April Showers Brings More Portraits

Portraits of Petersburg: From January 8th to April 7th0408161613Gallery visitor:  “Wow, these look so much better in person than in a photograph.”


Twenty-one! I counted all the portraits I completed so far since I started in January.  Two portraits have found homes already as gifts, leaving me with 19 on display at the gallery for the whole month of April. Of course I have to keep painting and started portrait number 22 and what else do I do this week? Sign up even more people to paint. Naturally. Now that I have over 50 people signed up I want to make it an even bigger project.

You must be willing to suffer for the sake of art.

Here you can see the progression from sketch to finished portrait of local artist Jasmine Mills (instagram@ARTISTJAZZ), completed just in time for display on Friday for the Arts in Old Towne while she has an art show at the Petersburg Area Art League.

The big news is I am going to be showing my portrait art at the Petersburg Public Library next month. The library is asking me to do something appropriate for Mother’s Day and I have something already in mind.

Latest work in progress

The GoFundMe donations for #PortraitsofPetersburg are still coming in and I am so grateful to have people so interested in supporting this community art project. The lease will be soon up at the gallery and I may be looking for new studio space soon but I will keep painting portraits.

Portraits of Petersburg


This is the latest painting finished for Portraits of Petersburg. I am running behind a bit but I have another almost completed on the easel today so I think I can get back on track.

The next big hurdle will be keeping my studio space if the gallery closes earlier than expected. The lease was to run out end of June and I had planned on having a show in the gallery on the 10th, June’s Friday for the Arts  in Petersburg but now it looks like someone else would like to rent the space. I need to find a new place to work. The GoFundMe page has raised $533.00 so far, for which I am grateful, but I need to maintain a locale in Petersburg if this show is to keep on growing so I have to keep all my options open.

One thing I do love is painting the portraits. They are luminous when you see them in person. So much softer in appearance than in a photo. At first I wasn’t sure if the strong colors straight out of the tubes would work because acrylics can look hard and flat and the crazy mix of colors can overwhelm the features of the person. I want these paintings to look lively as well as capture a likeness even with the constraints of only two days of painting per portrait.


Portraits of Petersburg


My name is Lisa Mistry and I am an artist.

(Ok, maybe I should explain. This sounds like the beginning of an Artist Anonymous meeting.)

I had an idea. It formed over long hours painting Christmas decorations in an old warehouse for historic Old Towne Petersburg in Virginia. The warehouse was old and had no electricity in the beginning. I had to paint during daylight hours, bring my own coffee and food, and dress in layers as the space was in turns too hot or too cold. The city bought the paint and provided the supplies; I provided some creativity and the muscle. Electricity was restored. I could run saws, a coffee maker, a drill. Later volunteers, interns, city employees and work release inmates showed up to help.  The Department of Cultural Arts and Tourism provided food and drink and everyone worked hard to finish in time for the Christmas illumination on December 11. Everyone asked who I am and what I do for a living. Somehow Petersburg’s Christmas ‘artist in residence’ didn’t satisfy, prompting an exchange something like this.

Person: “What do you paint?”

Me:”Portraits, mostly, but anything really.”

Person: “Portraits? Can you paint a picture of me?”

Me: “Sure. Come by my studio and I will paint one.”

Person: “How much that cost?”

Me: “It depends on the finished size. If you–”

Person: “Are you any good? I want to see some painting you did.”

Me: uh oh. “I have some painting at the studio.” (I rented my studio space in July 2015 and started working on Christmas decorations in September. Only three months into my nascent art career after burying my ‘drawer’ novels.)

This idea started to take shape. I wanted to paint portraits again. I wanted to paint all kinds of real people from all walks of life and give them the chance to see it up close. I wanted to practice a type of alchemy, where I take paint and canvas from a 2 dimensional surface to a fully formed believable person looking back. I wanted to be challenged, forced to work quickly and move on, relying on muscle memory honed in figure drawing class and studio painting, so I can work quickly yet accurately and still give life to my subjects.

So I came up with #portraitsofpetersburg and asked people in the gallery on a cold day in January to trust me to paint their portrait for a future exhibit. Sandhi Gold convinced her friend Fawn Talbert to pose for me first, on faith that I can paint a portrait.

In the corner you can see our very first flyer.



She brought her friend. More people signed up. In February I had even more sign up. I now had 48 people. Time to figure out how this would all work out.