In the Studio with Elizabeth Adlam

Q & A with MFA painter

Elizabeth Adlam’s final MFA painting presentation Full and By, in the FAB Gallery until Oct. 24, sweeps viewers into beautiful lake-country. With sailboats drifting by and storms looming, her work takes you far away from the city and will leave you feeling like you’ve been on a vacation. I caught up with Elizabeth for a Q & A interview to find out more about her influences, inspiration and brush stroke techniques.

Your website mentions that a lot of the imagery comes from the times you’ve spent in the Muskoka region. Are the paintings all from memories? Are all the paintings from a specific place in the Muskoka you have visited over the years?

My work is influenced by memory and experiences in my youth and adulthood. As a child, I spent every summer at the cottage. My days were filled with activities on the water and the evenings were for boat rides in one of my grandfather’s wooden boats. The paintings themselves are invented spaces, I have hundreds of photographs that I have taken over the years and these are my jumping off point.

Sailing is also a big part of this work, hence the show’s title, full and by, sailing into the wind in a relaxed way). It also relates to Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea, the singular individual at the mercy of the elements and nature. The paintings also brings up questions about nature and it being a constructed term and our relationship with nature as Canadians. Also, the work questions whether or not this area will continue to be available for generations to come.

You capture sky and water so beautifully. Your bold strokes create such lightness and atmosphere. Can you tell us a bit about your brush techniques?

I build the spaces in paint, starting with a base colour of either yellow, silver, gold or pink, then begin to layer from there. I work back and forth, smoothing out and blending some areas and allowing the mark to jump forward in others.

Mark making to create volume and allowing the paint to speak is very interesting to me and has become a big part of my process. It began with the small paintings and jumped into the larger ones and in those I was able to develop the spaces in a way that reflected my research and interests.

The various painters that have influenced this collection of paintings are J.M.W Turner, for his billowing clouds and stormy seas, Claude Monet, for light, vibration and movement, David Hockney, for his simplification of spaces and colour and Eric Fischl for experimentation and investigation of spaces on glassine.

Now that you have finished your MFA degree what do you have planned next?

My plan moving forward after this graduate program is to continue building and showing my body of work. I enjoy teaching at the university level as well and am actively pursuing teaching positions.

See more of Elizabeth Adlam’s work at
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter: @Elizabeth_Adlam

Event title: Full and By
Exhibition dates:  Until October 24, 2015
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building, University of Alberta)
FAB Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday: 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Monday.
Admission: Free.