by Yolanda Wysocki
Liz Walker was the featured artist in the Summer 2013 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions. In 2003, the first time Liz was accepted into a Northwest Watercolor Society show, her husband had to travel to China, so he sent a small delegation of Intel employees to support her at the opening reception. Since then, she has exhibited her work in many group and juried shows, has had several solo shows, won numerous awards for her paintings, and is a signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society.
Speaking with Liz is inspiring. Her enthusiasm, passion and love for art sing through the phone lines. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:
Yolanda Wysocki: What gave you the confidence to pursue art in the first place?
Liz Walker: My parents raised me to be what I want to be, saying, “Pick something you’re interested in and do it.” I always liked drawing, painting, doodling. As a kid, I attended summer art/drama programs at the university where my dad taught. It was heaven! When I started college I thought I’d major in psychology; I took one psychology course and said, “NO! That’s not it.” Then I had an art teacher who figuratively “set my hair on fire” with his passion for art and that set me on my path.
YW: You also teach.
LW: When I teach I learn so much because I have to break down every step, and I love demonstrating because all the “oooohs” and “aahhhs” make me feel like a magician. We’re all impressed by things we can’t do, but we all have to go from ignorance to experience. It took me five years to learn watercolor. I’m a slow learner.
YW: So what made you stick with it?
LW: I get one great painting for every ten “so-so” paintings. You get excited, you frame it, you give it away or sell it and people are impressed. I think even a lousy day painting is better than a good day working in an office, which I used to do.
YW: What do you love best about creating art?
LW: The quieting down of myself and tapping into the imaginative. I’m such a practical and efficient person; but with art, I’m more spontaneous and free. I’m completely fearless in my painting but get a bit scared at the thought of driving in heavy traffic.
Also, everything I paint can be touched again, manipulated, and repaired. And I never throw anything away. Sometimes five years later I will go back and think, “Oh, I know what to fix now.”
YW: How do you stay inspired?
LW: I want to be with people who are as excited about the same things I am, and strive for excellence among artists I respect. I’m in a critique group; and sometimes another artist’s small suggestion helps me improve a painting. I often submit my work to juried shows; whether I make the cut or not, I look very carefully at the accepted paintings. I talk with the jurors and ask about the show, and sometimes they give me suggestions for improvement. And I don’t call a painting done until I love it.
YW: On your website you say “the most interesting thing to paint is what you don’t know about yourself – the true meaning of a painting is beyond any story you can expect or imagine.” I’m curious; could you say a little bit more about what that means to you?
LW: What I’m trying to do when I’m painting is leave things open enough so that the viewer can meet me halfway. I like it when people say, “That reminds me of something in my life”. Years ago, I had a painting called “Lady in Waiting” in a show at YMCA downtown. A woman called me and bought it a year after the show. She told me that the image spoke to her because she was walking with a cane and going to pool therapy every day at the Y. She said, “I feel like I’m a lady in waiting, like I’m waiting to get better.”
As to how I start a painting, I like sitting down and just moving some paint around. Years ago I used to carefully draw the drawings, and add paint – like color by numbers – but after a while that got boring. I studied with other teachers who suggested I put some shapes and colors down and then stand back and decide if I’ve got an abstract, or if there’s a figure or other subject matter in there.
LW: Randomness. Each piece is unique. I can play and experiment. I’m like a mother with her newborn baby – excited at each turn. I love it.
YW: It sounds like you organize your life around making art. What suggestions would you make for those trying to nurture their art?
LW: Even if you just have an hour or two, devote time to art. As long as you have a room or small space that is your own, so you can keep your art set up, make a mess; even if for only brief intervals. It’s so important. Also art cannot be created in a vacuum. Join a group of like-minded people; observe other more experienced and established artists and ask questions. All art is using other people’s ideas and making them your own.
YW: What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?
LW: If I couldn’t do art, what else would I be doing? That question is too scary to consider! I think I will always be involved in art in some way, teaching, volunteering, and talking about it. I’m very lucky to be living my passion.
Liz has a B.A. in Art from Trinity University in San Antonio and has been active in the local art scene since moving to Portland from Boston in 1999. She began painting in watercolor in 1991 and now works primarily in acrylic and marbling. Liz’s favorite subject matter is fanciful people in everyday settings. Color is an essential part of her work, but she also enjoys telling a “story” within each painting.
A member of the Watercolor Society of Oregon, Oregon Society of Artists and Northwest Watercolor Society, Liz has displayed her award-winning paintings throughout the Northwest. She recently self-published an extensive compilation of her work titled Lap of Luxury.
Click here to find out more about Liz’s upcoming exhibits and see images of her latest paintings.
Yolanda Wysocki works as a life/transformation coach. Her background has been in counseling and social services for over 25 years. She went back to school for a second bachelor’s degree when she was 51-years-old. Seven years and three schools later, she completed her art degree, a lifelong dream. She is now exploring various mediums to find her creative niche.