Five Questions with Elisa Vita

A note from Alyssa

Elisa and I met three years ago in an online class. We discovered right away that we were incredibly similar and instantly connected at the (virtual) hip. She became an integral part of my process, offering advice, and critiques. She hears all my ideas before anyone else does. I feel like we have grown so much as artists & people in the last few years. Alone and together, artistically and in life. I truly wish for every artist to find their Elisa. Having this kind of relationship in your life is invaluable as a creative.

We do similar work in some wild and intangible way, but it is very different visually. We refer to ourselves as "art wives," and both maintain our "art worlds" border each other. As such, we generally have a very long phone conversation every other week or more. Recently we started a private discord server just for us, where we share our ideas, inspiration, & WIPS in different channels.

I hope so much that we will someday be able to meet in person, but until then, we have Facetime!

Q: When you first start to feel the itch to create, what is the first resource you turn to?”

If I’m just beginning to feel the spark of an idea, I’ll turn to my iPad and start sketching, then collaging. I tend to work on a collage for a month or so before I’ve solidified my idea enough to translate it into an actual painting. Engaging in this process means that I run into less compositional hiccups later on.



Q: What is your most failsafe method for getting unstuck when you have art block?

To my deep frustration, the only thing that I feel is guaranteed to get me unstuck is time. If the “block” is happening once I’ve already started a painting, then I need to step away. Otherwise I’ll make clumsy decisions with my brush, and the whole image will turn into mud. Oftentimes that feels more like a hand-eye coordination issue than it is a conceptual block. It’s solved by an hour or at most a day away from the easel. A conceptual block is trickier. I’m in one right now, having just completed my MFA. I have no idea what I want to paint next. Walking in the woods, moving my body, reading, and writing, are all activities that I know replenish me. They just don’t tend to work instantaneously.



Q: Who do you look to for inspiration when it comes to fellow artists?”

I find you (Alyssa) hugely inspiring. Your attention to detail is astounding. I’m particularly inspired by the way that you “sculpt” the greenery and florals in your still life. Every petal and leaf is so tenderly place and posed. The result is a feeling that all your subjects have their own personalities, which is something I hope to achieve in my own work as well.

AT: (it should be noted that I find Elisa just as inspiring and I am incredibly flattered by this answer)

Q: When did you know that painting was the medium for you?”

I’ve bounced between drawing and painting since my early teens. Drawing is my first love, and I’ve found it to be an invaluable medium during periods of my life where my health declines. Setting out and cleaning up oil paints can feel like a very weighty endeavor, whereas drawing in graphite feels instantaneous. There’s more of an immediacy to it, and a simplicity. Oil paint has a lusciousness and sensuality to it that I find absolutely spellbinding though. I love putting a mark down on a freshly sanded and prepped panel. It feels like you’re gliding along porcelain. I suppose oil painting suits the part of my personality that craves slowness, and a very tactile intimacy. In one of her poems, Ursula K. Le Guin describes a “forest where you’ve lost your way, though it knows where you are going.” Oil painting is a woodland that always lures me back into its depths. It teaches me over and over how to be okay with getting lost in the mess of things, until the last mark gets put down, and suddenly I can see the forest for the trees again.



Q: Where do you eventually want your trajectory to take you? a long term goal or something you would really like to see come to fruition with the overall scope of your work?

My long term goal is to create a life for myself where I’m free to make whatever I feel called to. My oil paintings take a few hundred hours each, so it would be extremely difficult to maintain a consistent practice with a full-time job. In that sense, I need to be able to monetize my work in order to sustain it. I would love to teach in some capacity as well. I had the pleasure of being a university instructor this past year. I loved seeing my students improve their skills, and begin to understand how to really look at things. The skill of close looking is something you can carry with you, whether you continue to make art or not. For that reason, it felt really special to impart.

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