Introducing Artist Elizabeth Hoffman

I met Elizabeth more than twenty years ago in Los Angeles. We showed together in a storefront on Melrose as part of the city’s municipal arts program, Art in Businesses. I was so taken with her work, I wanted to write an article about her for my online magazine. At that time, somewhere around 2000, I ran something called Picklebird. It was pretty popular in its time.

Later, we wound up becoming fast friends. I showed her art at the gallery I shared with two other artists in San Pedro, CA., and she introduced me to everyone she knew in the Los Angeles art world. She also urged me to join the Los Angeles Art Association, which opened many doors for me. I am grateful for her friendship and her amazing art, which has always inspired me in many, many ways.

Here is a short interview I did with her recently. I hope you enjoy it.

Ayin:  I have known you for more than two decades now, and your style has always been very distinct. Can you describe how your work and interests have changed over this time?

Elizabeth: In the past, I’ve worked with many different materials, from found objects such as doors, windows, chairs, shutters, boxes, and tins to old children’s books, toys, wire, clothing, and fabric. My subject matter fluctuated among childlike images, anthropomorphized animals, vintage appliances, objects, dolls, toys, and dog portraits. 

Currently, my subject matter focuses more on botanicals with occasional dog portraits. I still enjoy utilizing found material but am working more with charcoal on paper and ink on both paper and canvas. At the moment, I really love working largely with ink and watered-down paint on raw canvas on the floor.  I love the spontaneity and gestural movement I’m able to capture.

Some things that have been consistent with my work have been my color palettes and my appreciation for all things tactile. I’ve always loved using my hands, smearing and erasing charcoal, building up layers, splattering, dripping paint, sanding, and varnishing.  It’s been and still is a good day if I have blue paint splattered on myself somewhere.

Ayin: How much time do you dedicate to working on your art each week?

Elizabeth: My goal is two or three smaller pieces a week. Creating at this pace helps me to stay loose and not overwork them. If I’m working larger, I may work on one or two per week.

Ayin: What size range do you like working in, and is there a reason you like working in those sizes?

Elizabeth: I’ve been working primarily 11” X 11” or smaller. If I feel like my artwork is getting too tight, I like to do fast, loose charcoal studies on 18” X 24” paper, and every so often I love to go really big on a large piece of raw canvas on the floor and then find smaller individual works of art within the whole canvas.

Ayin: How does an idea begin for you, and how does it transform into a finished piece? Can you share some of your process?

Elizabeth: It generally starts with a feeling or mood that I want to portray and is usually inspired by something in nature. It may start with me photographing some flowers that I see on a walk, or a beautiful flower I come across on a seed packet. I’ve even been inspired by fake flowers that I come across in the store. I start with contour or gestural line drawings of my subject matter, and from there determine what size and medium would be the best fit.  

Ayin: Who were your very first artistic influences, and who are your current ones?

Elizabeth: Some of my earlier inspirations were Alexander Calder, William H. Johnson, Joseph Cornell, and Kiki Smith’s fabric pieces. Currently, I’m more inspired by flowers and nature than people. Such as botanical gardens, nurseries, walks in nature, road trips, and traveling.

Ayin: What are some key things you learned in art school?

Elizabeth: Art school was an amazing experience for me to learn and delve into different mediums and understand how they work and the best way to use them in my art. Also, it was a great opportunity to study a wide variety of artists’ styles and techniques.

Ayin: What would you tell your younger self when she was just starting on in art? What advice would you give her?

Elizabeth: I would tell her not to worry about what other people think of my work. It’s all subjective and all about finding the right people for whom it resonates. Starting with myself.

Ayin: That is just about the most sound advice I’ve ever heard. 😉