Elizabeth Patterson says there has been nothing in her life that she has wanted so much and worked so hard for, other than her art. But, like many of life’s passions, her path to artistic self-expression and professional success has been filled with twists and turns.
Elizabeth doesn’t remember when she started considering herself an artist. Her mother encouraged her talent from an early age; and she attended art school, becoming a slave to graphite and colored pencils. After college, she began to get strong, early recognition for her drawings. To support herself, she took work as an offset press operator.
That job nearly cost her career.
In 1984, her drawing hand was crushed in one of the presses and so began two years of surgeries and physical therapy to repair the damage. The accident resulted in a 13-year hiatus from creating art, and the ability to express her passion and talent.
“I made an unfortunate decision to abandon my art - at the time I guess I felt I would never again have the control I once did - and I made a major left turn and changed careers.”
Elizabeth credits her partner Suzanne in motivating her to try her hand at art again, after believing for so many years it was a lost talent.
In fact, by the time she met Suzanne in 1996, Elizabeth was no longer identifying herself as an artist. “Inside, I was absolutely sick about it, but that part of my life was over in my mind.” One day, Suzanne discovered Elizabeth’s art hanging in her father’s house—a side to Elizabeth that was hidden from view. Determined to reignite her passion, she immediately bought a drawing table and Elizabeth quickly discovered that indeed, the ability to draw was still alive and well. The result was a series of brilliant aquatic drawings that catapulted the artist back into the world of creativity.
note: all imagery courtesy of Louis Stern Fine Arts
159th Street, 4pm 2009 - 20"x30" - colored pencil, graphite and solvent on illustration board
For the next ten years she built back her career, eventually finding gallery representation with Louis Stern, and a very serious career as a professional artist. It has been an uphill climb, one filled with rejection and “showing my work in the most pitiful of venues.”
Perhaps the lowest point in the process? “Sitting in my booth at an art festival watching a dog lift it's leg on my panels.” But with the lows come the highs—her work has won critical acclaim and numerous awards including the prestigious honor of signature status in the Colored Pencil Society of America.
Elizabeth’s drawings are often mistaken as photography. “Artistically, I want to create an experience that pulls the viewer into a multi-dimensional world where a moment has been captured - one we have all experienced, but perhaps have not seen as beautiful or magical.” Her recent work with rain is a prime example of this.
Mulholland Drive VI 2009 - 24"x40" - colored pencil, graphite and solvent on bristol vellum
Her work appeals to a fairly wide audience. “There is something special about rain. It has a quality that evokes emotion. Everyone has experienced it and has memories of it. The context of the work places the viewer in the scene, so I think it becomes a more personal experience.”
“I love the challenge of drawing shapes on paper and conveying water, light, and reflection in motion. Somewhere along the way, the piece starts to come alive and it never fails to generate an internal combustion that keeps me excited and engaged until I have a finished work of art.”
Through life’s travails, Elizabeth has realized she wanted to make art her sole profession. She credits luck, and a dogged determination to get her work seen by as many people as possible. “It is difficult when your choices are limited, but you simply have to do the best you can with what is available to you. Each success will open another door.” And life, it seems, is a series of doors set along a long and winding road.
Magazine Street, New Orleans 2010 - 23"x29" - colored pencil and solvent on bristol vellum
Ventura Boulevard at Laurel Canyon, 10pm 2009 - 18"x36" - colored pencil and solvent on illustration board