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Artist Showcase: Elizabeth Pontvik

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In the summer of 2013, artist Elizabeth Pontvik traveled to Tunisia in northern Africa to work on a public art project. There, amid the turmoil of religious unrest and political instability, Elizabeth caught a glimpse of a force she was familiar with in theory, but until this trip hadn’t fully understood. 

As she and her companions painted a mural on a city wall that once belonged to the now ousted ruling party, she couldn’t help but notice the effect it had on the local citizens. In this nation still reeling from years of oppression, the sight of artistic expression seemed to unite and excite those who passed by the mural. “The excitement of the passersby was a huge affirmation that art is something that gives people hope,” says Elizabeth. “It helps them to see potential for their present and for their future.”

The sight of this hope in the Tunisian people only cemented Elizabeth’s belief that art is more than just color and shape applied to paper or canvas. It’s a thread that connects our everyday lives. About the artistic process, she says, “You start to see connections between things. It helps you start to see a complete picture of how your life is interconnected with other people and other ideas, and it really does bring a sense of meaning… It makes you see that there is a thread that goes through your life.”

Art has certainly wound its way through Elizabeth’s life. She first showed an interest in art as a child, but it wasn’t until her first college drawing class that she realized how important it had become. She was so inspired and excited by what she found in that class that she decided to make a career of art. 

Elizabeth studied for her undergraduate fine arts degree in Tennessee and Maryland. Then, unsure of her next step, and itching to learn a new language, she moved to Italy to soak in the culture and landscape that had inspired so many artists before her. Her plan was to stay for a year, but she quickly fell in love with the country and the people—one person in particular. During her first year in Italy, Elizabeth met and married her husband Dag. When asked to stay for a second year and teach drawing at a school outside of Florence, she jumped at the opportunity.

The sum of Elizabeth’s adventures abroad have proven to equal a more gratifying creative experience. Certain that  all of her travels and life experiences have worked together to make her a better artist, she strives to duplicate this success by mixing up her routine as much as possible. “I lose interest if I only go to the studio,” she says. “I have to be constantly going outside to see what’s growing in my garden—what’s going on outdoors. I’ve got to have that contact with growing things—with living things—in order for my work to feel like it’s living. That constant contact is really important for me.”

Elizabeth currently teaches fine art at the university level. Teaching has proven to be another point of contact that has pushed her forward as an artist. The act of preparing lessons for aspiring students has allowed her to return to the fundamentals regularly. Elizabeth says, “I do painting color studies and drawing value studies; I do the things that my students are doing, and I find that that informs my works—which I love.”

In tune with her quest for new opportunities to grow as an artist, Elizabeth has recently recorded her first video art class. The class focuses on beginner watercolor painting techniques for those who are interested in watercolor but have never found that perfect place to start. Taking a cue from her university classes, she starts the video with the fundamentals, building confidence before jumping into a still-life painting.

Elizabeth hopes that these classes will introduce other aspiring artists to the freedom of watercolor painting. She loves the fluidity of the paint and the way that it tends to take on a shape of its own. “You can control watercolor if you wish to,” she says, “but you can also leave a space for letting the medium flow and pool and mix a little on its own, as well. And for me, that’s really exciting to watch. I like letting go of a little of the control and watching those things happen before your eyes.”

That concept—the letting go and watching different elements mix to create something new and exciting—seems to be a good analogy for the artistic journey. The union of time, experience, and chance creates an artist who is truly unique. Elizabeth firmly believes that is a big part of the beauty of art. “It’s important to maintain an openness to how we change as we go through life. Be open to the idea of change!” 

Has the fear of change kept you from growing as an artist? Leave us a comment and let us know how you keep your journey fresh and exciting.

If you would like to learn more about Elizabeth’s new watercolor painting class, visit www.happyartisan.com.

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