Appleton-based artist Lydia Andersen has had an interest in illustrations for much of her life. Throughout childhood, Andersen drew and illustrated short stories. Andersen has carried her artistic interests into adulthood by turning what was once her side hobby into a full-time career.
“The Paint Chip Series” has been Andersen’s ongoing project since 2016. She paints miniature illustrations onto commercial paint chips, which vary in size from two to four inches, and contain subjects such as flowers, animals and vegetables. Each illustration is inspired by the paint chip color. For instance, one of Andersen’s many chip paintings is the color “pink pansy,” so she appropriately painted a vibrant pansy on it. “The concept is pretty straightforward, but I enjoy the challenge of painting what the color name dictates,” Andersen explains.
Andersen’s creativity is at its peak when restricted to the small framework of a paint chip. Despite the small size, there are thousands of paint colors available. “I can pretty much find a paint color to go with any subject matter. I began working on ‘The Paint Chip Series’ in 2016 and since then I have probably painted well over 1,000 little paintings,” Andersen says.
Before Andersen starts painting each chip, she sorts them by subject matter. All chips with animal names would go in one bag, all chips with food names would go in another, and so on. On a normal day, Andersen can complete six paintings in one sitting. When making illustrations for craft shows and online sales, Andersen makes sure to include a variety of subjects in each sitting so that she has a wider array of content. For custom painting commissions, customers decide on the subject matter as well as the color.
When making each chip, Andersen’s attention to detail stays constant. After completing a sketch or finding a reference photo, she begins illustrating with acrylic paint and a variety of brushes. The shape and texture of each painting is the result of the layering of paints. Once the painting is complete, Andersen creates a digital copy and then frames the chip.
“I have always enjoyed painting from life more than from my imagination,” Andersen says. “I am always looking at and admiring other artists’ work, both past and present, but I am especially inspired by still life/representational painters and illustrators.”
Andersen’s art can be found at Blue Moon Emporium in downtown Appleton and online through her Etsy shop, LydiaAndersenStudio. To see more, visit her on Instagram @lydiaAndersenstudio or lydiaandersen.com.