“My work is an interpretation of life from a happy point of view.”
Eleanor Lowden finds inspiration in everyday activities and universal themes. The common elements in her paintings are; her use of bright colours and neutral greys, and how she layers colours and employs repetitive patterns in her work. She creates depth and textures with her use of polka dots and other various marks made with stencils, along with just playful mark-making. There are elements in each painting to enjoy from a distance and close up to see the endless detail in her work.
“My style plays with patterns and repetition of forms. My main sources of inspiration are crowds of people, umbrellas, trees, polka dots, mass cultural objects, candy, and most recently, spring flowers. Through these differing subjects, I am continually exploring unique compositions while creating bright, luminous paintings built up through many layers of acrylic paint.”
Eleanor began her career more than 30 years ago in Toronto. She studied fine arts at the University of Western Ontario, and continued her studies at the Ontario College of Art and then at the Alberta College of Art. Throughout her career, she has participated in various workshops and artist retreats to further her learning.
Eleanor is a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. Her work can be found in private collections throughout Canada.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
CH: What would you say motivates your practice? Why do you create?
EL: Recreating my world in paint has always driven me. I watch the world around me and think ‘how would I express that in paint? I think making art has always been part of me. It’s like breathing; it’s simultaneously meditative and invigorating.
CH: Has anyone influenced you significantly in your artistic journey? If so, who and how did this change your practice? Are there any other artists/artworks that you are inspired/influenced by?
EL: My maternal grandmother was a watercolour painter and a big influence in my life. She lived at her cottage on Stoney Lake near Lakefield and I would go and visit her and she would take me to her life drawing group. She painted beautiful watercolour nudes. She was feisty, irreverent, and talented. Lots of artists inspire me; I am continually wowed by the work I see. I am grateful for the community I have found on Instagram. There’s so much art to see every single day. Seeing art in galleries is way more influential, and (touch wood) we will be able to travel and do more of that!
CH: Your work often focuses on figures and multiple narratives. Why do you think you continue to return to this subject matter? What do you find so compelling about it?
EL: People and connections fascinate me. I am particularly interested in crowds of people. Now that we all seem to be on our phones, even in a crowd, we are essentially alone. I think about the missed opportunities for real connections. I have had this experience once when I happened to look up from my phone and saw a friend who happened to pass by. If I hadn’t looked up I never would have noticed her. What else have I been missing? The human figure is so limitlessly interesting, there are so many ways to describe and interpret people.
CH: What do you do in your leisure time when you aren’t painting?
EL: I spend time with family and friends and my dog. I have a garden now so I am learning to create there.
CH: Can you explain your process for creating a piece? Does this have some relation to the imagery you paint?
EL: I begin each piece with an underpainting of a thin layer of color. Most of the time it is a light red or quinacridone magenta. I began a series of beach scenes and started using an indigo underpainting, which gives these pieces very different energy. The pink and red underpaintings often make the pieces vibrate and bring a little hidden joyful brightness to the paintings.
My paintings all have many layers of paint, building the colours up so that they glow. I believe this comes from my years of painting in watercolour. I am always aware with each layer to leave some of the underpainting to peek out from beneath.
CH: Can you describe a day in the studio life?
EL: Every morning I wake up early – often 5:30 am and I will paint for 2 hours until it’s time to walk my dog, Rigby, around 7:30 am. I will work again from 9 until I break for lunch. Most afternoons I will paint if I am in the zone. Or I might do paperwork and run errands. I don’t often paint in the evenings, especially when it is dark. I have great lighting in my studio but I don’t feel my work has the same energy when I paint at night. I try to leave a painting until the next day knowing what I plan to do with it when I get back to my easel. I don’t like to start work without a plan.
My studio is in a bedroom in my house. It’s not a big studio, around 12’ x 12’. I hope to make some paintings in my backyard this summer on warm days. I have a basement with loads of storage for paintings. I try to keep my studio filled with just the work I am currently doing and my supplies, and a chair to sit in (unless Rigby gets to it first).
I find that sometimes paintings just paint themselves. I might have a plan when I start, but then the painting often takes over and tells me what it needs. Once I start painting, I draw with a brush and black paint to fill in my design over top of the (pink) underpainting. Then I begin building in my colours. The actual painting process might take a few days. But from concept to finished piece could take months.
CH: What do you think brings you the most inspiration to start painting?
EL: Some days I just have to paint. I think it is calming and revitalizing for my psyche. Some images come to me at the strangest times. I have woken up in the morning with an idea for a painting and I just go to work. When I travel I bring a sketchbook, and markers and I will create what I see around me. These are like postcards and become some of my preliminary works for my landscape paintings.
CH: What does the term “art” mean to you? How does it identify with your practice?
EL: Art is what has been created. I don’t distinguish or feel particularly separate from ‘craft’. I think there are many ways to be creative. I make art by painting. My art has been my life – especially now that my kids are adults. I spend every day living my career as an artist. I am grateful to be able to do what I love for a living.
CH: What has been the most enjoyable part of your art career so far?
EL: Finding my voice, and watching it translate into different subjects. I feel I have found a path that is unique to me, with my subject matter and my particular palette, as well as how I lay down paint.
CH: What are your goals for your art practice in 2022 and beyond?
EL: Every year I build on what has inspired me in the past. I paint in many different series: umbrellas, crowds of people, people walking their dogs, country roads, and flowers; always looking for repetitive forms. I love working with patterns and I love repeating imagery. I am not an abstract painter at this point. I love to draw!
Watch this 24×36 painting come to life in this progress video below:
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