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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


"Mount Rainier" by Adriana Willsie
Once upon a time, in a land called the Pacific Northwest, I knew a little girl who seemed sprinkled with fairy dust. Call it sparkle, charisma, blessedness or whatever you want, but there is a certain quality that even in a world full of cute kids, some have and some do not. And she did. You know the kind of child I mean—the kind not only physically appealing, but full of glee, dancing through their days as if they believed their purpose on Earth was simply to experience carefree happiness, a rich imagination, and creative freedom. They make us smile, laugh, and wonder what they will become.

Adriana Willsie and Noah Saipe                photo by Teri Saipe
That little girl was my niece Adriana Willsie who grew up in Redmond, Washington. I watched her grow up. The happy child become the happy woman, beautiful inside and out. She graduated from Princeton University and worked in the non-profit sector for several years. Then she decided to become a full-time artist, an “unapologetically upbeat artist,” she says. Now living in Wisconsin and engaged to be married to her true love, Noah Saipe, Adriana still experiences and expresses her life with a sense of wonder, joy, and enchantment. Her distinctive artistic style delights a steadily growing number of people who have discovered her website:

AdrianaWillsie—Fresh Art & Custom Portraits.

"Dog Days of Summer"    by Adriana Willsie
Adriana first gained attention for her custom portraits of pets, because she somehow manages to express the animal’s personality as if she knew them. That same uncanny ability to recognize and make visible the true character of any subject she paints reveals itself in her still lifes and landscapes too. In each work of art, she shares her joyful spontaneity and keen perceptions.

Maybe this involves a bit of magic, because Adriana's magical childhood allowed her to see and do things in her own unique way. I recently interviewed my niece and am pleased to share our conversation with the readers of Good Life Northwest.
"Nighttime Cityscape - Seattle"    by Adriana Willsie
Good Life Northwest: How do you think growing up in the Pacific Northwest influenced your art and the person you are today?

 Adriana: I was lucky to be raised by two parents who understood the importance of unstructured play. I spent hours every day doing things like building tiny villages out of the moss and twigs in our yard, climbing trees, making my own “paints” from clay and charcoal, and shooting huckleberries at my unsuspecting brother.

These days, I can see just how rare and lucky is the kid who gets so much time playing outdoors and exploring. But looking back, I can see how it sparked my need to play and explore with paint. It's also impossible to grow up around so much natural beauty and not feel the need to somehow capture it.


GLN: What did you love best about growing up here?

Adriana:  I know it sounds cliché, but I loved the outdoors. Growing up, I always had this sense that our backyard was full of magical mysteries. For a while, I was convinced we had elves living in a gnarled tree behind our house. My friends and I would often go on hunts for treasures like interesting rocks or egg shells. And we assumed that the woods in our back yard could provide anything we might need (clay for binding stuff together, huckleberries for food, ferns to turn into forts, etc.) It was quite the pioneer mindset!

"Noah's Portrait"   by Adriana Willsie
GLN: What strong connections do you still feel?

Adriana: Somebody once bought me a little sachet of pine needles that smells exactly like the woods I grew up in. Every time I smell it, it gives me a sense of calm. Also, the sound of rain on leaves, no matter where I am, always brings my mind back to the house I grew up in.

"Lemons and Cake"    by  Adriana Willsie
GLN: Do you plan to do more landscapes and still life paintings in the future? What are your goals where art is concerned?

Adriana: My biggest goal for this year is to explore still lifes. I've started doing weekly challenges with artist friends to help us all improve our work, and I'm taking a color theory class at the university. I hope that by the end of the year, I'll have even more passion for painting and a deeper understanding of acrylics.

"Asparagus" by Adriana Willsie
GLN: Why do you choose to create works that are rather small in size as opposed to using larger canvases?

Adriana: This is something I started doing because of my budget. An 8-by-10-inch canvas is much cheaper than a 24-by-36-inch! But the more I painted, the more I realized that my painting style is to start and then work until it's done. Now I enjoy working on the smaller side because I can work my way through the whole painting at once. It also allows me to price my work so that it's affordable for everyone.

"Pumpkin" by Adriana Willsie

GLN: It seems to me that you have the ability to capture the essence of your subjects with a fresh and pleasing minimalist approach. How in the world do you do this? How are you feeling when you observe the subject and how do you discern which qualities you most want to express?

Adriana: Thank you! That's such a wonderful compliment. I'd say that the thing that excites me the most about painting is the color. Put me in the paint aisle of an art store and I will almost start drooling. When I'm beginning a new piece, I usually think about whether I want calming analogous colors or vibrant complimentary colors, and I begin making decisions from there. My paintings tend to be simple because I generally like to finish them in one day. Once I get revved up about something I'm working on, I can paint for 10 hours straight. But by the next day, it's old news.
"Orange" by Adriana Willsie
That may be, but the talent of this artist is the latest news. And once acquired, her work never grows old, because it comes with a wee bit of Adriana’s own essence—that of an artist gifted with originality, a love of vivid color, and a keen eye for the most important elements in the characters of people, animals, places and things.

I hope my niece's life will always feel as magical as a gnarled old tree that could be hiding elves in a Northwest forest. I hope people who read this will remember that the children in their lives also need plenty of unstructured play outdoors. If you want them to have a lucky life, they need to spend time where the fairy dust can find them.

"Tahoe"  by Adriana Willsie
Now that you know a little about Adriana, please take a look at her other paintings and delightful blog and get to know her better. Then you might want to contact her about doing a custom painting or sketch for you to keep or give as a very special gift.

Adriana Willsie—Fresh Art & Custom Portraits

Adriana Willsie’s shop on Etsy  (check out her paintings, pillows, and more)

"Griffin"  by Adriana Willsie


Good Life Northwest now has a page on FACEBOOK 
  The artwork in this blog post was used with the permission of the artist and may not be reproduced in any form.

1 comment:

Adriana Willsie said...

Thanks so much for having me on your blog! What an honor :)