Astoria Characters: The Bold-Strokes Artist

When Alice Lipping arrives at her studio, she immediately rolls up her sleeves, revealing a tattoo on her lower left arm.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice became a full-time artist during the pandemic.

“Keep Working,” it reminds her in subtle script.

She’s more than ready to do just that.

Alice, you see, has always loved art and has been painting and selling her work for two decades, but it’s only since the pandemic that she’s allowed herself to indulge her passion full time.

It wasn’t so much a choice as a necessity.

Alice, who has a baby bun on the top of her head and horn-rimmed glasses, had made her living and her rent bartending at The Sparrow Tavern, a job that disappeared when the world locked itself down.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
A detail of one of Alice’s paintings.

So it was only natural that she let herself loose, turning to her art wholeheartedly.

As her first project, she created a painting a day for an entire year.

“I’m inspired by the city and nature, and I’m drawn to the deterioration of buildings,” she says. “I go into the subways and what I see is the peeling of the paint. It’s about what’s underneath the surface.”

Her abstract paintings, textural tapestries, speak in big, bold strokes whose layers can be peeled apart like an onion.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice likes to paint huge canvases.

“I get an idea, an inspiration and usually go at it full force,” she says. “I will paint over and over for 20 layers, leaving little parts to show what’s gone before.”

If Alice’s works are complex, her life, at least on the surface, it’s so much so.

Alice, who was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, grew up, for the most part, in Stamford, Connecticut.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice’s works are like textural tapestries.

Her family moved around Connecticut and New York State a lot.

“There was no one reason,” she says, shrugging. “It’s just what happened.”

At some point, she got married – to a musician – and worked in the restaurant industry in Massachusetts for six years.

In 1993, they moved to New York City for the benefit of his career.

Around the time she got divorced, Alice enrolled in Hunter College as an art-history student.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice bartended at The Sparrow Tavern before the pandemic.

But after taking a required course in studio art, she fell in love with sculpture and eventually earned a degree in fine art.

“The drawing and painting parts of the course were basic and boring,” she says. “The      sculpture section was more conceptual. Building something out of an idea really got me going.”

She started out painting in her one-bedroom apartment.

Her works, which she describes as “intuitive,” spring from her mind and work their way into her canvases.

They can be explosively emotive.

Or as serene as a Sunday stroll in the park.

And sometimes, like life, they are both at the same time.

Although the physical act of putting her ideas on the canvas can go quickly, it’s the work before the painting starts that takes time.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Two paintings and an art wall.

“I have to think a lot,” Alice says. “Painting is only 20 percent of the process.”

Alice applies the paint with big spatulas, huge brushes and wedges and squeegees; sometimes she tapes off areas to preserve the underlying color as she paints another layer.

Other times, she drips the paint onto the canvas.

“I like the physical aspect of painting,” she says. “I like moving the paint around and watching its effects.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice’s works are on display in Astoria.

Through the years, Alice’s paintings have been on display in several local businesses.

Right now, you can see some of them in Heart of Gold on 31st Avenue and in the lobby of the Skyline Tower condominium complex in Long Island City’s Court Square.

At Bar Dalia, on 31st Avenue, Alice curates the art shows, some of which feature her paintings.

Things are going pretty well for Alice and her art.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Alice also makes hand-painted Christmas ornaments.

In addition to finishing up a multi-painting commission for a Manhattan office building, she’s been hand-painting Christmas ornaments and jewelry to sell in local markets.

She brings a box filled with ornaments out onto the Jackson Pollock-paint-splattered floor.

She sometimes works on the canvases flat instead of on an easel.

She roots through the colored balls and produces a red one.

Its colors dance in the bright light from the studio’s windows.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
To work!

On occasion, when she has time, she still picks up a bartending or waitressing gig.

“I love doing that, too,” Alice says as she grabs a big brush.

She glances at the tattoo on her arm.

No matter what happens, she will keep working.

Copyright 2022 by Nancy A. Ruhling