We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura McElfresh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, what role has risk played in your life or career?
When risk presents itself – I try to see it as an opportunity. As an artist – even showing your art to another person is “risky” in a sense.. our art is essentially baring our souls. It’s putting ourselves out into the world in a very visual sense. Saying “This is what is important to me, this is what I want you to hear and know about me.” With something so personal to communicate – there is great risk! One of my favorite quotes is from Vincent Van Gogh. “If you hear a voice within you say, “You cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ” When I think of that quote and I’m reminded that if Vincent Van Gogh had those very doubts, those very thoughts — of self doubt and inner dialouge. And just think — had he listened and let those thoughts rule him. We would not have his masterpeices today. We know he was troubled and plagued by mental illness and yet he painted, prolificly. And we are so blessed to have his art in our world today. Somehow he was able to quiet his inner critic and paint . I try to quiet the inner critic and acknowledge the risk and fear and then do it anyway! It’s not always a successful move but many times it’s paid off for me and the very idea that I look for things that scare me and say — “Ah well, then that is what I need to do! ” I think keeps me moving forward – both in making my art and professionally. Most often we are limited by our own thoughts – and lack of action.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My medium is what I call “watercolor batik” The technique is modeled after a centuries old technique of dying fabric and using hot wax as a resist. Instead of working on fabric I use rice paper as a substrate, And I use watercolor pigment in place of fabric dyes. The process is very layer heavy with drying time in between layers and once the basic process is complete you remove all of the wax and I developed a process that allows me to mount the fine delicate paper to a gallery mounted canvas so that I can easily show the work without the need for putting it behind glass and framing it. I’ve painted professionally using this technique for over 6 years and I would say that almost all of art created is batik in some way. I use the scraps of paintings and collage – making mixed media paintings with them even. As you can imagine – “watercolor batik” is not a quick process and so over the years I’ve developed a wide array of techniques and processes to make it possible for me to create work efficiently. While I do struggle to keep up with demand at times – I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to maintain my creative integrity and still be profitable. Many artists when they get to a place where they are creating a labor intense product have to either innovate and create more efficiently or create multiples or editions… I think I’ve found that balance for now and look forward to the challenge of more growth. I’ve been looking for ways to work smarter – not harder. I’m working with a puzzle company now who uses my designs on beautiful wood handcrafted puzzles. And I’m also teaching online classes and looking to expand there this year. Innovation has saved me from burnout and allowed me some creative freedom.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In Denver I love the art museum and galleries – i could wander in Sarkisian’s for hours. I love antiques and especially art. But if I really want to get away – my go to is Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I really love the gallery I work with there – Aspen and Evergreen and the town has all kinds of great things to do. My kids really love the tram in Estes. It’s a blast to go and feed the chipmunks on the mountain. Even my husband and I love to go alone.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Three fellow artists who have been very helpful and supportive are: Michael Dowling, Bill Rohs, Aimee Deneweth. I also love the Park Hill Art Club and Eric Crow from the Parkview Congregational Church. They run an annual art show that is a great way for new artists to break into the art scene and get there feet wet at selling their art!! (Of course the pandemic has cancelled this years show)
Facebook: Art by Laura McElfresh
Other: My Art can be found at the Aspen and Evergreen gallery in Estes Park, CO https://www.aspenandevergreen.com/