Artist Statement 2023
I make oil paintings about landscapes.
Sketching on location is an important part of my painting practice. I go out in the world and draw quickly, and the loose lines, abstracted shapes and graphic elements of the sketches end up in my paintings, removing my work from the tradition of landscape painting. I usually paint on paper and no larger than two feet by three feet.
After more than 15 years of making oil-on-canvas figurative work and urban scenes about home and family, I experienced a painting slump. I didn’t make new work for almost two years, a time that coincided with a period of loss and grief in my life. To pull myself out of this creative dry spell, I moved away from work about what was most familiar to me and started painting places I didn’t know as well.
Initially I resisted making work that focused on “place” because I felt I had no claim to the places I wanted to paint. But because of the work I do as a sketcher, I value getting to know a place by just passing through it.
I experience every place I paint through different actions: walking, sleeping (camping), driving, and even navigating by boat or kayak. When I paint, I consider how well I can get to know a place through these actions, how it feels, the energy of the place, the sounds, sights, smells, solidity or airiness, wind, rain, cold and heat. The sketches I make contribute to getting to know the shapes and lines that go with it. I connect with a place, but briefly, so that the resulting painting comes out abstracted or flattened or with unlikely colors or patterns, but the feeling of the place is there.
Elizabeth Alley is a painter and sketchbook artist from Memphis, TN. She has shown her work locally and regionally since receiving her BFA from University of Memphis in 1998. She has maintained her art practice while helping others learn, connect, and create by teaching art, serving on the board of Urban Sketchers (USk) and organizing USk symposiums, starting the Memphis USk chapter, and organizing and participating in over 45 solo and group shows.