STORYTELLERS (Art with Heart): Liese Chavez

I was drawn in by the storytelling-artwork of Liese Chavez as soon as I laid eyes on her Etsy shop profile:

"Down the rabbit hole we go ... As a child I wanted to know what was inside, what was under, what was behind things. I still do. Come into the wardrobe with me, let the smell of old faded minks brush your face and peek with me up onto the high shelf filled with hatboxes and secrets..."

In her home studio among the foothills and red rocks of beautiful Manitou Springs, Colorado, Liese paints full-time, creating characters that reflect the mystery and wonder of childhood--what she calls "all the nostalgia and strange faces of my past."

Liese alice

"I am inspired by turns of phrase, walks in the trees, childhood, fairytales, fables, great tunes, a good mystery...just life. Every day can be full of exciting ideas if you let your mind wander."

And the imagination wanders indeed when it follows Liese's art, playfully beckoning out of the mysterious depths of wonderland.

From acrylic combined with black-and-white ink drawings creating high contrast and negative space,

liese roots

to soft, neutral watercolors with gentle pops of rosy pink and red,

Liese circus

to rich oil paintings full of vibrant color and carefully crafted expression--whatever medium Liese chooses for a particular piece, her mission is always the same:

Liese melody

"My goal is to reach a place with the viewer where they are reminded of something from their history that made them feel hopeful or strong or full of wonder--all the things that we are when we are at our best."

liese queen bee

"Life is can be quite sober at times and I think it is ok for art to make you laugh or make you secretly believe in fanciful things that you'd never admit to. I aim to give a feeling of nostalgia, something that takes the viewer back to a time when all things were possible."

liese girl and birds

Because this youthful feeling that "all things are possible" holds so much more than words can say, Liese often prefers to let her work speak for itself--to let her audience interpret the mysteries and write the stories for themselves.

"In some ways I use my artwork to connect with people. When I talk with someone about the themes of the pieces that they are drawn to, we share a common viewpoint for that time and it is like we know a private piece of one another." Liese says this connection is "one of the most rewarding aspects of creating the art." But she also worries about this aspect of the face-to-face connection with her audience (perhaps a common-thread among many artists): "I can be clumsy when communicating in person and I misread people or forget people's names or say too much. (I always say too much!) The art is the best of me that I have to share. If only I could let it do ALL the talking."

liese flown

Liese's subjects reflect this idea of an intensely personal inner-life and the worlds of creativity that can exist even in places unexpected. "My favorite thing to paint is people and I like to see people in the artwork I admire by others. I guess that is just what I personally connect to--the face, the hands, the small expressions of being human."

liese nest hat

Emotion and imagination are the true substance of the stories Liese creates. And it all must be conveyed through a face. "My stories are all about who we are inside, so the figures I paint rarely have any exaggerated facial expression. It is not because they are unhappy, but because they are being with themselves in a private and unaffected way. When you are alone or thinking about something personal do you put on a face for the world to see that describes your emotions? I want the viewer to share a private moment with the character in the painting, and no pretenses are necessary in that moment."

Liese Thumbellina

The naturalness of Liese's subjects beautifully offsets the magical and sometimes fantastical details of the scene. Although she's been painting since 2005, just over a year ago Liese discovered oil painting and the special way it can communicate in her work.

"I love the variety of textures and finishes possible with this media ... I think the most important part of my paintings is the skin of the characters. I believe that making soft glowing skin in oil helps people to have a gentle feeling for the subject, helping them to connect. Oil is very good for dreamy atmospheric effects, which also really works with the type of stories I tell."

Liese Chavez Demo

Liese is quite a disciplined painter: "I paint 5 days a week whether I feel like it or not, as I always have so much to do! I rotate through the paintings so I am working on something each day for 8-10 hours." Lisa shares her progress on Facebook, which is important in helping people to understand the length of time she spends on her work. "It varies by piece," she says, "but I just finished a 24x30 oil painting that took me 3 months to complete!"

liese swan song

Both Liese and her husband work full-time from home, making art. But play-time is still important for an artist so dedicated to her work. "We will pop out for a walk or go have a picnic when we need to escape," she says. "I think it is a great time to talk over details we are stuck on in the artwork, or if we have nothing we need to hash out we might just go for a ride on my scooter through The Garden of the Gods and marvel at the surreal landscape. If the weather doesn't permit playing outside we sometimes play a game inside to feel refreshed. I think acting like a child on my breaks helps me to keep a lighthearted approach to the work when I return."

I love the lighthearted nature of your work, Liese, and the deeper emotional connections it makes while still being soft and childlike.  Thank you so much for sharing your story with Storytellers!

For more of Liese's work, check out her Etsy shop--Pale Preoccupation.  And be sure to "like" her Facebook page to see some GORGEOUS works-in-progress!


  1. These paintings have so much to explore and soak in. She inspires me to be more disciplined! Thanks for sharing!

    Sadee, we'll see you after the break! Have a wonderful holiday. :)
    Catherine Denton

  2. her work is very intriguing....and her disciple admirable!
    really stunning

    Love and Light

    ps thank you for your wonderful words when you come a visit, I love to hear your heart

  3. Dear Sadee-
    I love reading your blog, please keep sharing wonderful artwork-yours and others. Thank you for writing a charming article. <3
    All My Best,

  4. This was so lovely. I feel as though I am Alice and that I've entered wonderland...


Thank you for being kind with your words and generous with your time!