I moved to Wilmington in 1977, at the request
of an old friend. I’d been living in the wilds of Northern
California for six months, thinking that if I was in a really reclusive environment, I
could do better work, but the opposite was true and I was really feeling quite lost. So, she invited me to come to Wilmington,
and I discovered I could make a living as a house painter here, which I did for forty
years, and also work on my art. I liked the city. It was just the right size, so I stayed. In the beginning, living here, there were
just a handful of us artists, and we banded together and had shows together. Now, of course, there are hundreds of artists
here, and many more galleries, but I always felt that I could just do my own thing. That’s all I really wanted to do. Once I moved downtown, in 1982, I had an outbuilding,
in the backyard, that I could use for a studio. That was really helpful getting my work out
of the house and having my own place to work. So, I could work on my art evenings after
house painting, all weekends, any day I wasn’t working. It was right here all the time. Hi, welcome to my studio. Come on in. I work in oil, oil pastel and collage. With all three of these, you can go over something
again and again. So, if you don’t catch it the first time,
just keep working. So, that layer effect is what works best for
me, and I just try to resolve things as I go along. I think the figure, always seems to come in
whether I want it to or not. Last year, I think I was doing very dominant
figures. Now, little glyphs of people seem to show
up, or you’ll see eyes that will suggest a face. These things keep showing up whether I plan
on them or not. So, I think that’s the most recurring thing. And relationship is just an important thing,
whether it’s in the figurative work, if it’s a relationship between people and animals,
or animals and animals, or, in this glyph mode that I’m in, it’s just a
relationship between shape and shape. I really don’t know what anything is going
to turn out, and sometimes I go through several processes to get to the final piece. So, I may start out one way and then, if that’s
not working, I’ll often times just obliterate it, and in the course of obliterating it,
leaving enough little pieces behind, that that becomes the new piece. There are a million ways you can approach
a canvas and play with paint, so I just keep trying for new ways to get new results. I was at a Zen Monastery, in 1981, up in Upstate
New York. I was there for three months and I didn’t
bring any painting supplies with me, but I really missed making art. So, the gate keeper there brought me magazines
to work with and I started cutting up little shapes in my room. That’s when I began making collages, because
I didn’t have any paints, and I loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since. I use a lot of figurative images in my collages. I don’t steal anybody else’s figure, like
from a magazine. I create my own figures from bits and pieces
of something. I like repetition a lot. I like to create patterns, and there’s a petal shape, that you’ve seen, in many of my collages. I don’t even know its origin. It might have come from some old French still
life of a watermelon or part of a flower. I don’t know. It was a random shape I cut out and I’ve
used it a lot, making it different colors, and changing the size as well. The Musing series came from the National Geographic. It requires many magazines because a lot of
the pages come out muddy and aren’t workable. Eventually there’s enough to harvest, so,
it’s just a matter of applying the solvent to the pages, closing up the magazine, coming
back later, ripping them all out, letting them air. Then you can see which will work as a landscape
or as a background. I have a little six-inch window that I use
to move across the image to see which part of it would work in these six-inch Musing collages. So, then I would cut that out, have it printed
and then apply it to the canvas paper, and then, I had a little black edge that I drew
around that just sets each one off too. So, they all started the same, but then I
used different details to enhance each one. These details came from my own scraps. So this is something I still use in my collages,
whatever comes of those. That doesn’t seem to work on any other magazine
except National Geographic. After I did fifty of the Musings, I was done
with that. I wanted to work larger. I wanted to get back to paint. So, I just went back to the studio and experimented
with new techniques, because I didn’t want to go back to the paintings I did before. I didn’t want to do collage, I just wanted
it to be paint, and I wanted it to be abstract, so with that in mind, I began on this latest
series. I’ve taken a different approach than I ever
had before. Usually, I would work against a black background,
but this time, even though I started with a black canvas, once the black was dry, I
applied white oil paint that stayed wet for several hours, so I could work with it. So, once the whole canvas was covered with
white, I carved a drawing into it with the back of the paintbrush, and that revealed
the black line of what was underneath. Then, I had a white canvas with a black line, and I colored those shapes in, that were created by the line. When all those colors dried, then I did a
series of transparent glazes over that. So, this harkens back to ways I worked
in the past, but in a way, it was a kind of new thing, in itself. By varying the drawing, I got pretty different
results. In the beginning, I was starting with working
with my left hand, which I’m not left-handed, and my eyes closed, and just doing big sweeping
gestures over the whole canvas. Then, when I felt like I had probably filled
the canvas, I stepped back, opened my eyes and I assessed it. Whether it was an interesting line drawing
or not. If not, I could wipe it out, and if so, I
would just let that dry and fill in those shapes and then
proceed with the glazes after that. But then, I got into this little thing of
making little glyphs, little scribbles, that didn’t connect with each other. This I did with my right hand and my eyes
open. Just filling the canvas without thought, without
any plan. Just little by little, making these gestures
and shapes. When they dried, then coloring them in and
going over with the transparent glazes. So, it gave a very different effect. It was kind of playful, and little hieroglyphic-y,
and childlike and primitive, whimsical fun. I think the challenge is always to stay fresh
and not repeat something that’s been successful in the past, because every time you try to
repeat an old thing, it comes out a bit diluted, because you’re not coming from that fresh
place. So, that’s why I switch around with various
techniques. Just to get that fresh feeling again. Also, I think you can really get in your own
way. I can get in my own way by overthinking it,
or by being filled with doubt at the beginning when I have no idea where it’s going to
go. That doubt can be paralyzing and just, can’t
dare to do a thing. So, you have to push beyond that and make
yourself put down something, just anything. And then when that dries come back the next
day, you have something new to work on. So, it’s just a matter of layering and eventually,
something comes of it. You have to believe in the process and not
let the doubt hold you back. I hope I can continue to be motivated on this
journey. I hope doubt won’t hold me back. Bye!

Elizabeth Darrow Believing in the Process
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