WV Artist on Display: Mixing Colors on the Fly w/ Elyse Gerard

Left: Elyse Gerard; Right: “Sam Sneed – 1942” – The Sporting Club commissioned me to paint portraits of members who won major tournaments, and of course Mr. Snead was included in the first group of four.  The other three are Tom Watson (who purchased his portrait when he ended his tenure there), Sir Nick Faldo, and Bubba Watson.  The image is derived from a series of black and whites from 1942 at Sam Snead’s first PGA Championship at Seaview in NJ.

Meet Elyse Gerard, our WV Artist on Display and featured artist on the cover. Elyse began painting at theRidgewood School of Artwhen she was 10 years old, encouraged by her mother who is a fine painter in her own right, learning the basics of chiaroscuro painting in oils. She attended this school for 4 years on awards and scholarships. She continued learning more conceptual practices at Bard College, graduating in 1983. Deferring to the need for food and shelter, Elyse began a career on Wall Street and spent 18 years as a business analyst, painting only portrait commissions until she moved to West Virginia in 2001. She finds Greenbrier County, WV spectacularly beautiful and it inspired her to begin my first landscape paintings in 2003. She has won awards locally and maintains a permanent rotating show at the Greenbrier Sporting Club in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Learn more about Elyse with our Q&A:

HashtagWV: How do you describe your palette?

Elyse: I start with a pretty traditional pallet of primary colors, in prismatic order.  If I describe my pallet while I am painting it looks like an explosion of a paint factory.  I have never been an organized painter and mix my colors on the fly.  I never fail to get comments on what a mess my pallet is vs how clean my colors are.  I have no idea how that happens.

Left: “Tahallam” means “She Dreams” in Arabic.  Elyse dreamt of a white horse watching her intently with complete understanding; Right: “Portrait of Sarah Gilbert”-  This portrait was commissioned as a wedding present.  Elyse wanted to do the painting with simple harmonies so she limited her pallet.  Just for fun, Sarah is dressed as Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

HashtagWV: What’s your greatest accomplishment?

Elyse: My greatest accomplishments are not necessarily related to painting… but with painting I never make light of what a struggle it is to get work out into the world and just do what I do without too much self-judgment.  I didn’t paint for 20 years because I was embarrassed about how literal I am and became frustrated when I would hear people say “that looks just like a photo!”.  I do think that for many it’s the highest praise but I had years of criticism related to my “skill vs. artistry” so I stopped painting!  Starting again was an exercise in just doing what I do and learning what I can from other artists who can challenge me to expand my tool set.

HashtagWV: What obstacles do you need to overcome to find your creative space/muse?

Elyse: As with most artists I just have to get out of my own way!  Painting doesn’t ever feel easy to me, and the muse doesn’t just come down and touch me on the shoulder and magic happens.  To feel fluent I have to show up for it every day, like going to a job, and struggle through getting my brain, mind, vision and hand to coax that thing that conspires to tell a great story or relay a vision. My muse (and I say this with laughter and truth) is failure to be able to access that with consistency!   When I am not consistent, my studio feels like the tower of babble.   

HashtagWV: How do you find your inspiration?

Elyse: Ultimately, it’s the drama of light, the turning of skin and bone over muscle, the roll of a hill to the horizon…what artists have been trying to translate for time and millennium.  I love doing portrait commissions, especially the athletes, or boudoir paintings…there is nothing like painting an incredible physique…or helping someone see their own beauty.

Left: “Ready To Show”- Elyse’s very favorite thing about the WV county fair is to watch the children prepare their livestock for show.  She spent about an hour with this very young girl and she exuded sweetness and confidence while preening an animal several times her size! ; Right: “Greenbrier River II” – We never run out of beautiful landscapes to paint in the Greenbrier Valley.  A morning walk with some friends inspired this painting.

HashtagWV: What advice do you have for other artists?

Elyse: Paint to learn. There is nothing worse than the product of trying to paint dollars (create saleable work).  If it doesn’t interest you and make you grow, its likely not going to be interesting to anyone else.  Also, take every opportunity to find someone who can teach you something new and open yourself up to everything they offer, than you can take what you want when you are in your own studio. For me the deadliest thing for inspiration is knowing exactly what something is going to look like before I even start.

Learn more about Elyse at oilsbyelyse.com. If you have any questions or insights for the artist, or if you’re interested in commissioned work, call her at 304-646-1367 or email ergcreativ@aol.com. 

– HashtagWV #91. July 2017.

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