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Image courtesy of Brian Liesse Photography

Artist of the Week: Brian Liesse

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Brian Liesse: I have been shooting for pretty much as long as I can remember. I took pictures of everything I saw. I started shooting sports in high school, and started portraiture while at the Art Institute of Seattle. The professors at the Institute really helped me explore all aspects of photography, and since graduating in 2014, I make it a point to try and shoot everything I can think of or see. I mostly enjoy my sports, nature, portraiture, and abstract architecture work.

I don’t really work with other mediums, but I am an amateur cello player, and enjoy good storytelling in anything from books, to television, and even video games.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I approach every shot I take in two different ways. If it’s sports action, event coverage, or just a snapshot of my life or what I see during my day, I shoot it the best I can at the time. I always focus on three things; Light, Lines, and Faces. If a photo doesn’t have a strong element of one of those three things, I usually don’t find the image worth taking. And I try to shoot and edit them in the most honest way possible. If I am taking portraits, landscapes, or more creative images, I still hold to the Lights, Lines, and Faces mantra, but I am not afraid of manipulating these images in any way. I can create collages, move things around, or anything else to try and change the perspective of the subject.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Sports action, and beautiful landscapes have a way of providing their own inspiration. The action shots are satisfying to shoot because I get to capture the hard work, intensity, and drama created by the athletes. The landscapes are magnificent and beautiful. The satisfaction comes from reproducing the beauty that it already provides. But when it comes to portraits, it’s all about the feel of the image for me. I try to do my best to tell everything about the subject I can, in one powerful image. If it’s a creative image, my goal is usually different per images. Sometimes it’s simply creating a beautiful and satisfying image. Sometimes it’s to create something that makes people really look at the image to figure it out.

At the end of the day however, everything is driven from a desire to create something that I am happy with looking at again, or every day, and not getting tired or disappointed with the image.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I take different enjoyment from everything. I enjoy the sports images process as much as the result. I enjoy bringing out the personality in the portraits. And I enjoy looking at the final product of the landscape/nature/architecture photos the most. Of course, I enjoy the satisfaction of taking all the images as well.

I would say I am most known for my sports images. Specifically, the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey images.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
There are some images that stay with me longer than others. An image of a player winning a game in double overtime in the playoffs, and seeing the excitement of him and his teammates stays with me. There is an image of ice covered in blue and magenta light that stays with me. A boat isolated in the fog of the Sound; a sunset over Mt Rainier; a long exposure under a dock at Dash Point; and images of people that really have an impact stay with me. In general, however, I am always looking for something else to take, to make a good impression, to have an impact on others when they see it.

I am young though. There is probably something now, that I won’t see until the future, that means more to me than anything else. If I had to choose right now, it would be all the work I get to do with the Thunderbirds.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Most of my life, or at least my adult life, revolves in some way around my shooting. I take pictures every day for my Instagram. I go to hockey games during the hockey season, and do some work for the Seahawks during the football season. I go on hikes, or drives to find photos. I take pictures of my dog, my family, or wherever I am at the time. Because I have been shooting for so long, it’s always been part of my life experiences in some way. School, vacations, family gatherings, work, all in some way already either revolve around my shooting, or include me taking time to shoot.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
My website at is a good place to see my professional portfolios of sports, portraiture, and print worthy nature images. My hockey images are all over the place, but most can be found in the photo galleries on the Seattle Thunderbirds website. My Instagram account is probably the best place to see everything as it happens. I am working on a 365 project where I take a photo every day, and everything I shoot eventually finds its way there. Follow me at brian.liesse on Instagram, or @BrianLiesse on Twitter to see everything that I shoot when it gets shot.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
Other than another season of hockey, I have created a list and map of 100 places in Washington I want to shoot. Every location has a time of year, and time of day I want to capture. It’s not going to happen overnight. I fully expect it to take a few years or longer to shoot, but Washington is amazing and I want to capture it the best way I can. I am also working on concepts for this season’s Thunderbirds poster. It’s a creative challenge that I enjoy every season.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
I. cough cough don’t like coffee very much. I prefer tea or lemonade, or just a nice clean glass of water. But when I do have coffee, it’s usually loaded with cream and sugar, so I don’t taste the coffee ??