Lisa Fittipaldi is a remarkable painter with an incredible expertise of light and color. Her art transports you to the landscapes and worlds that she paints, and you can visualize different cultures of the world through her paintings. You would surely love every one of her creations and you would also be astonished to find out that she is completely blind.

Her story is a testimony of overcoming limitations and spiritual strength. She was a C.P.A., who was working for a very important international company when she completely lost her eyesight, and at the same time she lost her job. It could have been the end of the world for anybody. For Lisa, this was the beginning of a new and better life. She couldn't be a Chief Accountant anymore, instead Lisa became an outstanding painter.


She has received a lot of praise and success as an artist in Europe, South America, Africa and Japan and has become known in several countries. She received a governmental appointment from President George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas. Lisa has been invited by television programs and has been interviewed by People, London Daily Telegraph, and The Miami Herald, among many international publications.


Lisa also created an organization to help people who are sight impaired called: "Mind’s Eye Foundation".
We feel honored to interview Lisa Fittipaldi and to know more about her art career and her prolific life.

Interview by Marisa Darnel

ARTIST INTERVIEWS: Lisa, can you tell us about the media and the techniques that you work with?

Lisa Fittipaldi: I began painting in the summer of 1995 two years after I lost my sight. Being totally blind and without benefit of an education in art, I have had to develop techniques to teach myself how to paint. I began as a watercolorist and successfully learned to distinguish by feel the differences in the primary colors. Then I taught myself shape, form, design and commitment to the painting. As a self taught artist I am constantly striving to improve my technical abilities and increase the complexity of the images I create.

Since 2000 I have been teaching myself to paint in oils. For me oil painting is like painting in the dark. There are no physical boundaries to help me gauge where the object is on the canvas and there are no tactile boundaries for distinguishing the color of an object. Given the limitation of not being able to stand back and analyze what is occurring on the canvas, to correct the flaws or gauge the outcome, I just try to improve a little at a time and enjoy myself while doing so. I approach a canvas as a finite space and begin each painting by blocking out all the nonessential elements with a base coat of acrylic or oil paint. I leave the essential parts of the painting to last.

Before I begin a painting I make certain that the “finished” painting is securely seen in my mind. I rarely work on one painting at a time as I find that boredom with a theme or an idea causes me to abandon a painting for months. The majority of my paintings begin with the primary colors and white. Later on in the painting I will add an additional secondary color to introduce a dark or a shadow in the painting. I let the painting breathe about two or three days before attempting any corrections and this helps to ensure that I have not wiped out any brush strokes and not eliminated any item in the painting that my mind desires. Eventually the painting has taught me what I needed to know, and it is deemed finished. I now have acquired the knowledge to utilize, and mix, several types of medium in the same painting, such as oils, watercolors, acrylics and pastels. I paint on many surfaces both textured and smooth like canvas, papers and boards.

 

"December in Paris" by Lisa Fittipaldi. © Copyright Lisa Fittipaldi. All Rights Reserved.

"The Red Garter" by Lisa Fittipaldi. © Copyright Lisa Fittipaldi. All Rights Reserved.

A.I.: Your paintings have so much diversity and they hold a very unique style. How do you get the ideas for the themes that you do?


LF: Ideas and themes for the paintings come from my past and present experiences in life, from travel, things I have heard, images I remember and stories I create in my mind. Every painting that I create is done for the purpose to entertain the visual palette, to increase my technical competence as a painter and to entertain me on a rainy day. As I can no longer see photographs or other images, I must rely on the immediate impressions in my mind. These impressions are sometimes very strong images which create a final painting in a concise manner on the canvas. I have the ability to reproduce an image but prefer to create a different painting and a different theme each time. I have been told that although my paintings have some of the same signature characteristics, each work is unlike any other painting I have completed. I paint primarily people in vignettes of life because people fascinate me. I love complicated intricate themes, dance, bullfighting, horse racing, action and tend to return to them time and again.

A.I.: How long does it take you to complete such realistic and vivid paintings?

I’ve been told that I’m supposed to answer this question by saying, “a lifetime.” However, when I begin to work, I begin six paintings at a time. Paintings generally take several months since my concentration is vital to finish each painting. I have found that if I attempt to rush the process the images rapidly fade but if I work on several canvases at a time the final outcome is more personally fulfilling.

A.I.: Your work has received a lot of praise in Europe and South America. You have traveled a lot taking your art to different countries. Would you share with us some of the feedback that you have received from there?

