By Jenna Jay
Ninety-five-year-old Lillis Lewis of La Jolla will sell prints from some of her life’s collection of paintings at the Oct. 13 Taste of the Town benefit for LiveWell San Diego, a program that supports seniors living with memory loss.
Lewis specializes in portraits, still life and floral paintings, and her artwork dates back to the 1930s. Giclée prints of her work spanning several decades will be for sale at the second annual LiveWell fundraiser, which also includes food samplings from area restaurants. A portion of the proceeds raised by Lewis’ artwork at Taste of the Town will go to LiveWell and its Adult Social Day Care program.
A La Jolla resident since the 1950s, when her family emigrated from England to Southern California, Lewis has spent most of her adolescent and adult years creating life on canvas.
“From a child very young I was always drawing, so anybody who saw it knew that I was artistic and gradually, you know, as you get older you get more efficient, and so people recognized that I had that ability,” she explained.
One person in particular who recognized Lewis’ artistic abilities and helped propel her early career in drawing was renowned British cartoonist Arthur Ferrier, who invited Lewis as a teenager to work at his studio in England.
“He was quite famous because he did the strip in the newspaper on Sunday,” Lewis said. “He seemed to like what I did, so he asked me to come and work at his studio. I did and that was, I think, probably one of the happiest times in my life. He had beautiful models, and it was just wonderful,” Lewis said with a smile.
Though initially interested in drawing, Lewis eventually grew to be enamored with photography, as well. She studied at the London Polytechnic School of Photography and spent several years exhibiting artwork before getting married and raising a family.
Lewis’ artistic career continued to grow with pastel paintings, but she only began oil painting later in life, according to her daughter Ivory.
“It wasn’t until I went to college and Mum was kind of at the Empty Nest Syndrome,” Ivory said of her mother’s exploration with oil painting. “She started going to life portraitship classes, and they were doing oils and she had never painted in oils. She was really scared about that one, but once she started with the oils, that was it; she loved the oils.”
Lewis now owns a La Jolla home adorned with artwork done using both alla prima and glaze techniques, complete with pastels and oil paintings of character portraits, flowers and even pets adorning her walls and studio space. She still paints occasionally in a home art studio and attends watercolor classes at LiveWell San Diego, though most of her popular paintings date from the mid-1960s through the ’90s.
Although her paintings have mostly kept refuge in her own home over time, Lewis is now sharing more of her artwork (which she has always considered more a recreational hobby than a professional career) with the rest of the world.
Aside from the Lillis Lewis Fine Art Show at October’s Taste of the Town fundraiser in conjunction with LiveWell San Diego, Lewis and her daughter Ivory also have plans to sell giclée prints of her most popular paintings at local markets and events, including the La Jolla Open Aire Market.
IF YOU GO
Taste of the Town
4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 13
Clairemont Senior Center, 4425 Bannock Ave., San Diego
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