Just like each piece of artwork has a story to tell, so does each artist. This is the first of a series of interviews with just a few of the 1,800 artisans in the Illinois Artisans Program. Earlier this summer, I spoke with scratch board Artisans Lisa Goesling of Palatine, IL on her decision to pursue art, her battle with cancer, and her reflections on having a family.
Growing up Lisa Goesling was surrounded by art. Her parents traveled throughout Europe bringing home precious pieces. Some were so small that Goesling would examine them under a magnifying glass. Goesling’s mother was a fashion illustrator and her father was a trained baritone as well as an attorney. While Lisa wanted to choose a fine art career, her parents steered her towards a more secure major, graphic design.
For 30 years Goesling worked creating campaigns, designing brochures, and books, all the while painting and drawing. In 2006 a cancer diagnosis pushed her to focus just on her art practice: “There are no guarantees in the art world. I took a giant leap six years ago. This has been the most intense concentration on my art, and I love it. I wish my dad was around to see it.”
During her cancer treatment Goesling discovered scratchboard, appealing because it is non-toxic and transportable. Scratchboards are coated with a layer of porcelain and then covered in ink. A metal stylus is used to etch away the black layer with detailed lines to create depth. While Goesling was going through treatment people kept sending her flowers, and she began noticing their amazing beauty.
“I’m not a religious person, but looking at the flowers I knew there must be a God. The texture and forms in the flowers are truly breathtaking!”
Working with extreme precision and detail in a media where one can’t erase, Goesling breaks down form into the smallest lines, isolating features and textures.
“I am sitting here looking at a bunch of dandelions. Drawn, they are a bunch of stars floating off the page. In this medium, simple is just not that interesting to me. I like to concentrate on something that will challenge me with loads of details. I have too many ideas. Every day I think, OK, I am here. How can I be productive today? I am not obsessive about it, but I do embrace how precious life is.”
Often Goesling is working on up to 6 pieces at a time at different stages of completion, she diligently spends between 3 and 8 hours daily in the studio. Preferring to work with the actual specimen, Goesling has plants at various stages of drying throughout her studio. She laughed as she described collecting milkweed and other botanics from the side of the road while her 89 year old Mother-In-Law sat watching her from the car, it happens fairly often. Before the object wilts Goesling will take several photos of it to work from, just in case they should die before she has completed her art. She is currently working on several large projects: a collaboration with a furniture artist as well as a grid of 12 pieces 8×8” in size.
In addition to a studio practice, Goesling frequently conducts workshops with cancer and pain management patients at Swedish Covenant. It is a powerful experience for Goesling as well as the participants in the workshops. “It is not something I can do all the time. The stories I hear…I am not a therapist…it is larger than the art. One of the cancer patients said to me: You did a whole lot more with your cancer than I do with mine!”
Lisa Goesling also added her advice to other artists: “I have so many different opinions. One of the issues I have is people thinking it is cool to be a starving artist. It doesn’t do any of us any favors. We need to take ourselves seriously, and everyone else will. What we do has value.”
After speaking with Goesling at length about her work, she sent me this insight: I keep thinking about what else I would have added to my interview. I guess the one thing that came to mind is that while some artists only want to concentrate on their art and not lead a life that might get in the way of that. I found that for me, having a family along with so many life experiences, have enriched my art, not taken away from it. I don’t feel the angst that a lot of artists express through their art. And I don’t work hard at finding the meaning of life, I feel like I already found it.
Lisa Goesling’s work is featured at Illinois Artisans, Chicago & In “When Nature Talks” Members Gallery Exhibition at Southern Illinois Art & Artisans Center, Rend Lake.