And Freedom For’s Interview with Abstract Painter Liz Ainslie

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The Following is a guest article from the Brooklyn-based art blog And Freedom For.


Liz Ainslie is an abstract painter living and working in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  In her interview with AndFreedomFor, she talks about risking failure, the importance of observation and what she thinks is keeping painting alive.


AndFreedomFor What drew you into art?  Can you tell me a little about the path to where you are now?

Liz Ainslie Drawing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was almost a compulsion from a very young age and it was mostly something I did for the pure curiosity and enjoyment of it. Painting became important when I learned some color theory and saw the Albers exercises as an undergrad. Learning how to mix paint was huge for me. After graduate school, it took me a few years to find the path I’m on now. The work I’m making is the result of rules and methods I’ve developed to allow for intuitive manipulation of color and spacial illusion. I’m doing this in order to understand what makes painting unique. I think a good painting often merges the physical with the perceptual in a way that nothing else can. You have the physical evidence of the hand paired with the inconsistency and variability of human perception. These two contrasting elements might be what is keep painting alive.




AFF What happened when you learned to mix paint?  What did you discover?  How has that changed your work?

LA First of all, I learned how to keep the paints separate and clean. It’s so easy to have muddy color when using oil paint. Mixing with the palette knife just gives you control that you cannot have when trying to mix with a brush. I found that if you are persistent, you can match colors very closely. Once I had the confidence that I could mix almost any color, I felt free but also intimidated. I had to hold myself to a new standard when creating something because of the vast number of options/decisions. Mixing also helped me notice more color variations in the world that I would have probably taken for granted before that.


AFF What’s the most fun thing about making art?  And what’s the most frustrating?

LA The most fun thing is seeing something unexpected in what I’m making. I don’t want to paint without allowing for discovery. The most frustrating thing goes hand in hand with the most enjoyable; when I allow for experimentation I am risking failure and it can be difficult to push through a painting that looks like it isn’t working. It is good practice to push though, because I cannot always see a good painting until later on. There are also a number of my paintings that no one will see because they just didn’t work out.


AFF I love the photographs that your site links to.  How do you use these?  Do you draw or paint directly from them?

LA The photographs are another kind of sketchbook. I don’t paint directly from them, but I think they influence my use of color and the kind of spacial relationships I depict. I like framing and distorting my surroundings through the viewfinder. I do the same thing from one painting to the next; rearranging the composition and scale from previous paintings. Photography allows me to step outside the studio. As artists we can get too wrapped up in studio practice and forget to let the world in. Observation was important in forming my practice and I wouldn’t want to let that go.


AFF How did you come to your interest in color?

LA I think I was always drawn to the spectacle of color, but it was a class taught by Mary Lum, my freshman year at Alfred University that really introduced me to the power of color relationships. Photography was also a good way to begin to see light differently. The more I used paint, the more I found that mixing color drove the work. It’s still how I begin my paintings. Now I use my understanding of color theory along with my observations of light, material and artificial color (as in fashion and marketing) to play with the interactions in my paintings. The associations with color are endless and ever-changing and that’s what makes it exciting and difficult.


AFF What’s the next step for you?

LA Lately I’ve noticed my color changing, getting sweeter and brighter, and I will follow that where it leads. This summer it will be great to get outside and do some observational drawing which usually influences my work. Pattern has slowly started to enter the paintings too.


AFF What do you find interesting in pattern?

LA Pattern is interesting to me when it starts to fall apart. I love the almost irreverent way Klee made patterns. I think he was most interested in starting a pattern and letting it take him somewhere else in the process. Vuillard’s patterns are very deceiving. They read like a slightly out of focus photograph, but when you get up close, they are so full of energy, you don’t see the systematic application. His mastery of color overtakes the viewer’s perception. If I use pattern, I want it to unravel like Klee’s or be obscured and changing like Vuillard’s.




See Liz’s work

AndFreedomFor’s earlier interviews with artists can be found here.