Lisa Brawn: Notable Artist Profile

Calgary-based artist Lisa Brawn has been experimenting with primarily figurative, portrait genre painted woodcut blocks for over twenty years and has a knack for turning alternative venues in the city into gallery and project spaces. She also has a very interesting creative process, as you’ll find out in today’s profile…

Homegrown in Calgary or Transplant from…?
I was born in Calgary. I visited Yanqing and Mittelfranken but returned like a homing pigeon to Capitol Hill. Maybe it is the crocuses. Every year I wouldn’t mind skipping January, though.

What is your creative process like?
Every day I clear in my head by running 4 km, even in -23, so I see over 1000 km by foot in a year. Mostly it is changing seasons to see, but some other things change. I have a search object for words, and usually the words I find are “please check your shed for our missing cat,” but today I found “Aloha Landscapers.”  

Then I return home and make notes in a Moleskine book; things like sans cesse and Lee’s Lee’s and milksnakes

Then I spend 8 to 10 hours a day planning and carving in the garage woodshop and drawing and painting in the studio. I work in series, and the series are never-ending, so even if the woodcuts are finished in a strange order, say, Red-bellied woodpecker – Maria Callas – Creature from the Black Lagoon – Ash-throated Flycatcher – Professor Longhair – peahen, it all makes sense to me in the context of their series.

How does Calgary inspire your art?
A huge component of my art practice over the last decade or so has been scheming up alternative venues and project spaces. Sugarmobile was a 1935 silver travel trailer I restored for use as a mobile gallery. Sugar Gallery was a 300 sq. ft. art salon in the Grain Exchange. Museo Poco was one incarnation of the window gallery at 924 17th Avenue SW. The Bambi Media Machine was an Airstream artmobile. I collaborated with Milo Dlouhy and Angela Inglis on Sugar Estate Art Salon and Museum of Oddities, and on a storefront museum in Art Central, The National Portrait Gallery/Portrait Estate. Angie Inglis, Jane Grace, and I worked together on an interdisciplinary project space and art salon in residential NW Calgary, called Sugar Shack, and also on Sugar Cube (window gallery).


Right now I am collaborating with Eddie Olson and White-Field Senate on the new incarnation of the window gallery, La Fenêtre, and developing a new artmobile called M.E.A.T.B.A.L.L. 

Calgary directly inspired these experiments because I thought there was both a need for them and an opportunity to make them happen here. I doubt that I would have stuck my neck out in a larger city where there was already a critical mass of alternative arts action, or in a smaller city where I imagine there might not have been enough interest. Calgary has been almost ideal for these experiments. 

Any other muses we can know about?
Sidewalk Citizen sourdough bread!  

Do you take on commissioned work? 
I do. I just finished a portrait of Louis the French Bulldog for Robin Arseneault.  

Where’s your go-to spot for a cup of Joe? 
Phil & Sebastian, Beano, Weeds

Where can we see your work? 
AXIS Contemporary Art in Calgary, Yard Dog in Austin, Elevation Gallery in Canmore, The Front Gallery in Edmonton, The SHOP in New Orleans, Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ, and online at

You can also check out her woodcut of Clara Hughes in the Athlete Series Olympian Heights now until July 1 at MOCA.