Liza Coco can spend up to 15-40 hours hand drawing intricate polygonal portraits of badass, inspiring women like RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and Malala Yousafzai. Every new portrait has its own set of imperfections, but that’s precisely what draws Lisa into the technique. Instead of relying on 3D technology for her polygonal designs, Lisa prefers to go for the tedious route, testing her patience and focusing on the infinitesimal, organic details that add dimension and flair to her art.
When she was born, Lisa LaMontagne’s parents both struggled to come to a consensus on a name for their daughter. It was a tough match between Coco after Coco Chanel or Lisa.
“My father wanted to name me Coco after Coco Chanel, but my mom’s vote was Lisa. Clearly, mom won that fight,” said artist, mom of three, and art teacher Lisa LaMontagne.
Over the years, both of the nicknames eventually came together after Lisa’s partner lovingly called her “Liza Coco” one day. The name just sort of stuck and Lisa decided it would be amusingly appropriate to name her art business, Liza Coco Art.
Born and raised in Upstate New York, Lisa was always enamored by art at a very young age. She recalls spending countless hours laying on the floor of her childhood home, drawing characters from Sunday comic strips with a childlike glee in her eyes.
The mom of three says she owes her love for art to her high school teachers because they really helped hone in on her unique technique.
“They all helped me to appreciate art on a deeper level, taught me techniques that I still use today and taught me the importance of putting myself into every piece of art that I create,” said Lisa.
After graduating from high school, Lisa knew being an art teacher would be the perfect fit for her. In college, Lisa used every chance she could to create art. She reignited her passion for art and focused her energy on drawing and painting, initially using oil paints and sometimes dabbling with acrylics and the standard pencil on paper.
But after college and starting her career and family, she wanted to divert her focus to being the best teacher, mother, and partner she could be. This, she says, left little to no time to create her own art — something she yearned to bring back in her life. She realized that she spent a great deal of time teaching art to others, but didn’t have the time to draw for herself like she used to.
“The artist in me had gone dormant and I hated it. I made it my resolution this past new year that I would make time for me to create….I feel more myself, more confident in my profession, stronger as a woman and mother and proud of every piece I’ve completed,” said Lisa.
Part of her resolution this year was to push herself artistically and try to experiment with techniques that are different than what she normally is comfortable with.
“I usually create art just as you see it in a photograph and I wanted to deviate from that while still holding on to some aspects of it.”
So, she started doing more research with a focus on art styles, contemporary artists, painters, sculptors, and just about every other genre. But the one thing she kept coming back to was low poly art. “It’s an art form that is created using a 3D computer graphics that breaks down a form using simple geometric shapes placed side by side to create an angular often simplistic composition,” said Lisa.
Inspired and empowered by the look and design of the technique, Lisa tried to create some polygonal art of her own. Polygonal artwork is typically created using 3D computer graphics, Lisa explained. One of the things that’s unique about the Liza Coco Art collection is that she hand draws all of her polygonal artwork, which can be extremely tedious but rewarding. One of the challenges she encountered was how time-consuming it was to hand draw the artwork without relying on the ease of technology, she explained.
“Another challenge that I have is trying to make sure the lines are as straight as possible while doing them free hand. With technology everything is exact and there’s a crispness to that,” Lisa told Mornings with Moni.
While Lisa appreciates the technology aspect to art, she tends to gravitate toward the organic process of drawing.
“I do like the organic way that I create the geometric shapes and the imperfections that go along with it. The texture that my process gives polygonal shapes adds such a wonderful dimension to my pieces.”
“When I create, I put my life on the paper, my time, my heart, my love, my worry, my anxiety, my imperfections,” said Lisa.
So how does Lisa begin the process of outlining polygonal portraits? She typically starts her drawings by outlining the image or the person she wants to create, in a pencil sketch. She then outlines her design with a black micron marker.
“Once my outline is completed I freehand the polygonal shapes with a micron marker, which is somewhat nerve-wracking because I can’t erase any mistakes.” She adds polygonal shapes in various sections, coloring with Prismacolor Premium Colored Pencils.
“I fade the color from dark to light in each section of the polygonal shape. Once the entire image has color added I shade the image to make it look realistic, which is my favorite part because It’s when my piece comes to life. I then paint the background of the piece with black acrylic paint and find a quote to adorn the piece as the finishing touch.”
Currently, Lisa is working on a polygonal portrait art series featuring 12 strong, brave, badass, and inspiring women for an upcoming art show: Laverne Cox, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Obama, Angela Davis, Beyonce, Carrie Fischer, Coretta Scott King, Yoko Ono, and Frida Kahlo.
When she is not brainstorming her next polygonal art piece after teaching an art class for inner-city youth, she tries to spend as much time as she can with her three beautiful children and partner, Marcus.
“Being a teacher, mother, spouse, friend and artist is incredibly rewarding but also exhausting trying to manage it all. I refuse to do any work for school or artwork while my kids are awake, which leaves my nights full of juggling getting in time to do work for school as well as get some drawing done,” said Lisa.
For the past 12 years, Lisa has taught art at an inner city middle school. She stresses the importance of focusing on molding the whole child, not just a portion of them. This includes introducing art, or STEAM into the curriculum. Society often places a high value on teaching math and English so much so that art is often overlooked or seen as unimportant, explained Lisa.
“Giving students the freedom to be themselves is something we are seeing less and less of in the school system. We strive to standardize everyone by teaching them in the same way, grading them in the same way, testing them in the same way.”
She adds that this mindset leaves out the individuality of all the students that grace the school walls.
“Art not only lets you express yourself, it helps strengthen your problem-solving skills, it helps you to personalize your learning, it helps you to look at the world around you with a different lens, it helps to build your self-confidence, it helps you to think outside of the box,” Lisa added.
Lisa shares that she is incredibly inspired by her talented students and their out of box thinking.
“There’s a wonderful joy with the realness of middle school students. They definitely tell you how they feel all the time. They are always critical of themselves because so many people equate being an artist with drawing something perfectly. It takes a while to break them of that mindset. But through doing that they grow in their self-confidence which is pretty amazing to witness a child’s face light up with pride when they’ve created something they are proud of.”
If there’s one thing she’s learned from her evolving self, it’s being content with her art. Lisa says what she loves now more than ever is that she is content creating art for herself and that she doesn’t seek validation from others.
“It’s just an extra bonus if people like it. I’m not creating [art] for anyone except myself and there’s freedom in that. The fact that people seem to really like what I create makes this whole journey an amazing one and I can’t wait to see where it leads.”
After a long day teaching her talented students and taking care of her kiddos, Lisa always tries to carve out some time to come back to herself and her canvas and draw.
Lisa says she has a strong desire to empower others through her artwork and inspire them to embrace their uniqueness and talents. She hopes that the artwork she creates can hang in someone’s home and perhaps serve as a powerful reminder to be their best selves in whatever way that might be.
“My art is inspired by people who have gone to great lengths and made great sacrifices to help change our world for the better. It is also inspired greatly by the power of words. Words and people can help you through so many moments in life. They have the power to change your day around or inspire you to do something you never thought you would.”