Icons: An Interview with Artist Elizabeth Sutton
March 1, 2017 by
For art infused with playful energy and impeccable style, look no further than the work of Elizabeth Sutton. This young mom and lifelong New Yorker gave us the scoop on her latest series of paintings, the philosophy behind her unique use of color and how she maintains her incredible work ethic.
AZ: Give us 3 words that best describe your art.
ES: My art is happy, vibrant and bright.
AZ: Zodiac sign?
ES: I’m a December Sagittarius.
AZ: Drink of choice?
ES: Normally I keep it simple with a good glass of wine, but I love sake with sushi.
AZ: Talk to us about your first exposure to the arts.
ES: I’ve lived in NYC my whole life, and the number of times I’ve gone to every single museum in the city, I can’t even count.
AZ: Do you remember the day you realized you wanted to do art full-time?
ES: In October of 2015, I began painting again for fun and I shared some photos on Instagram. A few days later, one of my followers commissioned a piece and since then I haven’t slowed down.
AZ: Talk to us about your process.
ES: My process is very much intuitive. For the most part, I do not digitally plan my artworks—I envision the works, mentally playing over different variations, and I put them straight onto wood. For my latest series, “Icons,” I have had to do some digital prep work to create proper shapes, but even for those works, the colors and shadows are crafted intuitively and are not predetermined. I think my ability to balance color and shape is where my strength lies. And although most who have observed my practice often comment that my work is so tedious that they don’t understand how I have the patience to do it, I find it extremely meditative and therapeutic. Patience is not exactly my “virtue” and most days I feel I can identify with ADHD, but when it comes to my art I could stand for 12 hours straight painting, perfectly content and at peace. And whereas many artists can work on piece for months, unsure of whether or not they are finished, my works definitely have a beginning and an end. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than placing the final detail.
AZ: You use a lot of bright color. Is there a reason for that? Do you have a favorite color that you always try to incorporate?
ES: My favorite aspect of what I do and what I create is that I make “happy” art—for me, happiness and color equate to one another. I feel colors evoke happier energies. . .
And I do have a favorite color (navy) but in my art, I am sometimes biased to primary palettes and rainbow palettes.
AZ: How did the partnership with Beautique come about?
ES: I go way back with the owner of Beautique, Jon. And coincidentally, when I started pursuing my art as a career, a blogger friend of mine happened to have a meeting with him in the space and she overheard him saying that he needed to get art on the walls ASAP. She chimed in to recommend my work and, when he realized that we knew each other, we got in touch right away. Beautique is such a beautiful space and the opportunity to create works for the restaurant, and have a little bit of fun with what we placed in the lounge, is such a pleasure and an honor.
AZ: How did you choose the pieces that are currently displayed at Beautique? Why those icons?
ES: The “Icons” are actually my newest series and my favorite collection to date, which happened to fall in line with fashion week. Aesthetically, the pieces worked together, but I wanted to focus on people who were influential in different cultural spheres, from fashion and design to sports and entertainment, many of whom I admire personally.
AZ: What are icons that you are constantly inspired by?
ES: I love Jane Birkin: a carefree beauty, and the muse behind the most gorgeous bag. Damien Hirst is definitely a role model for me as both an artist and an entrepreneur, for successfully breaking through a stigma and creating a very lucrative business through his art. I also love the aesthetic of his artwork. In addition to Hirst, I idolize Jonathan Adler because he began his career as a ceramicist, but my long-term goal is to follow a similar path and have my own product line one day. And on a personally meaningful level, I admire the work and message of Deborah Kass, who has created a dialogue on the dominant position of males within the art world. Since beginning my career as an artist, I feel more empowered as a woman than ever.
AZ: Your opening night was during fashion week. Do you see a correlation between fashion and art?
ES: Absolutely! As an artist, I’m inspired by movement and truly colorful city that I live in. New York is full of style, multiculturalism & mixed media, and art in the form of architecture, cuisine, and fashion. And I have always been obsessed with fashion, especially.
AZ: You have two small children—any advice to people who are juggling a career and kids?
ES: Finding the balance is extremely challenging, but you have to go with the flow every day and do your best. About a year ago, I attended a charity luncheon for women in the work place, and I will never forget the keynote speech given by the Editor-in-Chief for Glamour magazine, a mother of two. Though I was just beginning my career and I felt that she was speaking directly to me when she said, “Everyone will always tell you to find a balance between work and home. That is absolute bullshit. There is no such thing as balance for moms with careers. One day, your work will demand more of your time and, the next day, your children and home responsibilities will demand more of your time. Be prepared to get very little sleep.” And that is the story of my life!
AZ: How can we follow you?
ES: Find me on Instagram @ElizabethSuttonCollection!
Additional reporting // Katita Miller
Photos // courtesy of Michael Ostuni