Elizabeth R. Whelan - Artist Statement
I work in oils on canvas, painting mainly portraits of people and botanical subjects. With both, I feel a commitment to empathy and curiosity. I look for the essential nature of my subject matter.
The power of sight, combined with the ability to make thoughts into physical objects, is magic! I never take the artistic life for granted. It’s an honor to be able to paint, and I do it to express my delight and awe in the natural world.
I find that two basic concepts drive my artistic practice these days. First, I explore how to represent in paint the way I see, not only the color and detail but also the connection of everything living and inanimate on this Earth at a chemical element level. And secondly, I explore how to paint the constant motion, the growing, building, moving, and decaying of it all. I see dynamic movement everywhere, even in the quietest scenes.
To convey these ideas, I anchor my paintings in solid composition and design, incorporating visual action while giving an overall sense of my sitter or subject’s character. I prefer to paint people in natural settings and have them interact with the world.
And I paint nature with a sense of motion and respect. I ask myself, how would that tree like to be painted? just as I do for any portrait subject. I vary my approach from detailed representation to abstraction, to capture the scene as I see it. People who enjoy my paintings remark on the warmth with which I treat my subject matter, human or otherwise.
So, when painting, I think about these fundamental connections. We are nature, we are the earth, and we are every living organism. I paint with a science-based view and a desire for kindness, intelligence, and respect to be built between humans and the larger natural world. I feel a responsibility to tell the stories of both people and plants.