again and not one bee showed up!”

In 1994, Sipe began her artistic career in fashion design. In fact, during her first foray into college, she majored in the craft in her hometown of Chicago at William Rainey Harper College. Awarded a scholarship from Finn’s Fabric House, she was a finalist in the Fashion Group Competition of Chicago that year. “However, there came a point in time,” she says, “when I just couldn’t see myself laboring to cut textiles in New York just to scrape up enough money to pay the rent. I decided to switch majors. I love painting, I love design and I love art.”

Now at 31, Sipe has a secure career in graphic design that grants her more freedom to pursue her creativity and passion for her abstract paintings. She actively self-promotes her work and plays an active role in the Phoenix art movement. During the months of August and September, Sipe will feature her work at Roosevelt Row favorite, Eye Lounge (419 E Roosevelt, Phoenix, 602.252.5584). From September through November, she will also display pieces for the Tempe Center for the Arts Wood Eye show at the US Postal office on Mill Ave. In addition, she has been asked to display pieces in the southwestNET: Painting exhibit at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art from September to January of next year.

Beyond her upcoming gallery exhibitions Sipe aspires to have her work shown in a Chicago gallery for her childhood friends and family to see. “The Art Institute of Chicago would be nice,” she smiles, “but at this point I am happy to just keep making art.”

This article can also be found on-line at 
Lisa's official website is 

Art by Lisa Marie Sipe of Ahwatukee Arizona

Mark Greenawalt