Lillstreet Student Spotlight: Morgan Lyons

Morgan Lyons is a Lillstreet student and Chicago native. She is currently a senior at Lane Tech High School and is a talented drawing and painting artist.  Her work is inspired by Classical realism, and she recently spent her summer abroad studying at Florence Academy of Art.  One of a handful of young students to receive a scholarship to this program, we took a moment to learn about her current practice and how it will be influenced by her experience in Italy.

When and where did you start painting? How did this medium speak to you?

I first began painting in my art class in high school. Oil paints were the medium that spoke to me most because they can do amazing things once you know how to control them.

What teachers and artists have most influenced you?

While I am inspired by artists like Leonardo Di Vinci and Sargent, the artists that inspire me the most I have met myself. There are a few in my mind that stand out especially.  Last summer, I took Bob Horn’s figure drawing class at Lillstreet, where I learned how to use unfamiliar mediums and strengthen my drawing ability.  My high school art teacher, Mr. Ceh, and my instructor at Florence Academy of Art, Simone Moritz, have both strongly influenced and continue to inspire me.

What do you most like to paint and why?

I most like to paint people. There is something human about painting hair, skin, eyes, and so on, that isn’t there while painting clothes or objects, as enjoyable as that is too.

What is the most important step of your painting process?

The most important step in my painting process is the moment when accuracy is reached. I believe that underneath every good painting is a great drawing, and without it off proportions serve as a distraction from the overall painting. I push myself every time I pick up a paintbrush to pay close attention to accuracy before I get to the fun parts like details and adding color.

I heard you were abroad this summer? How exciting! Tell us about the program and your experience.

I applied for and was accepted to a program that the Florence Academy of Art holds every summer. It’s a month of a class or classes of the student’s choice. The classes are ones that anyone of any age and from anywhere could choose to go to. I was lucky enough to be one of six all-age and international people to receive scholarship to go study Academy for a month. Classes were weekdays, nine to five, for the month of July.

Apart from having the opportunity to live in the beautiful city of Florence and interact with a new culture,  my  time  at the Academy was what made it such a wonderful experience . I was amazed with how much I learned in just a few short weeks. The students and teachers were all such engaged,  skilled, and generally kind people. There was something to be learned from all of them.

What did you learn in Italy that you don’t feel you could have learned here in the US?

While I think there are many very skilled artists and teachers here in the US, I believe the Academy takes painting and drawing to a much more technical, serious level than many places here in the US do. Lessons in Italy on art are concrete, straight forward in the way they are taught. They believe that creativity and individuality is something that comes after you have learned a good foundational skillset, and that is what I believe the Academy can give.

What are your goals for painting in the future?

Right now, I am working on a still life. The skills I’m trying to strengthen while doing this are my hand-eye coordination and my ability to create light in a painting. My goal is to keep improving. If my experience this summer taught me anything it is that there is always, always, more to be learned. I hope to do just that in the future.

What is your best advice to anyone just starting out in painting?

My advice would be to be patient with yourself. All artists make errors, but it’s those who are patient enough to correct instead of give up that become the greatest.



Teaching Artist Spotlight: Jordan Lentz

Jordan Lentz is an illustrator, teaching artist and the Director of the Drawing & Painting Department at Lillstreet Art Center. Jordan is one of the newest additions to the Lillstreet team of directors. A graduate of SAIC in 2014, she joined Lillstreet last summer and brings positive vibes, creative enthusiasm and hardworking spirit to the leadership team.

Q. Congratulations on your solo exhibition, Natura. Are you taking a break, or working on what’s next?

Thank you! It’s hard for me to be the center of attention and take compliments, but this exhibition has been a really good experience. Actually, the solo show really inspired me to get back to work. I’ve started working on several large scale pencil drawings. My goal for 2017 is to finish those and get my work shown in galleries in Chicago.


Q. Your artwork gives the impression that you’ve been at this for some time. Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator?

Yes, I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. My mom said when I was four, she knew I would be an artist the day I drew a potbelly pig in 3D.

Today I would consider myself a technical artist. I prefer scientific illustration and very detailed, realistic work with subject matters that interest me.


Q. Your work is astounding and so real. Do you really think it’s possible to teach that type of skill, or is it innate?

I do think it’s possible to teach drawing at that level. I’ve seen a few of my own students who have never drawn a day in their lives turn into some pretty impressive illustrators.


Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor or mentor?

I tend to get stuck in my work at a certain point and just call it quits – either out of frustration or boredom. I had an instructor who forced me to keep going back into the same piece over and over again, and I think my work has improved immensely. It was a small piece of advice, but it made a big impact on my work.


Q. What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?

I love to teach fashion illustration and Cabinet of Curiosities, which is a lot of fun because we draw from a collection of oddities – bones, skulls, taxidermy, bugs.

I love being surrounded by so many creative people with such diverse work. I am constantly being inspired by this wonderful artistic community.

Q. It’s clear that bugs are a reoccurring theme in your work…why?

I collect bugs – I’m so fascinated by them. People tend to immediately dismiss them as scary or creepy, but if you really take time to look at them…their colors, wings, body styles – they’re actually incredibly beautiful. I draw them because I enjoy ‘over glamorizing’ things that people tend to think are ugly.


Q. What artist(s) or movements have had an impact on your work?

Lucian Freud, Ivan Albright, tattoo art inspires a lot of my work.


Q. Tattoo art! Your work seems like it would translate well into that. Would you ever consider being a tattoo artist?

Yes! I actually have had two apprenticeships in tattoo shops here in the city. It’s one of the hardest mediums to master, but I love it. I would love to have my own, private shop some day in the future. It’s definitely an ultimate goal of mine.


Q. We look forward to your success in 2017 and beyond, and tattoos by you in the future! Let’s sign off with two truths and a lie?


  1. I was spit on by a llama at the Wisconsin State Fair.
  2. I love pickles.
  3. I had a terrifying cat dissection experience in middle school, and I’ve been a vegetarian ever since.


(We’ll leave the guessing up to you). In the mean time, check out Jordan’s current and upcoming Lillstreet classes here.





Lillstreet Teaching Artist Spotlight: Ken Minami

We had the chance to sit down with teaching artist Ken Minami in the warm and welcoming “West Wing” (Lillstreet’s annex space dedicated to painting and drawing classes). Ken is a painter and Chicago native who has been teaching with Lillstreet Art Center since 2012.



What was your path to becoming an artist?  

It’s kind of funny, I actually started out my career as a chef. I worked at one of Erwin Drechsler’s restaurants here in the city, and I thought, “This will be fun to do for a summer,” and that turned into 8 years. But at a certain point, I came to realize that the more I advanced in my cooking career, the less time I would actually spend in the kitchen. So I chose to nurture a different passion and turned to the formal study of visual art.


Where did you study?   

I studied at Ingbretson Studio of Drawing and Painting in Boston difficult one to find — one modeled after the 19th century studios of Paris wherein a group of students would find a master to give weekly critiques on work that started with drawing from classical sculpture and progressing to figure painting. My dad was also a visual artist, so I wasn’t new to it, but I did need to learn to cultivate a distinctively different way of looking at things.


What are your favorite classes to teach at Lillstreet?

Painting the Figure Alla Prima and Pastel and Oil Painting Portrait and Figure – primarily because they teach students how to draw with a brush. These classes also connect form and space with color, which are very interrelated concepts and not easily separated.


What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I truly enjoy seeing students stay with an art form over a period of time. In a 10-week class, I can observe an artist emerging, but in two years, I can see even more. It’s like having a garden – I love to see how be people come such a long way over time.


What do you appreciate about the Lillstreet artist community?

I appreciate the enthusiasm of the students. In so many facets of our lives we’re required to multi-task, but in the classroom it feels like one of the few times when we get to focus on one thing. There’s something very satisfying about not trying to juggle so many thoughts and responsibilities at once.


Your paintings seem to have a recurring theme of night in the city, why is that?

What intrigues me about night is that we don’t actually have that much information to work with in the dark. The environment is somewhat suggested, but our brain and eye complete the story. It’s an ongoing theme in my work, because I’m curious as to how others put the scene together and how they develop the narrative.



What/who has been an inspiration to your work?

Miles Davis. I know it may seem strange that a musician would inform my work, but painting is very much like music in terms of composition and timing. I remember sitting on my porch as a 14-year old. I was so thrilled to have discovered Miles Davis. I thought to myself, “I want to make something as beautiful as this music.”


