By: Katie Clayton

Abbey Denlinger is a Chicago based expressive painter. Her large scale land and “spacescapes” blur the lines between the real and the abstract in our world, making viewers question if you can really have one without the other. With a background in architecture, graphic design, and painting, Abbey is able to use her eye for scale and proportion to show the magnitude of the landscapes she portrays in her artwork.


Abbey has five years of live painting under her belt, and has had the opportunity to paint at over seventy shows and festivals throughout the country, always bringing it back to her Chicago roots where she has consistently remained an active member of the art and music community.

Abbey has performed with acts such as: Bassnectar, Papadosio, Eliot Lipp, Sunsquabi, and Antennae. In addition to her paintings, she has also designed album art for a number of bands and producers. Be sure to catch Abbey at this year’s Werk Out Festival that is scheduled for August 2-4 in Thornville, Ohio and visit her website at

Your artist profile says you are an “architect turned expressive painter.” Can you elaborate a little more on this?

I received my B.S. in Architecture from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2012. I thought I would be a good architect; I’m creative and also very mathematically inclined. Technically I am qualified to build residential architecture. But to get my license would have been another 5-6 years of school, internships, and testing. By the time I earned my bachelors degree, I realized I did not want to be an architect. I took some graphic design classes and ended up working in the field for a couple years. I got some opportunities to create album artwork for different bands and producers. I really enjoyed doing that, and eventually I decided to focus completely on my artwork. I had painted a lot in high school so I picked up painting again about 5 years ago. I was encouraged by a friend to start live painting and I have been doing it ever since!

I’ve noticed that the dimensions of your paintings are constantly changing. How do you decide to go for vertical in a painting rather than horizontal?

Probably every painting I do, I could do a different version in many different dimensions. I’ve always liked interesting shapes for artwork especially extremely tall or wide paintings. A lot of my paintings are from reference photos that I have taken, and I like the vertical panoramas that I take the most. There is something about an extremely tall painting that just gives you the perspective like you are actually experiencing the painting as you would the actual place. Because I tend to paint landscapes or “spacescapes,” I like to use the size and shape of the painting to emphasize the vastness of the subject I am painting. The elongated shape gives it a sense of scale and allows more freedom than a traditional golden rectangle shaped painting. I paint in all different sizes to get different effects.

There is so much depth in your work; your piece “Fantasma” has so much going on in it between the soft cloud like textures and really sharp symmetry. Why is versatility important to you?

Contrast is fascinating to me; visually and conceptually. “Fantasma” was definitely a breakthrough piece for me in regards to emphasizing that contrast. In my paintings you will notice a lot of earthy tones and textures broken apart by brightly colored glitches or portals into deep space or other dimensions. Conceptually, I have been focusing a lot on contrast/variation as well, with themes such as nature vs. technology, and good vs. evil, etc. I’m very interested in opposites and paradoxes, but also the grey area where they intersect. The sharp contrast and symmetrical forms in my soft landscape paintings, is my way of representing the integration of technology with nature, rather than one taking over the other. As humans we need to find a way to live the middle way, and use our technological advancements as a way to protect the earth and live in harmony with it, rather than destroying it. I want my paintings to comment on that and perhaps be a part of opening people’s eyes to the beauty of nature and the possible futures of this planet.

You’ve had the chance to live paint alongside some really great musicians, how has music influenced your work?

As most artists, music is incredibly influential to the creation of my work. I like to explore all different possibilities of where music can take my art. I enjoy painting for festivals or bands that play a couple of sets, because I like to see how a piece can go from start to finish when I am painting with a single band or musician. I’ve recently gone beyond the festival scene and have painted with some non-traditional musicians who do sound healing in Chicago. Their music is truly the musical equivalent of an artist’s “flow.” They use their intuition to guide the sound atmosphere they create, and I, in turn, am guided by the music to create my painting. I am very involved in the music scene in Chicago, and you will frequently see me painting with my favorite local bands and artists here. I like to surround myself with artistic friends, and because of this, I am fortunate to have a lot of talented musicians as friends, who are able to give me support and inspiration through their sonic creations. Sometimes I am able to collaborate with them on projects. I was recently asked to create my first fully-painted album artwork for my friend and local musician, Adam Stephens, for his new EP, Another Time/Another Place. It was one of my favorite projects recently, as I was asked to translate the themes and feel of his music through artwork. I worked very closely with him on the project and really get a sense of what inspired him to create the music. I spent a lot of time immersing myself in the music to create a companion painting for the album. This project was more than just finding my “flow” through the music, I also had to do a lot of planning and design work to come up with a concept. This is something I really enjoy doing, and I am always excited for the chance to collaborate with musicians who have similar visions.


Are there any festivals that you’re particularly excited to be painting at this summer?

I am only doing a select number of festivals in 2018. Next up is the Werk Out Festival which, as always, I am stoked about live painting at! I love the community that has grown around me from painting at music festivals. It’s a great way to connect and learn from other artists. I’m extra excited for the Werk Out this year because I will be finishing a collaborative mural with Hanzo Art and Bryan Stacy Art that was started at Domefest earlier this year. I’m so excited to meet up with the amazing artists from around the country and all jam together!

Like her Facebook page to get updates about Abbey Aura’s art.