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Finding inspiration on the prairie

Lisa Olivarez, paints a scene of the prairie at the Homestead National Monument. Olivarez is the Homestead’s most recent artist in residence.

Sometimes when in need of inspiration, you have to look no further than right above you.

That’s one lesson Lisa Olivarez learned quickly on the prairie.

Olivarez, the Homestead National Monument’s latest artist in residence, has braved the heat since her July 15 arrival at the Homestead to paint her interpretation of the prairie.

She said one of the most eye-catching aspects of the Homestead that differs from her native Michigan, is the sky line.

“Out here, I’ve been painting the skies a lot,” Olivarez said. “They’re very different than in Michigan. You don’t see this much of a sky. I try to point my camera up and get part of it and it’s just a tiny bit of the beauty.”

Olivarez is spending 15 days at the Homestead to work on her painting.

Self-described as an expressionistic artist, the soft-spoken Olivarez has been painting since childhood, following in her sister’s footsteps at times.

“I think it just came about through nature,” Olivarez said. “I grew up outside a lot around water and trees, and then just wanting to paint and share what I was looking at.

“I did have an older sister who painted so I kind of copied her. Then I took off on my own doing it, got scholarships to college, won some national competitions and here I am.”

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Olivarez said she has a “dual-career,” consisting of creating and selling her paintings and also home schooling her four children, which she said is an important career.

Olivarez spends her days at the Homestead painting the landscape, usually with pastel paints, though she has done oil painting as well in the last week.

Working in the heat doesn’t bother her much. What’s more disturbing is the insects that find their way on to her paintings, having been attracted to the bright flower-esque colors filling the canvas.

One of her favorite attractions on the Homestead is the interaction the sun light has with the trees.

“I like when the light comes through the trees and it’s a back lit sort of thing with a lot of contrast,” Olivarez said. “It’s a little more isolated than I’m used to, but it’s beautiful. The people are very kind. I’ve enjoyed everyone here.”

While at the Homestead, Olivarez will host workshops for the public, with her last being Saturday at 9 a.m. During the workshop, she will talk to those in attendance about warm and dark colors.

So far, she has completed nine paintings, with more to come this week. One of her works will remain at the Homestead to be displayed.

For Olivarez, painting has always been an instinctive action she’s happily embraced.

“It’s just something I’ve always done that’s came naturally to me,” Olivarez said. “As an artist, there are sort of different things that excite you. You drive by something and start to think about how you would paint that. It’s just something that interests you.”

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