About Lillian Gray

Lillian Gray

South African Contemporary Fine Artist

Lillian Gray is a renowned South African fine artist. She is best known for large, bold, expressive portraits.  

As an artist, she has always placed a high value on being a global citizen, dedicated to the wellbeing of the planet and all its ethnicities and cultures. She has a keen interest in anthropology and believes that we are all on this planet to help each other and work towards a better future. A face on canvas in blue, green or purple, transcends race and sometimes even gender, becoming simply human. Lillian revels in these ambiguities and how they provoke questions and conversations about what it means to be human.

When you paint a face in blue, green or purple, the work transcends race. It’s no longer a white person or a black person on the canvas, it’s just a human being, a global citizen. I have also seen many clients view my artwork and refer to the image as male when the next person experiences it as female.

I love how the ambiquity of my work exposes our biases and often leads to deeper conversation about what it means to be human.

Her work has been internationally recognized by prestigious art authorities. In 2019, Lillian participated in 3 international exhibitions, in London and twice in New York. She has been invited to exhibit in Chicago in 2020.

Her process is fast, physical and intense, drawing from raw emotion. Because of this energy and emotion, she is often asked to do live painting for crowds.  She has also been a guest lecturer at tertiary institutions and is often asked to speak on creativity at public events.

The abstract brush strokes and textures add another layer of meaning. Her works may seem unfinished, intentionally so, because she believes that we are all somewhat unfinished, a literal work in progress. The edges are blurred, and some lines are broken because we are all a little broken, yet no less beautiful.

She uses only the finest quality paints and pigments, such as Winton and Winsor & Newton which she applies to high-quality, natural canvasses of Belgian Linen or cotton. She also loves using unconventional tools to create interesting marks on the artwork and to scrape layers off the canvas.

Lillian’s process as an artist remains adaptive, inventive and engaging. She continues to learn and develop her artistic technique. Currently, she is experimenting with street art culture, adding spray paint and “the language of graffiti” to her oil paintings.

Lillian draws inspiration from people’s stories and especially stories of empowerment. Recurring themes in her work are hope, empowerment, conquering fear and overcoming trials and tribulations.

I find that recurrent themes in my work are hope, empowerment, conquering fear and overcoming trials and tribulations.

Lillian was raised in the rural West Coast in a small town now known as Jacobsbaai. There she was exposed to the outdoors and nature. Her surroundings played a central role in Lillian’s upbringing. The lack of electricity and the remote setting of the town forced her and her siblings to seek alternative means of entertainment and activities. It cultivated an active imagination and love for creativity. She could draw before she could write, and always had her sketchbook handy. 

At the age of 9, Lillian started painting on glass and selling at local curio stores. At 10, she sold her first artworks at an Eisteddfod to one of the judges. At 19 Lillian had her first solo exhibition as the ATKV’s Regional Artist of the Year for the West Coast. It was only at the age of 24 that Lillian was exposed to oil painting. This soon became her preferred medium as she was finding her own artistic identity.

Lillian went on to earn bursaries to study at the University of Stellenbosch and the prestigious Stellenbosch Academy of Design. She completed her studies with distinction. 

She earned a living as a highly successful commercial graphic designer for 10 years and had her own design agency for 6 years. Read how she started that business.

Following the commercial success of her business, she felt a massive craving to return to painting and the basic, tactile creative process.  This hunger to create culminated in a personal breakthrough, a triumphant outpouring of inspiration on canvas. A bright feast for the eye in bold yellows, oranges, pinks and purples collided and resulted in haunting faces that have now become Lillian’s signature style.

Lillian lives and works in Fairland, Johannesburg and is a loving wife and mother of two.

I hope and believe that my art can contribute towards the ongoing struggle for equality and the improvement of global human relations, even if it is just on a small scale.

Let’s connect socially…



  • 2019 – Mosiac Expo Gallery – Johannesburg – South Africa
  • 2019 – Julie Miller Gallery – Mall of Africa – Johannesburg – South Africa
  • 2019 – White Space – New York – USA
  • 2019 – Agora Gallery – Chelsea – New York – USA
  • 2019 – Parallax Art Fair – South Kensington – London – UK
  • 2018 – hung (salon-style) In Toto Gallery – Sandton – Johannesburg – South Africa
  • 2017 – George Bizo’s 90th birthday Gala Dinner – Johannesburg – South Africa
  • 2017 – The Arethe Daflos Bizos Annual Art Exhibition entitled “I am Free” – Johannesburg – South Africa
  • 2012 – Pink Geranium – Stellenbosch – South Africa
  • 2011 – Aardklop Arts Festival – Snow Flake Millhouse Gallery – Potchefstroom – South Africa
  • 2010 – Lanzerac Estate  – Stellenbosch – South Africa
  • 2006 – ATKV Fees – Guest Artist – “Die Weskus en sy mense” – Piketberg – South Africa

Public Speaking

  • 2019 – 18 & 19 July – Conference –  Chief Data & Analytics African Conference – Art can be used for rhino conservation – 8 minutes
  • 2019 – 27 June – Lecture – Workshop:  Are you prepared for the future? Skills, Creativity, Critical Thinking & Complex Problem Solving – Lillian Gray 70mins lecture on the 4 Rooms of Creativity – how to have truly original ideas – 1 Hour 30 minutes
  • 2014 – Pecha Kucha – Cape Town – Unblocking Creativity – 20 Slides 20 Sec each – (6 minutes and 40 seconds total).
  • 2013 –  Lecture – Guest Lecturer at Media Village Video Production School – Art as communication and your responsibilty – Focused on Leni Riefenstahl and Oliviero Toscani – 3 Hours


Buyers List

  • 2019 – PWC Pricewaterhouse Coopers
  • 2019 – ABSA Bank LTD
  • 2019 – CFO of Momentum Healthcare Ltd
  • 2019 – Board member of Pricewaterhouse Coopers LTD
  • 2018 – CEO Home Finance, First National Bank

Browse through some of Lillian’s original artworks.

Commissioned Brands

Delta Airlines Logo


2009 – Business Management – Stellenbosch University
2009 – B.A. in Visual Communication – Stellenbosch Academy
2006 – B.A Fine Arts – Stellenbosch University
2005 – Diploma in Video Production

5 Key Business Books to Lillian’s Success

  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  • Be so good they can’t ignore you – by Cal Newport
  • The E-myth Revisted – Micheal E. Gerber
  • The Power of Moments – Chip & Dan Heath
  • Whatever you think, think the opposite –  Paul Arden

5 Key Art Books to Lillian’s Success

  • The Artist’s Way – Julian Cameron
  • Show your work! Aston Kleon
  • Steal like an artist – Aston Kleon
  • Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Art Inc –  Lisa Congdon