"Think of yourself as a professional, always."
The first letter: October 1, 2010
I worked with Ian on the EAC*...I'd love to see your paintings....I love your house- I walk along that path a lot.
Nice to meet you.
*Environmental Advisory Council of Easton (Ian is my husband, an environmental educator)
Author's Note: My husband Ian and I had moved to Easton with our newborn daughter in March, 2007. While Ian got involved with the community through his job at the Delaware Canal State Park, I retreated into the warm cocoon of motherhood, completely wrapped up with domestic life and all of its intimate details, which included the birth of a second baby in 2010. Although I had a network of friends (other stay-at-home moms) I was in some ways very isolated and out of touch with my dreams of being an artist. I was unaware of the art community around me. This might explain why it took me THREE YEARS to respond to Elizabeth's first letter.
October 1, 2013
...I've been thinking of asking you for a while, if you ever have any free moments, I would love to have a conversation with you about art. (I see above you sent me a message 3 years ago that i didn't respond to...my only excuse was having a new baby, I guess.) Next time you are walking by my house, you could pop in for a cup of tea and some chit chat.
I'm just getting out of an intense period of being totally absorbed by my young children, and I'm really missing painting, and wondering how to get back into it. I know you have kids and I was thinking you might have some wisdom or a few words of inspiration.
October 1, 2013
So nice to hear from you... Walk yourself down to the Lafayette art center on the corner...on Thursday evening at 7pm with a large page and some charcoal and kneaded erasers, and they have a nude model for 3 hours for free. It's the best way to get back your "hand". I go off and on, but it's a great practice for anyone. They have lots of supplies there but you should bring your own- large paper is best, pencils, pastels, brush and ink: whatever you like. Go for it.
Or I did small still lifes at home, but you know how hard that is- I also went to the Art Students League, when I lived in the city. If you have a sitter, sign up for a class at the Baum School in Allentown.
Good luck, it's worth it.
Fantastic! thanks for the advice. I've been meaning to go to those thursday nights, but I always lose my momentum. i'm going to do it next week for sure. Thanks again!
Author's note: I took Elizabeth's advice and started going to the free figure drawing sessions. It was such a gift to have those available, because at the time I had absolutely NO disposable income, and coming up with the standard $10 would have been impossible for me. At the drawing sessions, I connected with other artists who inspired me and gave me helpful critique. Some of them encouraged me to seek out serious teachers, which I did.
February 6, 2015
Have you ever worked with gouache?
February 6, 2015
A little bit... not very seriously. I haven't been satisfied with it. But I love Chagall's gouache paintings, and yours as well. Maybe I bought a too-cheap variety of gouache...
I'm so enchanted by oils right now, and how long they take to dry, that I have a hard time with gouache, which feels less sexy. But I think it would be good for me to play around with, and have more fun with color and composition, and be less worried about technique...Your paintings do look luscious, I'm not sure I could get gouache to look like that. It feels flat.
February 6, 2015
It's a great medium. I, and most people, learn to handle it in design school. But with some practice you can. Positives: it's cheaper than oils and very portable, cleans up with water but has a much more interesting surface than acrylic paint and it isn't such a bitch as watercolor-unforgiving and mean spirited, in my opinion- meaning I suck at it. And, like oil , you can work on top forever. Give it a go. I love what you're doing!
Acrylic gouache is ok. I've been using it. Old fashion gouache is like silk panties......more trouble, but wow.
February 7, 2015
What is acrylic gouache? I didn't go to design or art school...I wish I had. I didn't realize I had this burning passion to paint until this past June. It seems like most artists with kids already had a lot of art study and art-career-building under their belts before they had a family, so I'm really struggling with how to make it happen now that I'm at a later stage in life. It's not in the cards for me to go back to school right now...maybe in a few years...but I just can't wait that long! I am dreaming about painting at night....
Morgan is at preschool right now. He goes two mornings a week, so I can paint from 10-12 two days a week...that's not much! Plus whatever weekends/evenings I can squeeze in, but so much family stuff competes. But instead of painting right now, I am looking at the disaster of my house that is a messy kitchen, Morgan's bed with pee in it, tons of laundry....it's so hard to prioritize painting even though I want to do it so badly.
February 7, 2015
Acrylic gouaches are a newish product that suspend the zinc and pigment (which make up gouache) in an acrylic matrix- more stable. It does not flake off the paper like old water base gouache sometimes did. Consider a class at the Art Students League ( short 3 day intensive), beg for baby sitting, or go to a class at the Baum school.
Or keep doing what you're doing. It's great. Ask questions. I had my kids home as well. I did go to art school, it's true, and went to school while they were small, but don't worry too much about working while they play!!
