Questions & Answers
with Liz Hoag
How have you developed your career?
From the time I was a little girl drawing big-eyed cartoon puppies in the suburbs to today, I’ve always loved drawing and painting. Even so, I’ve always gotten mixed messages about art as a way of life. I heard over and over again how much people envied my talent but at the same time I heard that art took just random talent, not smarts, and that success in life would not be found in art. So after I graduated from high school in 1979, I went to an Ivy League college to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in art, mixing my interest in art with proving my worth to the world. While I was there, I successfully applied to get a dual degree in art and art history. However, after I earned the BFA, I decided not to stay on another year to complete my BA in art history because I knew that I was only pursuing this path to prove to the world that I wasn’t just “talented” but that I was smart too. After that, I earned an MFA in painting, thinking that I could teach at a college level if I had that degree. Painting still was not even a thought as a full-time career. I did earn the degree at twenty-six, but never taught. I worked in an art supply store in Boston and in 1988 at twenty-seven, started my own screenprinting business with my boyfriend. I moved to Maine and started a successful business printing tourist t-shirts and shipping them all over the country. My art at that point consisted of lobsters, palm trees, sail boats, sharks, and other iconic tourist images. After years of selling t-shirts, I split with the boyfriend and sold out my share of the business. This was 1997 and I was thirty-six. I then retreated to a studio in Portland and tried to paint. I still wasn’t ready. I applied to law school and got in. I started in 1999 at thirty-eight years old. Back to trying to prove how smart I was! I graduated from law school, worked in a legal aid firm for a few years and finally, FINALLY was ready to do art. In 2010 I was forty-nine and had still never tested myself. I told everyone I was an artist, but was I? I was terrified! But I quit practicing law and started painting. I started with simple work, selling at craft fairs in Maine and after a couple years, got my first gallery representation. That significantly changed my work. I was able to work larger and do more complex work, knowing that someone with connections and ability to sell better than I was behind me. I’ve been going almost ten years now as a fulltime artist and love it! I don’t know where I’d be if I had started painting fulltime when I was young, but that’s okay. I’m here, it’s working and it took me until I was almost fifty years old to understand that I had to just start!
Which artist/artists are you most influenced by?
I love so much art, I can’t say who influenced me the most. I often think of Richard Diebenkorn and Franz Kline when I hear this question. I’ve loved both since my college days. These are two painters who seemingly have very little in common with me or each other but I know that what drew me to them was their ability to use abstraction in a beautifully balanced way, even in their representational work. Their understanding of the two dimensional plane and their composition is amazing. And although people think of Kline as a painter working with a lot of black, both painters had absolute control over the color in their work. I still love the color in both painters’ work and the peacefulness and stability of their composition.
Today I find quite a few fellow local artists inspirational. I love that there’s so much to look at
online and that artists post so much on social media. I find so much beautiful work every day!
How has your practice changed over time?
I began painting landscape about eight years ago. Up until that point I had done very realistic work mostly with interiors and figures. When I found that I could paint landscape without having to deal with open space all the time, which I didn’t enjoy in my work so much, I started down the path I’m on now. I love the depth that looking through trees gives. Working with paths in woods gives you both cool and warm light and gives you a lot of negative space and compositional abstract ideas to work with. Over time I’ve cropped and simplified and cropped and simplified to find something that works for me both in mood and abstract composition. Although I continue to do representational work and love giving people images that they can relate too, as a painter I enjoy more and more of the abstract thinking about color and light and design.
What is your favorite accomplishment?
I’m drawing a blank here. I guess I’d say that having the guts to start this career for real when I was almost fifty, had two young kids and a husband who wasn’t all that supportive at the time, was a major accomplishment!
What is your most important artist tool?
Hmmm. Don’t have one.
Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My laptop. I take photos and crop and crop them until I get something that works for me and then I look at that photo, on my laptop, and interpret even further while I paint from the photo. I hesitate to admit this because there are those who wouldn’t like the “impurity” of my method, but I’ve got to admit that I’m not a plein air painter and I need to first crop a photo to make it work for me. Having a computer at hand makes it easy to get where I want to go. I still remember a professor of mine in college telling me that I shouldn’t be ashamed to use whatever I needed to produce the result I wanted. He was so right!
My phone and Bluetooth speaker. I listen to podcasts or music and rarely work in silence.