LF: Each time I have traveled somewhere in the world, the images of those experiences are later
reflected in my paintings. The feedback I receive from various countries seems to vary with the
venue. Universally, I am normally compared either with a late impressionist painter, or with Edward Hopper. I am very flattered by this comparison. Some critics have praised my work as true genius because I paint for myself, in a style much like the “old masters.” Other critics say that since I do not paint the same thing twice and that every painting possesses a different theme, color palette and design element that I have no real direction. I have been told that my work is highly collectable. Collectors appreciate the uniqueness of each individual painting yet are upset when I desire not to paint the same image twice. The only thing that really matters to me is that people like, and purchase my art. Each of my paintings seems to move people emotionally in different ways. At Museums or shows people have said, “The man on the bench reminds me of my uncle Alberto” or “The painting is as I remember my village when I was growing up.” Patrons sometimes feel as if I had painted the work just for them. The differences present in each painting have made a large impact in Europe and South America and is starting to gaining recognition in the United States.

A.I.: You have been interviewed by People, London Daily Telegraph, The Miami Herald, among many other publications. How do you feel with the success that your talents have received?

LF: The world considers me to be a success because I have overcome extreme hardship and survived. I am extremely honored that the news media has chosen me as a positive role model
and has allowed me the opportunity to touch the lives and hearts of so many people throughout
the world. On a personal level, however, I have many goals to reach before I can consider myself
a success as an artist. One of these goals is to have my art endure. My other goal is to have the
time and energy to evolve as a painter. At the moment I am attempting to achieve the technical
ability to paint a mural of 1,000 people in the Ganges River, each with a separate identity and each with their own unique story. I feel that I can never truly achieve success because I am constantly setting new goals.

 

"Day Dreaming " by Lisa Fittipaldi. © Copyright Lisa Fittipaldi. All Rights Reserved.

"Olé" by Lisa Fittipaldi. © Copyright Lisa Fittipaldi. All Rights Reserved.

"Just For Kicks" by Lisa Fittipaldi. © Copyright Lisa Fittipaldi. All Rights Reserved.

 

A.I.: Lisa, can you tell us about "Mind’s Eye Foundation": how you created the organization and how it is helping other sight impaired people?


LF: The Mind’s Eye Foundation is a not for profit charity that provides educational technology for blind and visually impaired children between the ages of six to sixteen who are mainstreamed into the public school environment. The idea is to help these children learn on par with their sighted peers. The idea was conceived after losing my job shortly after I lost my sight. At that time, I did not have the financial ability to provide myself with adaptive equipment that would help me gain new employment. As approximately seventy-five percent of all persons who are blind are unemployed, I feel that education is essential for giving a blind child the life skills necessary for their future. Now a portion of the proceeds from my paintings are directed towards helping these children gain this adaptive equipment. This is my way of being an advocate for education. Education for children who need to learn but cannot see. The Minds Eye Foundation provides a clearinghouse for information on blindness and the latest technologies. The Foundation also answers the hundreds of personal e-mails on a myriad of subjects relating to disability and to art for the disabled. The web site is www.mindseyefoundation.org.

A.I.: What kind of technologies exist today to help people who cannot see?

LF: The Mind’s Eye Foundation provides screen reading software, scanners and computer systems. However, there are literally hundreds of other devices available for the blind and visually impaired each with a specific purpose in maximizing independence for activities of daily living.  Some of these devices are mobility and orientation aids like walking guides systems. Other devices available are audio descriptive to enjoy the television or cinema, mobile communications, talking calculators and watches, speech recognition software, braille translation software, and special computer accessories.


A.I.: Are you planning any exhibits this year?

LF: Presently, there is a museum tour of my paintings entitled “Blind Ambition” traveling throughout the United States. This is a retrospective showing the transition between my years in watercolor to my present paintings in oils. Accompanying this show is an interactive display which examines blindness and provides some insight into creativity and what it is like to be blind and paint. This year, I will be touring the country on a lecture circuit in the United States. I am also helping to raise funds for children’s hospitals. Later this year I am eagerly anticipating my first European speaking engagements and Gallery opening.

A.I.: Would you tell us about your expectations in regard of your career and your philanthropic organization?

LF: My ultimate expectation is to continue to paint and grow as an artist. I have been invited to write a book on color theory and art for the Artist, and to coauthor and illustrate a bilingual book for children on the subject of blindness with the proceeds going to the Mind’s Eye Foundation and blindness prevention organizations. I will, of course, continue to raise awareness and money for children who are blind and visually impaired.

A.I.: What is a day in the life of Lisa Fittipaldi like?

LF: I own a bed and breakfast in San Antonio Texas so my day begins at 7 am with baking bread and muffins for the guests. After breakfast is served, I usually sit down with the guests for a bit of conversation. Around 10 am I usually go directly to the studio and begin to paint. Sometimes I help my husband with the tasks necessary for maintaining and conducting the business. I usually paint between four and eight hours a day. In the evening, after painting, I usually attend Yoga classes or utilize my exercise equipment at home. At around 9 pm my husband and I have dinner and we spend some quality time together. He always reads to me from the newspaper and we do the crossword together. Then it is off to bed to get some well needed rest before another day of muffins and guests and painting.

A.I.: Thank you very much, Lisa!

More information on Lisa Fittipaldi and her paintings may be found at www.lisafittipaldi.com