BONNIE LISS BIOGRAPHY
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I was lucky enough to be born into a very creative family. My grandfather was a creative tailor and painter, my mother is a very talented painter and sculptor and art teacher and my father was a creative thinker and businessman, always thinking outside the box. I was encouraged from a very early age to pursue my interest in art. I won school-wide and state-wide AAA Safety Poster Contests every year from Grades 2-6. I went to oil painting classes after school and on weekends. At North Miami Beach Beach Senior High School I had a fantastic art teacher, Norma Roitstein (now Norma Jane) who taught me the importance of composition and introduced me to contour drawing, figure drawing and printmaking.
In my teens, I worked in the art department of a neighborhood superstore, Jaffe Stationers. I was able to graduate high school two years early. I felt I was too young to go away to college and attended Miami-Dade Community College where I met a lifelong artist friend, Pat Tong. With a growing interest in printmaking, I was trained to run a printing press at Cloverleaf Printing and later worked the front counter coordinating pre-press and printing. I received my AA before moving to Philadelphia to attend Moore College of Art and Design.
While attending Moore College, I taught Offset Printing classes and worked full-time as an Art Director at Ornstein Advertising. I ended up getting distracted with art and life and left school to live and work in the beautiful Berskires of Western Massachusetts. Eventually I returned to Moore College and graduated in 1983 with degrees in Printmaking, Painting and Art Education. I was the college’s first triple major in 170 years.
After graduating from Moore College, my friend Pat and I, decided to start our own graphics agency. We settled in Winter Haven, Florida, and I couldn’t have found a better or more quaint place to start our business. In March 1983, Phoenix Graphics was officially open for business.
In the beginning, Phoenix Graphics existed only as a ‘pre-press production’ agency. I wore many hats. including illustrator, typesetter, photographer, designer, salesperson, and delivery person. Pat and I were the entire staff in the early years and met many challenges. Most of our customers were print shops and before long, our reputation and staff grew. Pat eventually moved to California to pursue other interests. Referrals helped grow the business from local to statewide, nationwide and eventually worldwide.
I absolutely loved going into work everyday. I never knew what interesting projects were going to land on my desk. It was always a surprise and I was so lucky to work with such nice clients and vendors. In the early years of the business, I did a lot of book cover designs and illustrations for publishers all over the United States, South America, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Finland, Canada, Africa, and Mexico. It was a really fun and exciting time.
One favorite client was The Florida Nature Conservancy. I would do an endless number of illustrations of animals, plants, birds and habitats for the signage, brochures and trail guides in the preserves. Once in a while they would send me on outings to draw some rare or endangered plant in the backwoods, like looking for the Ziziphus celata in bloom. It was very helpful and reassuring to have my neighbor, Florida native Richard Pierce, guide me on those hikes. In 2007 Richard Pierce and I married and bought a house on a creek adjacent to one of the preserves we used to frequent.
I remembered doing plein air painting in college and how much I enjoyed it. Not wanting to drive the distance to an Orlando meet up every month, I started a Davenport Plein Group (DACA). We’ve recently changed our name to East Polk County Plein Air to include more cities. It’s a great group of artists of all levels using a wide variety of mediums. We’ve been meeting up for years, inspiring each other. Please see our Facebook page or contact me for more information and our upcoming schedule.
As the business grew, mostly through word-of-mouth, so did the list of services Phoenix Graphics provided. We started doing label designs and packaging and added website design, at the request of several packaging customers, in the early 2000’s. I would wake up 4:30 am every morning to paint or work on a mosaic project before work. When I’d get home, after making dinner, I would sit and concentrate on logo designs and illustrations for work.
In July of 2021 and after 38 years of a hectic, although successful business, I have finally retired. I now have time to focus on my own artwork. I paint every day in my studio, fiddle in my mosaic shop, coordinate outdoor painting meetups, plein air groups, and gear up for classes for the community. Life is good.