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  • Alex LaMaster

Interview with Lillian Abel

How do you make time to work? What does your schedule look like?

I’ve worked three and four days a week as a part-time program manager. It required organization to have two careers. I painted three to four days a week, depending on my work schedule. I couldn’t devote too much time to visiting Gallery Shows, but made sure I’d get out to see other’s work.

Now I only work one day a week teaching the art workshop I created for residents and homeless on Skid Row in 1992. On the weekends I attend gallery openings to see the work of other artists.

What is a typical day like for you?

Now I spend four to six hours painting, more if I have a show coming up.

What kind of environment helps you work/inspires your process?

I need quiet, as painting is a kind of meditation for me.

When did you first realize your style or interest?

My work has changed many times. It’s important to me to change to other styles and methods of working. For example, for my current work is more abstract. I lay down two to three colors in blocks of paint and mix them together with a palette knife on wood. In the past my work was minimalist, working with the simple forms of lines, ovals and circles. Then later, representational landscapes which led me to abstraction. The current paintings are also changing as I’ve made them over the past five years. However, they go together. I’ve been told: “They’re all a little different and yet still the same.” And “They all work off of each other.”

If you could provide your college-age advice, what would it be?

Majoring in Psychology and Art had me between science and creativity. I worried that I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted to be an Artist or a Psychologist. At the time I didn’t realize that these two would eventually merge to create a future career in Social Services on Skid Row. It was very fulfilling working with the clients as a Case Manager; however, I was eventually promoted to Program Manager for the 65 and older Seniors Program.

In 1992, I noticed immediately when I started working on Skid Row that there were artists in our caseloads and so created an art workshop, providing art supplies. This workshop inspired others and eventually became a documentary ( and on APT stations) due to a gallery show I obtained for the students in 2003. Today I would tell myself not to worry, as everything will be as it will be and I would be capable of having two distinct careers.

6. Were there influences in childhood-artists, family, etc, that helped you along?

My mother was an artist. It was always a hobby with her.

I was not encouraged to be an artist by my father or mother, as they believed in working at a full time steady job.

7. What do you find the most beautiful about the world you see, as an artist?

When I’m hiking in remote forests my awareness of all the entities that thrive, connect, compete and help each other create a sense of awe that becomes part of me. I've experienced terror in these experiences as well as melting into a sense of peaceful calm. I need to express these life experiences in my work. I see and feel everything in our Universe as a magical miracle and therefore, the invisible powers we are unable to see and know with our eyes has always been a fascination.

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