About the artists

In this week’s artist interview, we meet Randy and Lisa Lee, the husband and wife team behind Tin Cat Studio in northwest Wisconsin, USA. Together, Randy and Lisa create exceptional art pieces utilising a combination of impressionistic-style photography and encaustic medium.

Each piece starts as a photograph and through digital manipulation and added layers of textures, transforming the image into a work of art. The image is fused with layers of encaustic medium (beeswax and resin) and finished with a custom frame. The one-of-a-kind frames are built with reclaimed wood, metal, or both and designed to perfectly complement the artwork.

How did you first get into digital art?

We have been photographing the Midwest landscape for over ten years as a way to document the fading landscape. In this region, there are so many barns and symbols of the era of small family farming that are becoming things of the past. At Tin Cat Studio, we work to capture not only the long-forgotten barns and windmills but also the ever-changing natural landscape. Lisa’s artwork reflects the macro world in shots that represent the world of beauty that people often miss – wildflowers or weeds growing along the edge of a less-travelled dirt road or fresh frost upon a frozen thistle. Randy’s impressionistic photo creations reflect rural farm scenes as well as inspiring trees, birds on the wing, and even urbanscapes.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

Having a love for photography and art, we started taking lots and lots of photos of the things we loved (barns, trees, flowers, etc.). We had the tools of digital cameras, computers and software at our fingertips – but the question was how to be different. By using the tools we had, we could ‘paint’ digitally to transform our images into works of art we loved!

Which artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?

Impressionism, Abstract, Pointillism and of course Abstract impressionism

Tell us about the process you use to make your art.

We begin each art piece with a base photograph and a good idea of what we need to do to achieve the final product. We’ll apply different techniques to the photograph during the post-editing process to set a mood or create an impact. In addition, we photograph a variety of textures and other visual elements that we can include to enhance the work. After creating the digital portion, we cover the artwork with a mixture of beeswax and resin. This encaustic process adds texture, depth and interest to each piece as well as provides an excellent protective coating. Handcrafted custom frames encase most of our current body of work. We embrace the imperfections of recycled materials and reclaimed barn wood, metal and found objects make up our frame pieces, creating individual and unique pieces of art.

What inspires you?

Many things conjure up inspiration, but the ability to create unique and beautiful artwork from “things” that people may walk by every day and not give a second thought to is both rewarding and inspirational. At Tin Cat Studio, we gain our inspiration from many places – a primary one is the abundance of scenic natural landscapes around us; another one is the distressed and decaying fabric of the Midwestern farming culture.

What is your motivation?

It took us a long time and a lot of trial and error to develop a style that ignites both of our passions. While Randy does the majority of the editing, both of them need to agree on the final image before it becomes part of their body of work. We derive motivation from the end result – being able to produce high-quality art, in turn, becomes a motivating force for us to launch out and create again. It is incredibly motivating to create art that you genuinely love and having people appreciate what you’re doing is an added bonus.

If you could take only two of your images to a desert island, what would they be and why?

Lisa: Into the Wild and Black Eyed Susan
Randy: Pacify and Citified

Describe your style in three words.

Impressionistic style photography.

Tell us about any memorable comments or responses you’ve had about your work.

“Dreamy and Ethereal”
“You can just feel the texture in the image!”
“Holy sh*t that’s awesome!”

Name three artists who inspire you.

Jamie Heiden – jheidenphoto.net
Priska Wettstein – priskawettstein.com
Rick Ross – summitartstudio.com

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

We are always learning and ever-changing. If you aren’t learning, then you’re not growing and improving, and you will get left behind and forgotten. Many things have changed, including a focus on a specific style of art. There was a lot of time at the beginning that was for exploration and finding out what style we liked best.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?

Trial and error is a great teacher, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

To create the photos: Nikon D750 camera(s), multiple lenses, lighting (sometimes – usually natural), computer and brain!
For the encaustic process: Heat gun, Torch, brushes, wax, resin
Frame building: many many power tools and a lot of practice.

What software do you use to create your art?

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Topaz Labs, Google Nik Filters, and various actions/presets.

Do you use images from stock sites in your work?

No, we take all the images we use.

Do you think digital/new media art is not yet recognised as a valid form of art?

Often, it is not. We travel to a lot of art shows in this region; people who visit our booth express mixed reactions. While they love the imagery, texture, depth and mood of a piece, when they discover it’s a photograph, we’ll often may hear comments like “Oh, it’s just a photo,” or “oh, it’s been Photoshopped.” In these days, when everyone seems to have access to a camera, the common thought behind digital manipulation (Photoshopping) is often that we are ‘trying to pull one over’ on the general public.

We are inundated with with photos on social media and in everyday life. It is this overabundance that makes us question what ‘good’ digital art is, and is it really art if there is so much of it available? Why can a painter paint the world as they see it and it’s accepted as art, yet the same process in photography may not be validated as art? For us at Tin Cat Studio, we create art through our photographs. Through a thoughtful and detailed process, we transform a simple picture to a high-quality level of impressionistic photography.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and artworks with us Randy and Lisa!

Find links to more of Randy and Lisa’s (Tincat Studios) artwork in their entry in our Artist Directory.

Products mentioned in this interview

Nikon D750: Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Adobe Photoshop: Visit the Adobe website (affiliate link)
Adobe Lightroom: Visit the Adobe website (affiliate link)
Topaz Labs: Visit the Topaz Labs website
Google Nik filters:Visit the DxO website

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