Artist based in Brooklyn, NY
Elise Thompson, Artist in the studio
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I didn’t jump right into visual art. Before I committed, I was a competitive figure skater and dancer. I also did improv and musical theatre on top of all of the athletics. I did, however, obsessively draw as a kid for hours a day begging friends to “draw with me for fun”, but it wasn’t really an activity others wanted to do for long. It wasn't until late in high school and then undergrad that I started to pursue painting seriously.
Grate, 2021, acrylic and glass beads on dura-lar and paper, 30”x22.5”
"The subject of my practice is interiority versus exterior surface. I think about our psychological selves and what we choose to keep private or publicly share, and in turn how they might be interpreted as an image or object."
Crawl, 2021, acrylic and glass beads on paper and clear vinyl, 35” x 35”
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Currently, I'm working on wall-bound paintings that utilize a deeper frame and translucent surface. I'm focusing on elements of the image that can occur behind clear vinyl; the glasslike surface I use as a substrate. These sometimes sculptural components installed into the frame create an optical effect (dimension, light, shadow, etc) that I can't exactly replicate on a flat, painted surface alone. These details are pushed by collaging and painting the actual clear vinyl on top in strategic ways to conceal and obscure some parts but reveal other moments that remain below. These works are sort of abstract dioramas. In addition to the formal process, lately, I've been looking at a lot of sci-fi book covers from the 1970s-80s; not just fine art. There's something comical and eerie about the artwork from that period; typically quirky landscapes but also otherworldly and kind of ominous.
Snap, 2021, acrylic and glass beads on paper, illustration board, and clear vinyl, 24" x 24"
Bind, 2021, acrylic and glass beads on paper and clear vinyl, 36” x 23” each (diptych)
Pool, 2021, acrylic and glass beads on paper and clear vinyl, 31 ¼” x 24”
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in an artist's practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I look at landscapes from around the world and create image collections based on what I might refer to later, sci-fi book illustrations from the 1950s-70s, sci-fi film, contemporary sci-fi novels, Italian Renaissance painting, costume drapery, mid-century modern furniture design, windows in old buildings/architecture, and pastries. It's a mish-mash of seemingly random things!
Small sketches/paintings on paper in progress, 2021, photo credit: Elise Thompson
On The Other, 2020, acrylic and glass beads on watercolor paper and clear vinyl, 24” x 18”
"On The Other" in-process photo, 2020, photo credit: Elise Thompson
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch? Can you tell us about your style? How did you arrive at it?
I began as a figurative painter, but eventually found out I enjoyed playing with the materiality of paint more than observational painting. The subject of my practice is interiority versus exterior surface. I think about our psychological selves and what we choose to keep private or publicly share, and in turn how they might be interpreted as an image or object. For me, abstraction can dig into these ideas more effectively than figuration.
Manhattan, 2017, photo credit: Elise Thompson
Window in an apartment building, Brooklyn, NY, 2017, photo credit: Elise Thompson
Many artists live by their creative routines, do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
I work in the studio in the evenings after my day job or on weekends. I listen to podcasts, and I eventually switch over to music to keep the energy up. Typically, I drink a lot of seltzer. It's not that interesting of a ritual, to be honest! I fit in my studio time where I can because that's what it takes.
Finished sketches/paintings on paper, 2021, photo credit: Elise Thompson
Who are your biggest influences?
Supports/Surfaces: Pierre Buraglio and Daniel Dezeuze’s frames
Sarah Braman: furniture sculptures with colored plexiglass
Merlin James: frames with screens
Martha Tuttle: translucent chiffon/screen-like assemblages on stretchers
Craig Kauffman: abstract, vacuum formed, translucent reliefs
Leslie Wayne: sculpture oil paintings, also window like compositions
Harvey Quaytman recently: shaped, arched substrates
Lynda Benglis: paint as a sculptural material
Eva Hesse: bodily, sensual, post-minimal abstraction
Carrie Moyer: abstract pours and masking
Deborah Remington: masking and gradients
Mitzi Pederson, typically a sculptor, made paintings on tulle in 2014 that were really ghostly and minimal
Barbara Kasten: photography
Sam Moyer: textures and shapes
Agnes Martin: subtle shifts and lines
Agnes Pelton: transcendental landscapes
Bay Area painters of the 60s 70s like Richard Diebenkorn
Christina Camacho: cuts and strips the painting surface to drape and shape images loosely, yet sculpturally. Sort of like Robert Morris’s felt works which really resonated with me in grad school when it came to my series of draped sheets of paint.
Lucio Fontana: who apparently didn’t want to be a painter or a sculptor but a spacial artist
Greg Ito: Installation and paintings
Various mid-century to contemporary sci-fi illustrators: Shigeo Okamoto, Pater Sato, Cosimo Galluzzi, George Greaves, Karel Thole
Figurative: Euan Uglow, George Tooker, Nicole Eisenman, Anja Solonen
Italian Renaissance: Masolino da Panicale, Piero della Francesca, Andrea Previtali, Titian, Stefano di Giovanni, Fra Angelico
Japanese artist and illustrator Shuji Tanase, from the "Black Space" series, 1982
What books or films are an important source of inspiration?
Film and TV: Stanley Kubrick films, Solaris, Metropolis, Bladerunner, Hook, Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, Adventure Time, Miyazaki films, Satoshi Kon films.
Books lately: I'm reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami for the first time, and I'm revisiting HP Lovecraft. I also tend to like looking at old anatomy and surgery illustrated books too.
iPhone photo from plane, 2018, photo credit: Elise Thompson
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Learn by doing.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
You don't know it's a bad idea until you try it.
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