Artist Statement 2024
I make oil paintings about landscapes.
Sketching on location is crucial to my painting practice. I go out in the world and draw what I see and create paintings of a place incorporating the loose lines, abstracted shapes and graphic elements of the sketches. I usually paint on paper, 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 moved away from work about what was most familiar to me and started painting places I didn’t know as well to pull myself out of a creative slump. 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, or sometimes 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.
Pausing in a space to draw it and then extending the exploration by painting it in the studio deepens the connection to the place and helps me investigate the way we interact with and experience natural surroundings.
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.