Author's Note: I continued to paint (including some gouache!) and draw as much as I could, and I was able to generate enough work for my first solo show at The Cosmic Cup coffeeshop in Easton, PA. I sent Elizabeth an invitation.
April 23, 2015
I'm thrilled to hear that you are having a show AND you are working in gouache! Two great events.....
About edges...think of these as "the maker's hand" it shows your presence- like the writer's voice in a book. It is a creation on a flat surface, the presentation of a slice of someone's (Lauren's) mind, and the bits that extend onto the edges are a reminder of that. That said, it isn't necessary to be dramatic or always have that- you have to be careful not to make these marks distracting.
To wit, "abrash" is a word used in the study of rugs- Turkish, Anatolian, etc. that refers to the idea that only God can make something perfect so the maker would weave into the rug a piece or section that was slightly imperfect so as not to attempt to compete with God. It's part of the beauty of the piece and also an offering of humility and acknowledgment of our human limitations.
Now, on a practical note, some examples of how I handle this problem. Here is a recent crayon (oil pastel) self portrait I did that has sloppy edges. You can see how much better it looks with the edges left raw AND I will frame them so that the wiggle is left. The cropped versions lack liveliness, to me. Let me know what you think. You can send me your images, if you like.
Ask anything you like!
April 30, 2015
Thank you so much for your email. I LOVE our correspondence. I keep printing out your emails and gluing them into my sketchbook. I agree, the sloppy edges are better! I personally love sloppy, messy art, and things that are super perfect drive me kind of nuts. And I'm glad I can use the authority of "abrash" to justify myself. I've been going to a few art shows, and noticing that it is pretty common for people to have raw edges of canvas that have some sloppy paint marks all around, and it doesn't seem to be a big deal...
My reception at Cosmic Cup will be Friday, May 29, from 5-7 pm...I want to give my show a name, and I was thinking about "Emerging" because that is the feeling I am having about art, that I myself am emerging...waking up, into the world of painting. Or maybe I'll think of a better name....Any ideas? I was told my show doesn't need a name, because it's a coffee shop, not a gallery, but I can't stop wanting one.
Anyway, I hope to show you some of my gouache experiments soon. I still haven't gotten a handle on using my time wisely, or being able to paint with my kids around. (They are so demanding! and lately very quarrelsome, but also sweet and loving. But always needing my attention.) But in Sept. when they are both in school all day, I plan to hit the ground running. I can't over-express my enthusiasm and joy about the idea of being able to paint all day, and have a serious studio practice.
From now until Sept. it will have to be more portable stuff that I can do here and there, take to the park, the river, wherever. That's why I'm so grateful for gouache. So, thanks!!!
Hope to talk to you soon!
April 30, 2015
Every show is a show. Start your resume now and this cafe exhibit is an exhibit that gets full court press.
Your first solo....
I've written down the date and even if I don't make it to the opening I'll be there to see it at some point while it's up.
So happy things are well. Draw draw draw.
June 22, 2015
Thanks so much for driving all the way down to Easton to see me. I am thrilled and honored beyond measure. I appreciate all your feedback on my paintings, and I'm kind of amazed but so empowered by your belief in my potential, that my inner-whatever-it-is might actually be worth something. I mean, especially my narrative paintings, which I used to consider to be my self-indulgent, inferior work. I feel like you really understand what I am trying to say, maybe even better than I do.
I also appreciate your advice regarding money. The way you value your own artwork has made a big impression on me...Knowing that you have such a strong sense of the worth of your art makes it easier for me to put a high value on my own paintings.
I could go on and on listing the many things you said that helped me, but I won't bore you. Just know that I really enjoyed our coffee date, and I am having a LOT of fun looking at the artwork of the various artists you mentioned. Especially Florine Stettheimer. Wow!!
Anyway, I hope you have a fantastic, productive summer, and I'll be in touch. I'll send you some of my gouache-adventures once I have a good little collection going.
June 22, 2015
I was just thinking about what a beautiful day I had with you. Very inspired- we will do lots of things.
You have to give it away to keep it.
Author's Note: A recent message, just a couple months ago, after more than a year's lull in the correspondence...
September 6, 2016
Lauren, Coffee on Thursday?? --Elizabeth
Omg! Yes! I'm crazy about you! See you soon! ---Lauren
Author's Note: I'm pleased beyond words to be able to invite you to Elizabeth Snelling: Still Lifes and Interiors, a solo show of Elizabeth's small paintings on paper, her work of the last three years The reception will be in my brand new studio, 7 B North Bank Street, Easton, PA, on Saturday, November 26, 2016, from 6-9 pm.