Elizabeth Lockhart Taft

The Facts: BFA, Maryland institute, College of Art
MFA, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

I’m a plein air painter. What’s a plein air painter? For me, it means I only paint outside in the scenes that I am painting. I’m a purist about it – no photographs, no touching up in the studio. I paint what I see while I am on-site. The challenge is to capture the colors in the hour or so before the light shifts. I don’t change what is there. Each of my paintings is an homage to a particular place.

How do I decide what to paint? I look for places where there are few or no houses and where I can imagine that the land has been the same for a long time. I like big views, an expanse with something in the distance calling – like the glimpse of a pond or the shimmer of light on the ocean. Sometimes I chose a location simply because of the joy in the familiarity of that place.

I like the intimacy of a small painting that the viewer has to get close to see. The image draws you in. Small paintings are completed in a short length of time and that demands an honesty to get it “just right.” A study or a small painting is the first step in exploring a view. Maybe I will do more, stay longer. I may fall in love there and go on to make a number of different paintings, exploring compositions, different sizes. That’s how I keep rediscovering where I am.

I like to work large as well. With large work, I can add more complexity, have the time to see and put down the subtleties. The large paintings are an amalgam of the essence of the landscape viewed over a number of days, even years. Sometimes a place just demands to be big.

I think there is something radical about painting the land. I paint to communicate the beauty and magic of our island.