Focus Artist: Liz Hoag

Primarily a landscape painter, Liz Hoag focuses on the beauty in her surroundings, and it is always a pleasure to share her work.

We were able to present Liz a few questions to give some additional insight in her work and I am happy to share her answers with you today.

Do you have a favorite piece that is featured in the your exhibit at the gallery?

I don’t have a favorite piece in the show, but there are a couple that I think are strongest for some of the reasons I’ll talk about.

You have worked in landscape for a while now but you had two distinct bodies of work- one more traditional landscapes showing scenes in the woods and views of water through trees and the other body of worked titled Tangled that you approach as more abstract studies in negative space. They read as stained glass. They were the view of looking almost straight up into the canopy of the tree to the sky beyond. Your recent body of paintings seems to blend the two bodies of work. Is this true? Can you tell us a little about your process?

The “tangle” paintings came out of my landscape paintings as studies and I’ve gone back to more complex landscape paintings after having painted the “tangles,” with those studies in mind. In the tangles, I wanted to focus on things I really enjoyed about painting landscapes; which were structure, balance, and negative space.

In the tangles, I removed the sentimental notions of narrative space and isolated the work down to the plane of the canvas, three-dimensional space, balance, and composition. I even removed most of the color so that the structure and composition could be understood better. In all my work, I try to remove the idea that there is some sort of romantic attachment to the particular spot.

I know you’re not a plein air painter. I think a lot of people have the perception that when a person paints a landscape that that makes them a plein air painter. Will you describe in detail your process- sketches on site, photographs, do you change composition and placement of light

A lot of the work comes from my own neighborhood, trails around Portland, and even photos taken from the car. I think that by doing that, I give a sense of calm and peace and universality that artists who strive for a narrative by capturing a particular place don’t get. People who enjoy my work invariably comment on the calm they feel when looking at my work.

I do change the composition from what’s in a photo. Quite a bit. It’s necessary to get the balance I’m looking for. I change branch directions. I remove elements. I push parts of the image back or forward. However, I don’t change the light (much) but try to first capture the light I want in my original photos of the place.

I’m starting to become known for painting trees but I also enjoy painting open space. One thing that I believe when I look at other Maine landscapes is that they rely only on a simple idea of beauty that we get when we look at bodies of water or open fields. We don’t ordinarily get unobstructed views of the ocean unless we’re wealthy enough to own seaside property. We don’t see the landscape that way. We have trees in our views of fields, lakes, streams, and the ocean.

When we take photos, how often do we not realize we’ve captured some stray branches in our view until we look at the photo later? So what I try to do now is combine my need to find balance and structure with a larger concept of “place.” Color is back in the work; space is more open and is deeper; branches are not the entire work but part of the whole. I still don’t dwell on what I think is unimportant in a piece, or detail for the sake of detail, and try to look for bigger ideas that make the painting work.

Are there other artists who have inspired you? Are you inspired by certain locations?

I think that the only artist that I look at from time to time for inspiration these days is Richard Diebenkorn. He went from figurative to nonrepresentational and back. His use of space and color and balance in both realms is remarkable. I’ve been compared recently to Neil Welliver and Fairfield Porter. I don’t see it!

I think that the piece in the show that represents what I’ve been talking about best is “Sense of Place.”

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