As an artist and/or instructor, what is an accomplishment(s) you’re most proud of?

I’m most proud of being persistent and for staying on the painting and drawing path. I’ve learned that you don’t always need to figure everything out in advance; you can figure it out as you go.


Ken Minami is a teaching artist at Lillstreet Art Center and Evanston Art Center. He will be participating in an upcoming  exhibition, “Sense of Place” at the Elmhurst Museum, Dec. 10, 2016 – Feb. 12, 2017. Visit his website here.


The Walls of Lillstreet

If you regularly pass through the Lillstreet Gallery Annex, you have undoubtedly observed the ever-growing work of Stacia Yeapanis.  (For those of you out there who have not, you should stop by and stop by often!) Yeapanis has been installing her exhibition, When Things Fall Apart, one piece at time over the last few weeks. The show culminates with a closing reception on Friday, December 5 where participants will be invited to pull out the pins holding this piece together.

For more on this event, check out

For more on Stacia Yeapanis, check out her webstie at


Close-up of When Things Fall Apart


Close-up of When Things Fall Apart


Feeling inspired and want to try a collage class at Lillstreet? Look no further than the display wall on the third floor.


Drawing & Painting display wall


Here you will find some fantastic examples of student artwork, including some fantastic pieces from the Experimental Collage class. You can still also signup for the 3 week Abstract Collage course this session!

Encaustic Paintings

I have been taking advantage of some of the wonderful classes Lillstreet has to offer. There are so many new processes alternative materials to play with out there! Here are some examples of my work in encaustics.

Polaroid Images from my travels through the Badlands, Black Hills, and Rocky Mountain National Parks in Encaustic

Polaroid Images from my travels through the Badlands, Black Hills, and Rocky Mountain National Parks in Encaustic

Making an Encaustic Landscape Painting

Making an Encaustic Landscape Painting

Experimenting with Geological Rock Formations in Encaustic

Experimenting with Geological Rock Formations in Encaustic

I also had the chance to learn a little bit about printmaking.

Xerox Transfer Relief Print

Xerox Transfer Print


Look for my artwork in the Best of Show Exhibition at DANK Haus (on Lawrence and Western).

Life drawing and opportunism

When I took over at the start of the summer as monitor for the drop-in life drawing sessions in what Lillstreet’s now calling the West Wing—the former Drawing Workshop studio—the first thing I did was to tinker with pose timings.  I’d gone to the drop-ins once in a while under the old regime, but I’d never made a habit of it, because the experience just wasn’t all that enjoyable:  not for the space itself, which is beautiful, and not for the uniformly serious and respectful atmosphere, but because the rigorous focus on short gestures felt punishing to me.  Working (as I remember it anyway) for a 45-minute stretch, starting at 20 seconds and with the longest poses getting up to no more than two minutes, made my head hurt and my eyes feel numb; I was done in before the session was a third over.

Gesture drawing is biased toward linearity; if (like me) you tend to see tonally, line line and more line can get to be a chore.  And I’m mindful of what Ken Minami has said about gesture work, that there’s a danger in too much of it—that it can lead you into reactive drawing, into mere gesture, moving your hand and your arm without really seeing the thing your gestures are supposed to be a response to (or really seeing how that response is developing).

I think by now we’ve established a good baseline for the drop-in sessions:  a half-hour of 30-second, one- and two-minute gestures, then increasing length until the two final poses of 25 and 40 minutes.  The short work gets you loose, and there’s enough time at the end to relax into more considered and realized drawing.  It seems to work for most of the artists who attend the sessions.

The funny thing to me is that over the course of these last few months my own feeling about gesture work has loosened up.  I’ll probably always have an eat-your-spinach attitude toward short poses; but on the other side of Ken’s warning about reactive drawing is something that I think of as opportunistic drawing.  I know people who say if you aren’t drawing quickly you aren’t drawing at all.  I don’t exactly buy that, but seeing quickly—seeing opportunistically—is an awfully good thing to train yourself in, and relevant no matter what the length of a pose.  What lack of time can do for you is to promote a certain healthy ruthlessness about your practice:  what do I need to see right now to make some sort of drawing happen?  What visual event up on that platform is going to give me the best and quickest way in?  Attachment to system and to theoretical approaches (make cylinders! always draw the head first!) is every bit as much an enemy of seeing as moving your arm by rote is, and opportunism moves you past that.

