Elizabeth Tristram

We have experienced growing amount of interest both locally and abroad in the works of Elizabeth Tristram. We got to know her a little better as she is our featured artist for this week.

What is your background, who is Elizabeth Tristram, what is her history with art up until today?

I come from a family of creatives, my mother, grandmother, brother, aunts,  and cousins are all artists or in a creative field. For as long as I can remember, I've always been making things. My hobbies included drawing, making teddy bears, embroidery, paper mache, jewellery making, sculpture, fabric painting and pottery. If you could make it, I probably did.


Art was one of my subjects at school and after I matriculated, I attended Rhodes University to do my BFA. My major was painting and I fell in love with oil paint and chalk pastel. My final year exhibition was centred around the impermanence of memory. I created 1.5m x 1.5m polaroid 'photos' in chalk pastel that were an extreme close up of my childhood.


After my BFA I got my MA in Art History; my thesis was also focused on memory. At this point, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life or my art so my Master's degree was a way to figure that out. I moved to Pretoria in 2011 and started an instructional design company. I focused my time and energy on graphic design and digital art. I somehow always talked myself out of taking the jump towards "artist". I did a graphic design internship in 2013 and continued to build my company.  


A few years later I had a serious health scare that forced me to re-evaluate what I wanted out of life. I never stopped creating art, but it was somewhat erratic. I would always do a few months of obsessive creating and then lose interest. In 2016, I began experimenting with watercolour and fell in love with the medium. However, I never thought of it as something I could do as a career. In October of the next year, I finally made the commitment to become a full time artist.


I am currently exhibiting with The Printing Girls at Bioscope in Maboneng as well as selling my prints online and in a few stores in Gauteng. I will also be taking part in the Rotary Arts Festival in June.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

This is a question that doesn't have a single answer. I am an obsessive reference photo taker - I steal with my eyes. My inspirations change daily; it could be the colour of a wall at someone's house or an aloe that I found in Menlo Park. Currently I draw my inspiration from succulents, images of food and anything vintage.


I am also a big believer that inspiration is not just something that will fly out of the sky and hit you in the canvas, it's a muscle that you have to exercise. I spent ten years using lack of inspiration an excuse not to do art. "Oh I can't paint this weekend, I'm not 'inspired'". It's easy to turn that excuse into the biggest scapegoat in your life so I actively work at it by observing everything. Never stop sketching, photographing and writing.


What is the theme of your works and your preferred medium?

I find it really hard to stick to just one theme. Each time I finish a painting I have about 30 ideas for new ones. So currently I've got three different series that I'm working on, all very different from each other.

My preferred medium is watercolour. I've had to do a few oil paintings as well but the watercolour just fits better in my life right now. I am faster when I paint in watercolour, it gives me the ability to finish a piece in under a week.


If you could choose any 1 artwork to own, which would it be?

Without a doubt it would be "The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali. He was one of the artists that sparked my love of oil painting.  This is mostly for sentimental reasons though, in terms of art I adore now, i would not be able to choose just one.


What are your currently listening/reading?

I am a serious bookworm and if left unchecked I can easily read 11 books a month but that doesn't leave me much time for anything else so I have forced myself to switch to podcasts and audio books. So, what I am listening to is:

The jealous curator podcast

Danielle Krysa - Your inner critic is a big jerk

James Islington - The Licanius Trilogy

Brandon Sanderson - The Stormlight Archive


 What is your creative process?

I am a night owl so I usually do all my admin in the morning and at around 2pm I start working on whichever painting I have going on. I am usually busy with 2 or 3 artworks at a time. My studio is very small so I paint in front of my computer at my desk. I always use my own reference photos and usually do a rough mock-up in Photoshop first and then either print it or work off the screen. I always do a pencil sketch before painting but I try to lighten it a lot before I start painting. On average I spend about 10 - 15 hours on a big piece. My miniatures take me roughly one to two hours to complete. I prefer to paint in longer stretches but I can get very  involved and forget to move, eat or drink water.

With oil paint I have a tendency to spend 5 years on a piece if allowed, but with watercolour, I work in one or two layers. I also work from left to right without doing washes if I can avoid it. It's usually fairly clear to me when the piece is finished.

Elizabeth's works can be viewed and purchased here https://thegreatwallofart.com/collections/elizabeth-tristram

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