Lisa Kent started painting in high school but didn’t see art as a career path.
At Smith College, she minored in art but majored in psychology and, unsure of exactly what she wanted to do, started working in retail banking.
“I very quickly realized it wasn’t for me,” she said. Kent subsequently enrolled in a master’s degree program for counseling at Boston University but, in the back of her mind, she knew she wanted to get back to painting.
Kent met her husband while he was in medical school. They moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut to North Carolina, where she found jobs in the mental health field. “All the while, I was saying that, when we’d finally land in one place, I’d get my paints out,” she said. Twenty years ago, in search of a permanent home, the couple settled in Shelburne.
Slowly but surely, Kent began painting again, starting with a watercolor course taught by Anne Gordon through the Parks and Recreation Department. When Kent and her husband decided to start a family, she left the mental health field and began painting on ceramic, which she describes as similar to watercolor work. Kent wasn’t a potter, but she purchased discs and developed a small business out of her basement, selling to high-end gift shops across the state.
Although Kent enjoyed the work, the pressure of constantly producing ceramics became taxing.
“About 10 years ago, it got ahead of me,” she said. “I was always trying to paint one more for gift-shop orders, so it was no longer fun.”
Kent closed the business but continues to paint ceramics in her leisure time and sells pieces by word of mouth.
Another course, this time at the Charlotte Senior Center taught by Shirley Thompson, led Kent to discover a new love: pastels.
Today, Kent does mostly landscapes and some floral pieces. Many of the latter are inspired by her own perennial beds as she completes her certification for the Master Gardener program through the University of Vermont Extension.
“Pastel is amazing, in that it’s pure pigment,” she said. “It’s as though your whole arm is your paintbrush.”
Two and a half years ago, Kent added an outbuilding to her property to serve as a studio. She has been part of Open Studio Tour for the last two years.
“It’s nerve-wracking because you’re opening yourself up to the general public,” she said “but it’s incredibly rewarding because you get to educate people.”
Equally rewarding is the teaching Kent does for the Champlain Valley Union Access program. “I don’t have a background in teaching,” she said, “but it’s an audience of amateurs who want to go home with a beautiful piece they’ve created. I help them do that and it’s really fun.”
With a personal history in the nonprofit world, Kent likes to give back to her community. She has donated her work for fundraising purposes to organizations ranging from the American Red Cross and the Children’s Trust Fund to the Shelburne Little League and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
“Being an artist helps you see the world more clearly,” she said. “Since I’ve been painting, I look at things so much more carefully. I feel like I see the world better. I also feel like I’m helping others see the beauty of the world.”