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Artist Spotlight: Lizzy Taber

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Lizzy's work feels like a combination of the fantastic and the magical. Every piece is like a vivid dream that dances between simple lines and abstract freedom.

Let's talk to her a little bit.

How did you get started painting?

One of my close friends was taking an art class in college and convinced me to do an art elective. I took a few basic art classes like art history and was hooked. I was an English major at the time, but switched to printmaking. I did etchings, screen prints, and lithography and really loved the technical process. It was a lot more rigid and structured there were lots of steps to each process; I really enjoyed that.

I went to get my masters in printmaking, because I wanted to learn more and maybe even teach someday. In grad school I was experimenting a lot. I tapped into the intuitive side of my art. My current paintings are not technical. What I really love about painting is you can do it anywhere - you don't need specific things to make a print, ceramics, or sculpture.

I've done six or seven residencies and countless shows. I've been painting ever since.

What does a day in your studio usually look like?

If it's a day where I don't have a specific project, I'll put on a podcast, make tea or coffee, and I'll organize and get into a flow with moving things around and get inspired.

Whether I have a specific idea in mind or not, once I have the space all clear and clean, I get working and make a giant mess.

My studio is right across from the ocean, and there's an amazing taco restaurant right next door. Often I'll wear a bathing suit and sundress, get tacos, go to the beach, walk for a while, and head home when the sun goes down.

When I have those days, it's amazing.

Some days I get to the studio and I hate everything I paint. I don't paint masterpieces on consecutive days. Some days I get frustrated and just go to the beach. Right now 3 out of 5 times I go to the studio I don't like what I create. Even if there are just days when I go there and clean, I still feel like it's productive. I have bursts of productivity, and I have a lot of inventory right now, so I'm trying to focus on the marketing and business side of things.

Do you find the social media/marketing side stressful?

It's all new to me. I still need to put in the work in to learn reels and TikToks. The most frustrating part is the algorithm. From what I've heard, it changes so much that I just try to write good content and take good photos. I don't stick to a particular schedule. If I want to share something, I share it.

I found learning how to make my website on Squarespace was difficult. I feel like I have a good flow down with adding to my portfolio and uploading inventory to the shop, mailing list, automated emails... I chip away at it and learn new things all the time. Over the past five years I went from knowing nothing to where I am now, but I still have a long way to go.

Where do you get the inspiration for the colors you use?

I think a lot of my color schemes are inspired by Florida. I didn't realize that until I moved to Arizona and everyone kept saying my work had 80's Miami vibes.

In grad school I thought about the ocean in terms of climate change and started working with scientists and learning more about marine ecology and through that I was looking at a lot of charts, data, maps, and they use a lot of gradients/colors and were similar to the colors I use and they actually mean something. As artists we choose colors and attach meaning to them and that's what scientists do. Their colors wind up on a key, scale, or map, inspired by data on charts, rainbow, gradients, red to violet...

So much of my work is inspired by the ocean. I use a lot of blues, but hot pink in my favorite color - it's fun. I love bright colors.

You made the Deep Unknown series based on seafloor mapping - do you think you might revisit that inspiration?

The Deep Unknown series impacted me and how I think about my art and the ocean. I keep going back to those maps. I went on a research vessel for an artist at sea residency, and I got to learn how they map the seafloor. I saw how they use this technology to measure the depth of the ocean. It was a completely unique experience, and knowing how much of the earth is colored by ocean and how little we know about it inspired me.

I personally felt like it was interesting on a scientific level. It's poetic, exploring life and the unknown and how scary it can be. That theme always seems to come back into my work.

I did that residency in 2018 - it's 2021 and a lot more of the ocean has been mapped. I would like to see what's been discovered. As time goes on more things will be discovered, and it's really exciting. When I look back at that series, I'll always remember less than 5% of the seafloor had been mapped.

Have you always done abstract work?

