Understanding the artist behind their work helps us to appreciate their pieces in a much deeper way. That’s why we want to speak to as many of our featured artists as possible to find out what inspires them and how they have become the artists they are today.
This week, we’ve spoken to Elizabeth Power to find out more about the way she works, her inspirations, and some of the projects she’s currently working on.
Tell us about your studio.
I’m now based in St Leonards-On-Sea, having recently moved down from London. I am still in the middle of getting my studio finished, but it’s getting there! It has amazing light as I’m very close to the beach, and this summer I’ve often ended my days of painting by a dip in the sea! It’s also the biggest room in my house, and I personally love having a home studio as I like my home comforts, especially heating! Plus, my biggest critic (my 2 year old son) is always nearby.
What’s your background?
My degree is actually in fashion illustration from UAL, which taught me to paint very quickly and freely. So even though I don’t focus on figures much these days, the approach from life drawing has very much carried through into my work today. I worked in the art industry for a decade, mainly as a gallery manager, which taught me the business side of things and also gave me the best art history lesson I could have asked for as I dealt with a lot of incredible artists and art collections. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I felt I could really pursue my own art career full-time, and it feels so great to finally focus on what I love doing.
How do you find motivation?
I’m naturally a very driven person and so I always find time to make the things I want to happen, happen. Also, since having my son, I want him to see that his parents have successful careers as freelancers and show him he can do something he loves if he puts the effort in!
What drives your work?
I would say that I create work to fundamentally make the viewer happy and my colour palette, which is full of bright, vivid colours reflects this. I am obsessed with colour, and every art I love, no matter the style, attracts me by its successful use of colour. Twombly, Matisse, Monet; all incredible colourists. Therefore, for me, my colour palette is the top priority and I will turn even the most dreary day in the UK and paint it to look like the heat of the Meditteranean.
If you could choose one song from one album to reflect your work, what would it be, and why?
Tatiana by Claude Bolling from the album Le Magnifique. I listen to a great playlist called French Riviera Classics when I paint at the moment and this track is on it. It really gets me in the zone for the works I’m creating, whisking me off to the Cote d’Azur! Classic holiday vibes which I think we’ve all been craving during lockdown!
You often draw inspiration from nature, do you use photographs?
Yes I always at least take inspiration from photographs that I take, although I do use them as more of a guide for proportions etc. I very much paint in my own style and will often add in palm trees to a scene! I turn the photograph into what I wish the scene really was.
Your paintings capture the movement and beauty of nature through expressive brush strokes, vibrant colour and abstract mark-making. Talk us through your painting process.
I always paint the base of the painting first, normally with a bright pink or yellow wash. I like how it glows through the finished painting, and I find working on a white canvas very sterile. Then, I mark out what I’m going to paint very quickly and loosely either by pencil or by tape. Then I paint normally a colour at a time. I tend to start with blues and move onto the brighter colours later. Finally, I paint on the green plants or trees at the end, using a freer and thicker brush stroke for the background. That is always the fun bit for me!
Other than White, which three colours could you not do without?
Pink, yellow, blue.
How has your style or subject matter changed or developed?
It evolved from painting mainly floral works a few years ago, which evolved into more foliage, and now I tend to always have some plants or trees in the scene, but it isn’t the only thing in the composition. I am always drawn to nature scenes, but I’m expanding!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mate Jono tells his students a story that there is a pottery class of 40 pupils. Half are tasked to come up with ways to make the perfect vase. The other half are told to make 100 vases. The moral is, the students trying to perfect one vase will inevitably fail while the others, making the 100 will just get better and better to the point where they’re knocking out perfect vases all the time!
Who inspires you?
I love strong female artists such as Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Berthe Morisot, Bridget Riley, Cecily Brown and Chantal Joffe. Also, Peggy Guggenheim was an incredible collector with a killer eye.
Additionally, the first artwork I ever fell in love with was that of Cy Twombly, who will always be a constant inspiration for his colour and free movement of paint. I also think that Matisse is a total hero who inspires me because he was so damn adaptable and always pushing and evolving his work. Oh, and Pierre Bonnard because I think he is possibly the greatest painter of nature ever.
If you could own one piece of artwork what would it be?
Open window collioure by Matisse.
Alongside yourself, who would be in your ideal group exhibition (from any period of time)… and what’s the title?
Dream Garden, featuring: Pierre Bonnard, David Hockney, Henry Matisse, Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, Claude Monet, Cuno Amiet, Cy Twombly, Adrian Berg.
Tell us about The Artfully Podcast
I co-host The Artfully Podcast which covers news stories, gossip, and revisiting art history you thought you knew, or always wished you did. I present it with my friend and ex-gallery colleague Jessie Hillcox, who has an unrivalled thirst for discovering new art and exhibitions. We wanted to create an accessible art podcast, which is a chatty and informal discussion about exhibitions, art news and we do an artist focus each episode which looks into one artist (dead or living) in depth. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to connect with new people!
What are you currently working on, and what’s next?
I am about to exhibit with Heals as part of the London Design Festival in September 2020 and I have a few more group exhibitions in the pipeline! Additionally, I will also be hosting a panel talk for The Other Art Fair next year, interviewing curators from the Tate and V&A.
Discover more of Elizabeth Power’s vibrant and expressive work here