Meet Elizabeth Courtney

Meet Elizabeth Courtney

Elizabeth Courtney, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of May 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Elizabeth some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Elizabeth Courtney
Artist Elizabeth Courtney paining en plein air

Q: Tell us about your background.
Hi I’m Liz. I’m super excited to have the opportunity to paint here for the next four weeks. Let me tell you a little about myself and my work…

I have been painting in Eastern Connecticut, all my life. I decided to try to take my art to a more professional level my junior year of high school when I attended the RISD pre college program. I quickly realized I was out of my league there. So for my undergrad I did not want to go to an art school. I ended up at an environmental liberal arts college called Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. I started there thinking I was going to go for environmental studies but something kept drawing me back to the studio. I still don’t know what it was.

I graduated from there in three years with my BFA with a concentration in painting in 2016. After a little while I realize that not going to art school for my undergrad may have been a mistake career wise, not personally, so I decided to do a post bac in Florence, Italy. That was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Studying painting in Italy, not only got me to truly open up as an artist for the first time in my life but I also met so many other artists that introduced me so many new concepts and ideas I would have never been exposed to. Some of those artists even helped me get into other residencies and galleries. I am forever grateful for
that.

Elizabeth Courtney, "This Green Place II”, 2018, oil and acrylic on panel
Elizabeth Courtney, “This Green Place II”, 2018, oil and acrylic on panel

Q: How would you describe your work?
I am a plein air oil painter. I love painting outside. I have found that painting outside on site just helps me live in the moment. I truly appreciate where I am and what I came here to do. I know that I am not the best painter ever, but I love it. I don’t care that I am not the best painter, I just want to create an image that evokes an emotional response even if it is just for me.

Elizabeth Courtney, “Truth”, 2018, oil on canvas, 18”x24”
Elizabeth Courtney, “Truth”, 2018, oil on canvas

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I feel like my process and style of painting are always changing but only the one thing that stays the same is that I take my paintings outside. Recently, I have been starting in the studio and experimenting with acrylic underpaintings so that I don’t start on the intimidating white surface.  Sometimes I completely cover that surface in a made up color of oil paint which I draw into, exposing layers of paint that I constantly change with more paint. Most people are afraid that it would get muddy and sometimes it does but I love finding the perfect top color and making it bright.

One of the biggest problems I have as an artist is knowing when to call my paintings done. I want to get better at that and I think I am.

Work by Elizabeth Courtney
Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I want to paint outside as much as possible during this residency. Possibly everyday if I can, even if it’s raining. Last summer I did some really cool paintings in the rain, in my car and under shelters at State parks.

I really want to drive around the area as much as possible, too. I want to get to Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls, and other state parks around the area to paint. I really want to do an en plein air painting of Niagara Falls—I just think that would be really cool!

I wouldn’t mind selling some of the paintings I do as this residency. I’ve recently started running out of wall space.

Work by Elizabeth Courtney
Work by Elizabeth Courtney

Q: What’s next for you?
As far as after this residency, I took a job with the Chautauqua Institute residence life department for the summer where, hopefully, I can keep painting there. I don’t have a ton of plans after that but I would love to someday get my masters in fine arts, maybe in Europe, but who knows. That might be my favorite part of being an artist. I don’t know what’s next.

Q: Where else can we find you? 
I am very active on Instagram @elizabeththeartist. I try to keep it as up to date as possible.

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We will be closed to the public Thursday, February 22–Friday, March 1 as we install our next exhibition, Path of Totality. Please join us for the opening reception on Saturday, March 2 from 3 to 6pm!

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