Gabriel Liston


About the Artist

I paint, write, and draw about the intersection of water, history, and domestic life. I work on site, and in a tiny old greenhouse studio in my backyard in Oregon. I was raised in Western Colorado. In 1995, I enrolled at Pacific Northwest College of Art and, with my family, have mostly stuck around Portland.

Connect with the Artist


Artist Statement

I draw and paint places and people.

If I see a thing, I will draw the thing in a notebook. If a notebook is not handy, I will draw it on my forearm, and later put it in a notebook.

I do not have a photographic memory. When I add color to a notebook drawing or use the drawing as the source for a painting, I am relying on a physical memory of the experience, plus whatever information I scribbled down at the time, plus details extrapolated from accidents of the pencil, pen, or brush.

If I see a person or animal do a thing, I pretend to do the thing with my own body before I draw. This way it stays present in my body long enough to remember it onto paper.

If I see some light in a place do a thing, I will pretend to move my body through that space, and feel my body as that space, and feel that light and those colors as a weight. If I am truly paying attention, and if I know what is good for me, I will also write down some names for those colors.

The paper and the canvas are not flat; they are deep, smokey, and open. Every mark we put on them reaches in, hovers forward, or slips back.

I have no memory for words. If someone says something in a place, I must write it down within a few seconds or it will be lost. I cannot carry words like I can carry a gesture. I do not pretend painting exists without words, so when someone says something relevant, I like to have the option of including it.

I use photo references for some historical and some commission work. I believe photography has an important place within painting. However, relying on it for my studio work or my notebooks would interfere with this fuzzy, 25-plus-year-experiment in documentation.

Making the picture distorts and reforms the memory. If I am lucky, the picture takes on the reality of a dream-space, very close, very present.

I mostly limit myself to painting things having to do with water. This is not much of a limit.

Related Events

June 11th – June 13th, 1-3pm
What is Plein Air?
Site: Mt. Ashland

◀︎ Back to Art Beyond