An Interview with Lisa Daria Kennedy

Lisa Daria Kennedy #1070 Nest, Acrylic 6"x6"

Lisa Daria Kennedy's paintings are beautifully bold and easy to love. Her spontaneous brushwork and joyful sense of color and design are immensely appealing, but I believe the true originality and strength of her work come from an emphasis on abstracted beauty. She never gets lost in prosaic visual description, intuitively suppressing detail if a painting doesn't need it, and altering color and form if it does.  

Lisa is a stand-out in the Daily Painting Movement.  She has posted a small painting to her popular blog every single day since May 2009, and "has no intention of stopping". You can find out more about her at her website and her Daily Paintworks Gallery.

TD: A little more than three years ago you began your painting blog by writing “I do lots of stuff every day. I drink coffee, I walk the dog. But what if, from now on I also create a painting a day?”

Now, after more than a thousand days of sticking to your daily painting goal, can you answer your own question? Has your daily painting routine changed your paintings? Has it changed you?

LDMy daily painting practice has brought about unexpected changes in both the painting and myself. The on-going nature of this project leaves me rooting for the next day, while the parameters of my work keep me focused on the simplicities of my immediate surroundings. The daily paintings have fueled explorations of bigger work and created an intimate connection within my environment. Through the practice of daily ritual I have discovered how to accomplish bigger goals. This year I enrolled in graduate school and was invited to Florida to give my first out of state workshop. The blog has become a daily journal recorded in pictures and titles and a document of personal happenings. 

#1045 Two Jars, One Ledge 6"x6"

Your painting seems grounded in a framework of visual fact, while letting shape, color, and light take on an abstract beauty. You might paint a few flowers with a gorgeous and fluid simplicity, while the glass jar that contains them is more precisely detailed. How do you decide which details to ignore and which to emphasis? Do you sometimes make color decisions based on what colors you want to use, rather than what you see in the still life (or landscape)?

LD: The details I choose to enhance are based on a hierarchy of what I want the viewer to focus on. An area of greater detail will draw more attention, while other areas of less detail will act as more of a support. I decide which areas to emphasize based on what I am first attracted to in a setup. I absolutely change colors to be more vibrant or exciting or interesting. I observe values from life when I can, but sometimes I’ll change those too, to create a stronger range of values.

#968 Bouquet 6"x6"

TD: You’ve been working lately on some larger interiors. They are beautifully perceptual pieces, the color and lighting keenly observed, while other details are suppressed.  What is it like for you to work on these larger paintings as compared with your smaller daily paintings? Is there more planning involved? Do they take much longer to paint? 

LD: Thank you! The larger interior paintings do take longer to paint. They differ in process to my small daily paintings, because I work on the larger canvases in small increments over the course of weeks instead of executing them in one sitting, like the daily paintings. It is necessary to work on them over a span of time because I am interested in recording what passes in and out of the space. Some objects never move during the duration of the painting, while others come and go. Those moving objects get represented by a line, gesture or dash, it’s not important to me that they are fully recognizable. I equate these paintings to what one sees if one’s attention is diverted. These paintings do not contain people, but rather objects that were left behind. There is a bit more planning involved, but I never fully know what the end will look like or contain, the painting changes day to day as I’m working on it.

Untitled  22"x36"  

TD:  Do you enjoy painting plein air?

LD: I love painting plein air because there’s an engagement with people that is not present when working in the studio. I also enjoy plein air because there is an element of uncertainty. In the studio one can control the lights, setup, weather, but outdoors there are unforeseen variables which make for great stories later on.

#768 Cohasset 6"x6"

#1131 Bayside 5"x7"

TD: You have a background in graphic design and illustration, and are now an MFA candidate at the Massachusetts College of Art. When did you first start painting? What teachers have you learned the most from, or have you found most inspiring?

LD: I took media technique classes as a student, but never got the hang of wet media, so I stuck mostly with pen and ink and scratchboard (and very little color) back then. I think my issue was there were too many choices in paints, surfaces, brushes and mediums. I was distracted by so many options and could never hone in on one long enough to figure it out. When I graduated- and still today- I used the computer for client work, to draw, paint and design. I had control and clarity painting with Photoshop and Illustrator that I couldn't at the time achieve with paint. I always felt limited with how I was using acrylic, so a little over three years ago, I started reading about oil painting because that is the medium I liked the look of, and then started applying those techniques to acrylic. 

