Personalize Your Walls


It’s no secret: adding artwork to your home is the easiest (and best) way to personalize your space. What hangs on your wall is a reflection of you; it tells your guests a little bit about you, your style, and creates conversation. From paintings to photography, the Twin Cities has no shortage of artists for homeowners to choose from. It’s just a matter of finding one whose style matches your own.

Whether you’re drawn toward realism or the abstract, landscapes or the more intimate human body, Twin Cities artists are here to meet your needs.

(Clockwise) How Do You Look; Just 7 Days II; So Skinny; Skinny; The Swimmers; Blue Kiss; Blue; Jill Sees Strangler Victim. Paintings by Matt Lillegard

(Clockwise from top left) Skinny; So Skinny; Just 7 Days II; How Do You Look; The Swimmers; Blue Kiss; Blue; Jill Sees Strangler Victim. Paintings by Matt Lillegard

Take Matt Lillegard, for example. Working mainly in oils on canvas (with the occasional acrylics), Lillegard finds his inspiration mainly in popular culture. “I quite often draw images and inspiration from movies or television and advertising,” he says. “I guess I am a realist for sure. I am very image-driven.”

He continues, “There are usually images or ideas in my head — a backlog of them, really — that are just waiting to get out on canvas. I can say currently there are at least 10 paintings I can see clearly. I just have to do the work. I guess my [creative] process is not mysterious in that way. I usually know exactly where I’m going before I start.”

Lillegard was always interested in art from a very early age, drawing obsessively as a child. Surprisingly, he admits that a lot of people don’t even know that he paints. He confesses it was the only thing he really wanted to study in college, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. Now he gets to paint in the comfort of his home that he and his husband share (“the dogs like it that way”).

If Lillegard’s realist aesthetic speaks to buyers, he has completed works for sale but also does commissioned work. He’s done a number of portraits and has also been commissioned to do specific paintings from series that he’s been working on.

But anyone interested in Lillegard’s work take note: you need a good-sized wall if you want to hang one of his paintings. “For those that have never seen my work, I tend to work big,” he says. “I like painting people and I like life-size or larger quite often.”

In contrast to Lillegard’s life-like paintings, Dan Raphael has infused his previous experience with the watercolor medium and its characteristics into his current work with oil paint. Of his art, Raphael says, “I can say I like paint that shows emotion over detail or realism. I want to feel something when I look at art. And when looking closely at a work I admire, I don’t mind seeing it come apart under scrutiny. Seeing the strings of the puppet are part of the poetry.”

Toro; Matador; Duchess; Clytemnestra. Paintings by Dan Raphael

(Clockwise from top) Toro; Matador; Duchess; Clytemnestra. Paintings by Dan Raphael

Raphael says he’s always been creative, and certainly lost in imagination. For him, drawing led to painting, and he finds it quite useful to slow things down, likening it to a meditating process.

“At some point I decided art was an avenue of expression well suited for me,” he says. “Artists from the past, primarily the Impressionists, have influenced my line of sight. Things that inspire me are design and architecture, both present and from the past. From there I freeze frame moments that I think would make an interesting painting. Then they sort of become something of their own volition. I have found it better not to force them.”

This creative process is exactly why Raphael works from home. “I have always needed to keep the work close to me,” he says. “When a work is in progress it amounts to many episodes of  walking away and then happening upon it later. That has to happen where I live.”

How do artists decorate their own homes? For Raphael, it’s a bit of opposites attract. “I enjoy the process of portraying the illusion of three dimensions through a two-dimensional medium,” he shares. “There is something ancient about that. However, when I am drawn to own something from another artist, it tends to be sculptural. I guess that is a medium that fills a void.”

Which just goes to show, art is subjective — what attracts one person will deter another. Subjectivity is something that Raphael embraces in his own work.

“At a glance, I think my art is a concerted effort to communicate,” he says. “It’s not really finished until someone  has looked at it and drawn their own impression. It may or may not have anything to do with my original intent.”

With winter quickly approaching, homeowners looking to love what they see on their walls are open to decide what works for them. Do you want the art inside your home to reflect what’s going on outside? Or do you want to be reminded of a warmer time of year?

For Raphael, it’s the latter.

“In my living room, I have a painting I did of Monet’s gardens,” he says. “Birch trees that lined his property in Giverny, France. Everything was lush and green. No matter how cold it is outside, I never tire of looking at it. Art can fill that sort of space and feeling like nothing else, no matter the season.”

(Clockwise) On The Cross; Pup Tank; Dancer; Boy/Sir; Reflective Muse. Photography by Ryan Coit

(Clockwise from top) On The Cross; Pup Tank; Dancer; Boy/Sir. Photography by Ryan Coit

Digital photographer Ryan Coit’s art choices in his home also reflect emotions rather than the season. The photographer, who also works with cut paper and digital processing, says, “For me art is an emotional stimulant. I like to have images that excite me, stimulate me. Art that makes me happy and inspires me to get motivated each day. I do have a few pieces that have more somber themes and these images are usually reflections of the past. As a reminder of struggles overcome.”

Those struggles he refers to have deeply impacted his own artwork. According to Coit, as he has evolved as an artist, he’s realized how much of his past has an influence on his work. “I was raised very conservatively in a deeply religious family,” he says. “My photography is an outlet for my queer sexuality. It is a place I can express my desires, questions, and fears. A lot of my art has my personal battle interlaced in it — my struggle with the blending of homosexuality and religion. It took me a very long time to find real confidence in being a gay man.”

With that struggle in his past, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a bit of a religious influence throughout his pieces, yet he says that is something that a lot of people don’t realize. But even without that knowledge, it’s still easy to appreciate the nature of Coit’s photography, a style that he says has changed dramatically over the years.

“I have always loved the classic look of black and white photography,” he says. “A little over a year ago I went to an exhibit in LA and was so inspired. I realized how much I was boxing my creativity in by not using color and also never showing full nudity. When I came home I got right to work on the “Masks lll” show where I made it my goal to not care if it was going to be ‘too much.’ That was really when my style changed, letting me really express what I was feeling and trying to say through images.”

The photographer you see today started long ago. Coit loved the arts for as long as he can remember — his mother was a ceramic painter, which got him painting at a young age. His father had a nice camera and that eventually sparked his interest.

“I remember saving up money from my first job when I was 15 to buy my first camera,” he shares. “I used to go through rolls and rolls of film just wandering around taking photos of anything and everything. Once I was in my college photography program, I realized my passion for photographing people.”

His affinity for photographing the human form is also present in the art that he is attracted to by other artists. “I love work from Mapplethorpe and Tom of Finland,” he says. “They are huge inspirations to me, and I think at times you can see that in my photographs. I love drawings of the male figure. I have such respect for artists that paint and draw.”

All of these artists’ work can be purchased directly from the artists themselves. To stay up to date on their gallery showings, schedule viewings, or to purchase work, reach out to them on their websites.

Matt Lillegard

Dan Raphael

Ryan Coit

Lavender Magazine

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