Although Elizabeth St John trained at Portsmouth College of Art, it was her time living in Asia as a result of her husband’s job that really fired up her imagination to pick up the paintbrush and start painting seriously. ‘It was the overwhelming colour of life and our surroundings there that inspired me to get going,’ she says of the experience. ‘I just had to share that amazing excitement with others. Coming back to live in Cornwall with its wonderful light and long tradition of welcoming and accepting artists was just as important’. Unfortunately 2 of the galleries that once showed Elizabeth’s work have become casualties of the recent financial crisis, and so Elizabeth is using the opportunity to experiment on canvas in private without the pressure of exhibition deadlines, and finds that this way of working is allowing her work to develop at a staggering pace.
Elizabeth’s wonderful paintings celebrate colour and pattern in the world around us. Strong colour harmonies have the ability to evoke moods: fond memories, anxieties, dreams, hopes and fears; and it is this power that fascinates her. She is drawn to strong patterns and shapes both in fabric designs and in the landscape, and uses these to construct compositions that dance us away to the artist’s dreamy world. I asked the wonderfully imaginative Elizabeth St. John for her review of the year.
Lisa: What has been your favourite exhibition of 2013?
Elizabeth: What a difficult question to answer! Even though I live in Cornwall, I do try to get “up-country” to as many shows as possible in addition to regular visits to Tate St Ives and Hepworth’s garden and private views of friends’ shows. So I checked through my diary and was surprised to see I went to 16 exhibitions in 2013. I enjoyed and was inspired by them all, from a collection of Grace Cossington Smith’s paintings in a small gallery in NSW, Australia, through “Becoming Picasso” at the Courtauld , taking an 8 year old to see the Lowrys at Tate Britain and finally being stunned by the Paul Klee’s at Tate Modern. There is always something to learn from looking hard at good paintings, even if in a style totally removed from one’s own. In the end though, my vote has to go to the Manet at the Royal Academy. I thought it was a very beautiful and very moving exhibition.
Lisa: What highlights have you experienced in your own art studio in 2013?
Elizabeth: I had a happy 5 days in Suffolk, painting with friends and tutored by Hugo Grenville, an inspirational teacher. It was so good to get away from the distractions of everyday life in order to concentrate on the painting. Then in August I had 2 wonderful days at the Newlyn School of Art attending a life class workshop led by Rose Hilton, one of my painting heroines. In the autumn, 2 of my paintings and 1 drawing were pre-selected at the Royal West of England Academy Open. Alas, not one made it to the final hang! But, it was a morale booster that my offerings were given serious consideration and has encouraged me to try again next year and to maybe enter the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2014.
Lisa: What art related New Year’s resolutions will you make?
Elizabeth: I must stop dithering, must get myself properly organised and get a really good website of my work up and running in 2014.
Lisa: What valuable lesson did you learn about making art in 2013?
Elizabeth: I must think more about using my colour palette to let the viewer know what excited me about the subject and why I painted it.
Lisa: What art materials are on your Christmas wish list?
For more information about Elizabeth’s paintings please email firstname.lastname@example.org