Untitled 6"x6"

I have been most inspired by painters who blog their work, because I've seen their progression unfold by days, weeks and years. I have found watching the development of on-line painters like Carol Marine to be inspiring. Locally, I joined a painting group led by Page Railsback that met weekly. Each week we painted in her studio or on location and the weekly engagement with other painters was encouraging and motivating to keep practicing.

TD: You are an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts College of Art, so I assume you are teaching undergraduates the fundamentals of drawing and painting. Do you encourage your first and second year students to paint with the simplified approach of your own work, or do you think they need to be able to render things in careful detail first? 

LD: Actually, at the college, I teach a course called, “Digital Illustration.” It is a required class for sophomore illustration majors and we use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for painting and drawing. I approach the software just like traditional medium. I encourage students to explore their own voice for visual communication, which can take many forms, not just a simplified approach. I believe in having a strong foundation in drawing and observing, which was the way I was taught.

#1001 One Thousand and One 6"x6"

TD: What is a typical day like for you? 

LD: A typical day for me starts at five a.m. As the coffee is brewing I lay out my paints for my daily painting. After my daily painting is complete, I go on to work on bigger canvases. I have recently set certain times of the day to work on particular pieces, to be able to observe the same lighting situations instead of being persuaded by the changing light. I paint in two hour increments until about four o’clock with breaks in between, (mostly to walk or entertain the dog). At night I scan and title my daily painting and post to the blog, and I often title my daily painting based on something that occurred during the day.        

#719 Brie's Cousin 6"x6"

TD: You have said that you paint with acrylics because they dry quickly- you can finish a piece, scan it and post the same day. Is there any other reason you prefer acrylics? 

LD: Well, I still love that they dry quickly. I also like that there aren't any fumes associated with acrylic. I've used oil a little more over the past few months, but it is so messy- or maybe I’m so messy- either way, I still prefer acrylic.

TD: Do you work on a toned ground? 

LD: More often than not, I tone my ground with Cadmium Red Medium. I worked as a graphic designer/illustrator for an interior design company which practiced Feng Shui and Bagau. I became aware of how colors are received and liked that red is the color of ‘energy’. So, I started to tone my canvases primarily in red. Of course, I could tone in compliments, or neutral grays or browns, but for now, red is what I tone my canvases with.

#1012 Today and Yesterday 6"x6"

TD: What colors are on your palette? 

LD: My palette consists of  traditional, limited colors - three warms, three cools and white; Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Pthalo Blue (green shade), Aliziran Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White. I've added a new color to my palette for those pinks and oranges I make- Quinacridone. I use Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic.

TD: What medium do you use? 

LD: A little travel sized hair spray bottle full of water is the only medium I use on the daily paintings. I mist my palette and my panel to keep things wet throughout the duration of the painting. When I paint bigger, I use acrylic retarder by Golden and on occasion Liquitex Gloss Gel Medium, both are used sparingly.

TD: You say that you like to start the day painting. Do you need to work with artificial lights in the winter, as the sun isn’t up as early as you are? 

LD: Working so early in the morning requires an artificial light source, so I utilize a little clip on light from the hardware store with a 50 watt spot bulb by Sylvania. This bulb gives off a nice bright direct light source. I also have a spot light on a tripod for bigger set ups. During the rest of the day I will use natural light, kind of following it around the house, window to window, as the light shifts.

Flowers and Garden Chair 16"x 16"

TD: I find a lovely honesty and humility in a statement you have made, that “you can’t have the good without the bad”. Why do you think we need the bad? If you think a painting hasn’t worked out, do you know it right away? Do you ever not want to post it?

LD: I suppose I think we need a point of comparison to experience the good, so the good wouldn't exist without the bad. I would like to think I know right away when a painting hasn't worked out, but I don’t always. Sometimes I look back on something I did that I thought worked and think, why did I do that particular thing in it- so still, sometimes it is not evident that something is not working. Oh yes, sometimes I do  not want to post a painting to the blog. At the very beginning of the blog if I had a day I just couldn’t get it, I would wait until the next day to post. If I have a day like that now, I still post and might make light of the problem in the painting in the title.

#1069 Chrysanthemum (maybe) on the Windowsill (definitely) 6"x6"

TD: Do you ever have a day when you just don’t feel like painting?

