Saturday, February 18, 2017

Emerging Artist Christie Carter Eliason Shares Her Journey

She's been an artist all her life, at heart. But like many of us, life gets in the way of living that artist dream. Through March and April, her work will be on display at the Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior, her first public show. The opening reception will be Saturday, March 11, from 2 - 4 p.m. and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Birds can be endlessly fascinating, hence the abundance of bird feeders and bird watching in our country. I've painted birds myself on occasion, but thought first of Ann Klefstad's paintings of birds from the crow/raven family. When I saw the invite to Christie Eliason's upcoming "Inside A Raven Conspiracy" exhibition, I was immediately drawn.

EN: When did you notice you had skills as an artist? Did you draw better than other kids in school? How did that come about?

Christie Carter Eliason: I remember as a young child sitting in my mother's studio and drawing or painting. My mother was an artist and she nurtured my interest in art. She saw to it that I never went without a sketchbook and pencils. She was always enrolling me in classes. The first class I can remember was at the Memphis Academy of Art in Memphis, TN, where my artwork was chosen to represent the youth exhibit. I was very young, maybe 6 years old. In addition, my mother took me to many art galleries to see art of all sorts. Because of her encouragement, I have always been able to see myself as an artist. What a gift to know that about myself so early on in life.

I decided to pursue a career in teaching and set my sights on becoming an art teacher. However, life happened and I temporarily set school aside for marriage and children. When I returned to college, I was going through a divorce as a single mom and faced with making myself as marketable in the work force as possible. I pursued elementary education instead of art. I have never regretted this choice. I love children and I love teaching.

EN: When you were younger you had a desire to be a children's book illustrator. What turned you on to this idea?

CCE: I have always felt a great love and appreciation for children's picture books, so much so, family and friends would give them to me as gifts, even in my teenage years. I admire the way a picture book succinctly conveys so much with so few pages. I love the way that the illustrations and words collaborate to provide multi-layers of a story. This inspired my artwork. I dreamed of creating my own picture books. I attended many workshops, conferences and classes revolving around this aspiration. I developed characters and wrote stories.

EN: Your career has been in teaching and your life taken up with raising a family. What prompted you to get back into art and why painting?

CCE:  I got back to making art because I have always known I'm supposed to make art. It is very much a part of what makes me who I am. I guess I can't NOT make art. It was just a matter of freeing up my time and space. I was chomping at the bit to get back to it. Why painting? I have dabbled in a number of mediums, but there is something about seeing paint strokes on a surface that draws me in.

However, in addition to a teaching career, my life was full with parenting four children alongside my second (and favorite😊 ) husband on our small family farm. I found little time, energy or space for making art. As my children began to launch themselves into the world, I was able to shift some of my focus back to making art. For whatever reason, I felt mental roadblocks when I considered my dream to illustrate, so I put myself on a different path, at least for the time being. My commitment was to paint often and to put my work out into the world.

EN: What is the backstory on your current show at the Red Mug? Why "Inside A Raven Conspiracy"?

CCE: We paint what we know, or love, or want to better understand. I started with painting my dogs, then other peoples' dogs, then wildlife such as foxes, bears, moose and birds. I painted a raven and suddenly found myself digging a little deeper to find what lies beneath the surface. I tried to imagine how they might appear to one another. I wanted to paint portraits of them, as if seen through the eyes of another raven. Of course, I am limited by my own humanness. I found myself comparing and contrasting myself with them. My mother said it is like a metaphor for what is happening in the world around us. As we attempt to better understand those who seem unlike us, we end up learning more about ourselves. And I suppose she is right. In the process of exploring corvids, I found myself again as an artist. There will be new explorations in my future, but I will always hold a special place in my heart for crows and ravens.

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 Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it

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