I (Natalie) met Elise Mahan at an art show in a community gallery space in Oakland, CA, back in December, just before we launched this Exhibitionists feature here on the blog. At the show, I was struck by Mahan’s ethereal water colors and their ability to capture a very finite, tiny and perpetually floating moment in time. Now I’m sharing them with you, wondering if you will feel the same. She’s young, she’s honing her craft one piece at a time and here she tells us how it’s all coming along, set to the smoke-filled slurs of Tom Waits.
1.)Who are your top 3 artistic influences?
My favorite artistic influences are Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Cornell, and William Kentridge. I will admit I have too many to count, but these three artists inspire my work a great deal.
2.) Where do you create your art?
I mostly work from my studio at home, usually surrounded with three to five art projects at any given time.
My studio is my favorite place to be, and I know I have had a productive day when it looks like a whirlwind hit it.
3.) How much time do you typically spend on each piece?
Sometimes it can take me only a few hours or a day to complete a new painting, but most of the time it takes weeks to resolve a piece. I also have a habit of going back to old projects several years later and resolve it with a new style or idea I may not have had before.
4.) What mediums do you work in?
I work with media such as watercolor, gouache, walnut ink, graphite paint, fabric dyes, charcoal, and acrylic inks. I am a shameless mixer when it comes to my paints, and part of my process is being able to explore the endless possibilities and the different ways it can be combined with non-traditional materials.
5.) Do you have any advice for young artists?
I still feel like I have so much to learn as an artist myself, but if I were to give any advice, it would be to try everything, to accept that you will ruin work and be willing learn and grow from it no matter how annoying or frustrating it can be. Keep a sketchbook and experiment with every medium to find the ones that most resonate with you. Don’t be afraid of letting go of your work, I believe that being able to sell or give away old paintings helps to create newer, fresher and more innovative works.
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