LD:  If I don’t feel like painting, it usually has to do with something else going on, a busy schedule or something I don’t necessarily have control over- so, I still paint, because it has nothing to do with the act of painting for me, that feeling and I don’t want to rob myself of something I want to do.

#1033 Rules 6"x6"

TD: You have said that all painters influence you, and you don’t have one favorite. How about maybe naming a few favorites? 

LD: I am most influenced by artists whose art is clearly defined by the ritual of their daily routine. Many artists create within set parameters or with one single project in mind, for instance, On Kawara creates ‘Date Paintings.’ This is an ongoing painting project started in the 1960’s and consists of the painted date, accompanied by a newspaper headline of the same day. The Date Paintings are entirely in the moment; making and leaving a mark for one day lived. 

Emese Benczúr, ‘Should I live to be a Hundred,’ is another on-going, daily project started in 1988. She ordered 38 rolls of pre-made clothing labels, embroidered with the statement “Day by Day.” Benczúr has committed herself to sewing the response, “I think about the future” everyday for the rest of her life on each label. 

More specifically, there are so many painters I like and I still feel they are all influential to me because someone I might admire could have been influenced by another painter I might not even be aware of, but this collective of knowledge and influences all gets passed along. Painters who have been influential to me are those who have simplified their subjects to an economy of strokes and shapes and those who are working within a particular color range of close values. Fairfield Porter, Sangram Majumdar are two favorites, as well as Euan Uglow.

#699 Pink Tulips  

TD: In looking at your work, I imagine that you are a spontaneous person, and an optimist. Would you say this is true?

LD: Like a lot of people, I can be easily distracted, so as a result, I've had to learn to be less spontaneous over time. If a last minute plan comes up, my initial response is a resounding, “Yes!” In a moment, (in my mind) I’m out the door, on an adventure- but I have become aware that this is how I do not spend enough time doing things I really want to do, like painting. I will accept a last minute plan only if I feel I have spent the time I wanted painting that day. 

#955 Daily Painting in FL 6"x6"

Since I mostly work from home with the exception of a couple of days a week, I can plan around other activities as long as I have a few days notice. So I've become disciplined and structured and schedule my weekdays just as I did when I worked in-house as a designer.  Any given day I could dash off on a last minute plan - I am never short on ideas of what else I could do - but when I made the commitment to paint everyday, I also decided to be more diligent with my time. I have my moments of course, like everyone. . . but overall, I feel optimistic.

Thanks Lisa Daria Kennedy!

You can find out more about Lisa by visiting her blogwebsite and her Daily Paintworks Gallery.


  1. Post a comment? How about write a book! There is so much I want to say about Lisa Daria Kennedy's art! Amazing and so much more is what comes to mind. A great interview and a wonderful glimpse into this talented artist's life and her wonderful work. Bravo Lisa! (Your Number 1 fan forwarded this article to me! Nice!)
    Art Buddy Michael

  2. No kidding..I agree with Michael. Lisa is an inspiration with her disciplined use of time, her intelligence and of course her incredibly beautiful work. It is heart opening to watch her soar

  3. This is a wonderful interview! The questions were so thoughtful and deep. And Lisa, your responses were inspirational and generous. I am always curious about how artists and creatives spend their days so I particularly enjoyed hearing about your 5am painting ritual. Your dedication is remarkable, I am a follower and can't even imagine what the future of your paintings will be but one thing I know for sure ~ they will be amazing!
    xo P

  4. This is such an inspirational post! Thank you, thank you!

  5. Thank you Taryn for this insightful post.
    You really know how to get to the heart of the matter.
    Lisa's discipline is infectious and her paintings are powerful because of their brevity.

  6. Lisa never fails to delight me with the beauty and honesty of her work, and inspires me with her passion and dedication to its creation.

  7. Lisa Daria's blog is my favourite artist blog. I check in everyday and I am always inspired and moved by her beautiful work. Her stuff is just great! And, I am happy to say, I am a proud owner of "1037 flower jam".

  8. What a wonderful and inspiring interview -- Lisa's work is amazing and her talent and passion shows in every painting.

  9. Thank you both - wonderful and inspiring interview! Beautiful work besides!

  10. My wife is one of the hundreds of fan of Lisa Daria Kennedy artwork. She loves it and always been planning to buy one for our bedroom wall.

  11. Love the color and abstract guilty and design of her work


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