Thursday, August 2, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Elizabeth Floyd

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Elizabeth Floyd's painting, "Pink Hyacinths," go to and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Elizabeth Floyd's DPW gallery page:
I am a full time artist. I paint in a realistic manner, using vivid colors and thoughtful compositions which reflect my appreciation of beauty in all things I encounter on a daily basis. In March 2009, I completed a career transition to art after more than a decade studying and working in the architectural field.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

The first time I painted with oils was in 2006 and I immediately fell in love with the rich juicy colors you are able to achieve with this medium. Prior to working with oils, I mainly drew with graphite or ink and used watercolors to add a bit of color to the drawings.

Pink Hyacinths
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Wanting to be an artist was a secret dream of mine for many, many years. So in a way I had a long period where I did not acknowledge my artistic side and repressed it. I never expressed the dream of being an artist to anyone until my thirtieth birthday, when I shared it with my husband. He was especially encouraging and gave me the confidence to begin working towards my dream. For the first two years I focused on drawing and watercolor, then I tried my hand at oils and never looked back.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I have pursued still-life, landscape, and the figurative (portrait and anatomical) genres, coming to realize I personally respond most when working with still-life and landscape scenes. Of mediums, I have worked with watercolor, graphite, charcoal, pen and ink, pastels, oils, and sculpture.

Each medium has had its place in helping me grow as an artist, however the medium I have most enjoyed exploring is working with oil paint. The vast diversity of effect and application methods that can be employed when working with oils has captivated my attention for the most part. I am drawn to how, with a subtle change in thickness and transparency of paint, I can affect the emotive expression; shifting and adopting to all the nuances of personal expression that can be so hard for me to articulate verbally, but flow when I try to express them visually through a painting.

Still Life with Persimmons on Pewter Plate(click here to see original image)

Two mediums I am looking forward to someday exploring are encaustic and etching. I am drawn to encaustic because I love the thick, layered and translucent quality of the medium, along with the ability to embed found objects into the layers and surface. While with etching, I love the quality of line and mark-making that is possible, especially with the drypoint technique. However, I anticipate it will be a long while before I dive into these interests. I still feel there is so much to learn and apply when working with oils.

There are these lovely, brooding darks in your work, balanced out by beautiful, delicate brights. What can you tell us about your greatest influences and how you developed your style? 

When I first started studying fine art, I did a lot of reading and I came across this quote by Robert Henri:
“Don't worry about your originality. You couldn't get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick with you and show up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.”
This quote stuck with me when I first started painting with oils, so I never worried about developing a specific style, instead I focused on improving my technique, because I believed if I knew how to handle the paint I would be better equipped to create and share what I was trying to express.

In addition to reading a lot and trying to heed all I was learning, the greatest influence was also the lucky chance of being able to take many classes and workshops taught by the talented portrait and still-life artist, Danni Dawson. Getting to study with her has made the most pivotal impressions on my art career. I could go on for hours about how she has helped me be a better artist and improved my ability to critically observe and then translate these observations into paintings… I owe her so much for how very generous she has been to me.

Stargazer Lily
(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Right now my life is very full with the responsibilities of having a 12-month old daughter. She goes to a sitter during the work week and if I do not paint during those hours, I will not get to paint. So procrastination does not have a place in my life right now and when asked about when I make time for “me,” I answer that time when I get to paint is the best “me” time I could ever have.

And as for ensuring I make time to paint, the only technique I employ is that I always try to have one or two compositions going or in my thoughts, so when I am free to paint, I have already completed a lot of the problem solving issues that go into starting a painting before I ever walk up to the easel. For me, if I do not know what I am going to do the next time I get to paint, I will waste valuable time trying to figure it out.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I keep an “idea journal” where I jot down ideas, words, and thumbnail sketches about paintings or a series I would like to further develop. Over time, a bunch of ideas are jotted down and often when I go back and look at the ideas I begin to see similarities and common themes that adapt well into developing a series.

How do you keep art "fresh?" 

I always try to paint from life using natural light. My studio windows face northeast, and from day to day, and season to season the quality of light varies. This always keeps me on my toes, as I must adapt to the weather conditions because the quality of color is vastly different on a bright sunny day versus a gray overcast day. Also, when painting flowers I have to keep up a good pace because flowers change over time, sometimes a lot over a course of a few hours. One time when working on a painting with tulips, the tulip stems grew almost ½” in the course of four hours, making the flowers significantly higher from the edge of the vase than when I started the painting. Mentally, I was constantly adjusting for this difference while painting.

I believe working from life and coping with the potential of change gets captured, and a wonderful “dither” occurs that brings life to a subject. Harold Speed in The Practice and Science of Drawing defines the word “dither” as that elusive quality, that play on mechanical accuracy, existing in all vital art.

Garden Harvest
(click here to see original image)

What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

To avoid burnout I try to always choose a set up that is mentally challenging, this keeps me engaged. If this does not work, I will then shift to a different genre or medium for a day or two, and by working on something different, I get revitalized to go back and re-attempt what was not working out before.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

In 2012, I set a challenge to work on a series where I complete an 8x8 inch painting every week inspired by the passage of time and the seasons. Each piece is a reminder to celebrate the beauty found in our daily lives, so each new scene is composed of items found around my house or garden, or gathered from a neighbor or farmer’s market.

(click here to see original image)

The most important thing I have learned by working on this series is that for a painting to be a success it must have a supporting idea, something central, a focus that organizes how everything is treated within the composition. I have learned that when a painting is not working out, it is because I have lost the focus of the idea. Many paintings have been scraped down or put aside due to losing the idea. I am also learning that it is always better to regroup and start over then try to force and power through, because the painting will somehow be shallow, even if it is technically correct.

What makes you happiest about your art?

When what drew me in also speaks to the viewer. Overall, I want to share my sense of beauty with others and there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that someone else has connected to a painting I have created.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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