We draw from 6:30 – 9:30 every Wednesday evening, and 10:30 – 1:30 every Sunday morning.  You should join us.  I might even say it’s an opportunity.


Greetings from the Painting and Drawing Artist in Resident Studio!

I have been working away in Painting Room C (3rd floor main building) on a new series that combines waterfowl and tangled up refuse. This series of watercolor paintings feature imagery drawn from animal specimens and litter I collect on my walk to the studio.

Below, you can see three watercolor paintings in different stages of development. You may also notice that I am experimenting with pulling this body of work into different mediums like printmaking and encaustic by utilizing the amazing classes Lillstreet has to offer.

Painting and Drawing Artist in Resident Studio

Painting and Drawing Artist in Resident Studio


I love visitors. You are most welcome to drop by anytime to see the work in process and chat! Studio hours are 9am – 6pm Tuesday and Thursday, 9am – 12pm Fridays.

For more on my work, check out my website at


The Figure in Context with Brenda Moore

The Figure in Context is an extremely exciting class. There is an amazingly delicate balance of freedom and structure present. Each week, a new artist is introduced from which the students can draw inspiration.




The students work with a variety of materials, including charcoal and paint. For this class session, the students worked in pen and ink.




Natural hair brushes are dipped in ink to make expressive free-flowing marks. Water is added to the ink for different shades of grey, much like watercolor, which is introduced later on in the class.


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You can see student work from Brenda’s Class on the walls of the Painting Department.





Exploring Processes in Encaustics

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There are many different processes involved in encaustics, the practice of painting with wax. The following photos from Jenny Learner’s encaustics class demonstrate some of these fascinating ways of image-making with beeswax.


Encasing an Image

Here, clear melted beeswax is applied to a paper image stretched on canvas. The wax is applied swiftly and at all angles because the melted wax begins to harden immediately. Also, the encaustic painter exercises caution, refraining from coming in contact with the hot wax as it is applied. Once the wax is brushed on, an iron is used to heat the wax once again, this time to smooth imperfections in the wax coating such as drips and indents.

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Layering with Tissue Paper

Tissue paper is an interesting medium to use in encaustics due to its translucency. The applied wax saturates the colored tissue paper, revealing the color of the layer underneath. This technique creates fluid, organic patterns.

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Pigment Transfers

Transfer paper can be used to press different colored lines into a wax surface.

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Scraping Away

Texture is an important element in regards to encaustic painting, as thick top coats can be taken away in areas to reveal previous layers.

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Application of Heat to Wax Surface

Heat softens the wax surface to allow the encaustic artist to revisit select areas on a painting. This can allow for soft blending resulting in gradients, and the opportunity to alter the texture.

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Application of Wax to Heated Surface

Here, blocks of pigmented wax are rubbed onto a hot surface, actually allowing the encaustics painter to draw. The melting of the wax happens upon contact.

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Explore Jenny’s work in encaustics on her website. And try your hand at Encaustic Painting this fall at Lillstreet—Register here!


Drawing as Meditation and Improvisation with Lance Brown

The first thing that came to my mind upon my visit to the Drawing as Meditation and Improvisation Class was the comfortable and serene atmosphere, as well as the terrific amount of automatic drawing happening in the room.

Looking through these sketchbooks, I enter a realm of dreamlike pencil drawings. The process that goes into creating these relies on the balance of improvisation versus meditation. Lance Brown describes it as “drawing the feeling of something,” which is a great way to describe the process of meditative drawing. Variety of hand is encouraged in this class, which makes for surprising and unexpected results. It’s about the idea of never saying no, and letting the ideas flow naturally onto the sketchbook pages.

The finished images can be anything from humorous to scary, but the idea is to lay planning and objectives to the side to let imagination take the wheel.

For more information about this class, check out the list of Paintings and Drawing Classes at Lillstreet

Student Work









A Peek into Lance Brown’s Sketchbook


Imagined/Meditative Line Drawings




“Palm Dance”




“Jilted Lover”








“Prehistoric Bird”

Find out more about Lance’s artwork at

Meditative Drawings by Claes Oldenburg