When I first went to art school, I was learning the basics of art lifes, figure drawing, etc. I wanted to be the next Chuck Close with hyperrealistic painting, and I got really into it. I got really good learning light, shadow, and proportion, but at the end of the day I feel like I'm a really abstract person.

It felt more like me when I was creating something that had never been created before. When I was painting realistically, I would take pictures of my roommate, print them out, then stare at them. I love that kind of art and have a lot of respect for them - it's a good skill to have, but it doesn't line up with my aesthetic, what brings me joy, or my concepts.

What are your concepts?

My concepts waver back and forth between intuitive and emotional connection to the sea. I like to visualize data, but overall my umbrella concept is the ocean and all things around it. Climate change, coral reefs, my connection with the ocean, they all derive from that idea, but I don't want to limit myself to that. I might have an entire decade in the future where I have a completely different concept, but right now I'm still exploring.

What are you working on right now?

I'm actually taking a break from painting. During the height of the pandemic, I was painting a lot and wasn't thinking too conceptually, just painting and feeling. Painting is my coping mechanism. I made a lot of work then switched into the marketing/admin side of it where I focused on my website, uploaded and sold a lot of paintings, did a lot of projects, corporate commissions, a big solo show in January... But now I'm allowing myself to take a break, although I'm still constantly working on other things.

My most recent project is called 1000 Ocean Memories (read more about it here). I'd painted enough in the last year and wanted to connect to the community. I came up with this idea. I asked the community to submit one photo you've taken of the ocean.

We all have this connection to the ocean, even if you went there once on vacation or if you live there, almost every person I know has taken a photo of the ocean. I wanted to archive these memories and make a wall of these photos. To have a simple idea and watch them unfold was beautiful. I received photos and would read the memories attached to them - people telling me they lost their mom and this was a photo of the beach that day, so many touching memories.

Each week I printed more and hung them in the gallery. The wall kept growing. It's a really cool way to connect to the community - I got to see these memories all together on one wall.

Do you have anything coming up that you're excited about?

I'm most excited about a little break. I had a lot of deadlines in 2020. I felt really overwhelmed like the world was slowing down for everyone except for me.

I still have things going on, I'm just excited to relax for a minute. As artists it's important for us to stop and gather inspiration. I'm overdue to slow down and focus on self care. Sometimes I have to remind myself I'm going to be an artist forever - I don't have to do all the things all of the time.

Why the ocean?

We live on an oceanic planet. Sometimes I think it's crazy humans even exist on Earth. It blows my mind when I look at pictures of the Earth and I see that 70% is covered in water.

I grew up near the ocean, and I have all these memories attached to it. I was a struggling teen with anxiety and depression, and going into the ocean was such an escape. I feel that same escape when I paint. The ocean has always been a constant for me. it gives the planet life and me life.

I feel a different type of clarity when I'm in the water. I feel beautiful and excited in the ocean and I want to convey all that through my art.

When my art doesn't make sense - I jump into the ocean. The ocean is life - all of the unknowns, the coral reefs, and the fact that a hurricane can take us out in an instant. Everything about the ocean inspires me.

Everything about the ocean inspires me.”

The short answer is my personal connection to it. I can only speak for myself, but I believe the ocean is so powerful and everyone is connected to it in one way or another. The average person can't read a data chart and scientists don't have a way to output that information in a way everyone can understand. But art has a way to bridge that gap, and that's why I love it.

Do you have any advice for beginning artists?

My advice is to be consistent, and if you're interested in something try to dive deeper into it. Knowledge is so empowering. We're all attracted to different things and when you learn more about the things that inspire you and pull you towards them, you feel so much more empowered and you can make art that makes people feel things. Know that your art's not for everyone, and when you put your art out there, the right people will find you.

When I dug deeper into learning about the ocean, how it's changing, and the complex system below the surface, my art became stronger because of it. All artists are inspired by different things and it can take you to such cool places.

Lizzy Taber is a mixed media artist and living and working in south Florida. Follow her @lizzytaber_ or check out her website.

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