Sharing the Process : Elizabeth Mayville

Guest Contributor Post by Heather Smith Jones of Blue Sparrow Press.

Hello and welcome to another installment of Sharing the Process! Today Elizabeth Mayville talks about how she became a painter, her materials, and subject matter. She has a fresh, sincere, and personal approach to painting which I appreciate. Her paintings exude a quiet contentment in the every day objects she represents. So take a few moments to read about Elizabeth and then check out her website to see more work. Thank you Elizabeth for giving sharing insight into your work!
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I, Elizabeth Mayville, stumbled into an art career due mostly to good luck and indecisiveness.  Like most everybody else, I loved drawing as a child and it remained my favorite hobby all the way through high school.   Upon graduation I was faced with the challenge of choosing a major and as a girl with many interests but no one true calling, I couldn’t make up my mind.  One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to take an art class or two while in college.  It just so happened that the university I was to attend would only allow art and design majors to take studio art classes.  So I became artist.

Once I became immersed in the study and making of art, I fell in love with painting.  I saw the work of people like William Bailey, Richard Diebenkorn, David Park and, my absolute favorite, Fairfield Porter and it truly changed the way I saw the world.  I was also thrilled to find a discipline that required me to study all different subjects.  If I wanted to make paintings of birds, I would take an ornithology class and learn how to stuff avian specimens.  If painting grocery stores seemed interesting, I would check out books on food, economics and community.  The beautiful thing about art is that it is enormously wide open and you can shift around within it, finding things that resonate with you as you change and grow.


My current body of work has to do with the idea of “home” and its ethereal nature.  Looking back I can see that my paintings have always revolved around the same set of topics; personal history, locality and community as well as an underlying thread of quiet loneliness.  My favorite sort of paintings are those that silently examine something or other while managing to make the viewer aware of the space between herself and the subject matter.  So I try to make paintings like that too.

Lately I’ve been starting my paintings by wandering around my house or neighborhood and looking for objects that hold some meaning for me.  It could be something as weighty as my father’s silver baby cup or something as seemingly insubstantial as a bottle of mouthwash, but it has to garner some emotion within me or be an integral part of my home in some way.  It needs to feel intimate and important.

Once I’ve chosen my subject, I like to do either a painting in gouache, oil or sometimes one of each.  Oil is great because of its range, history and durability but I’m starting to love gouache because it serves as a catalyst for decision-making.  I tend to be a little uptight but, because of its speedy drying time, gouache makes me move fast and make bold choices.  The great part is that impulsiveness is starting to seep into my oil paintings and is absolutely improving them.  

In addition to being a little tightly wound, I’m also a huge believer in not taking yourself too seriously.  That’s where the political portraits come in.  I really like the idea of taking these men with so much historical gravity and softening them up a bit.  It makes it easier, for me anyway, to think about these polished, significant figures as actual people with their own quirks.   In the end the portraits balance out my still lifes, which take the small and make it big, by taking the monumental and making it life sized.   

I am beyond thrilled with the impact the online community, namely Poppytalk and Etsy, has had on my art career.  It is just barely believable to me that I can sit in my tiny Midwest studio painting the bits that make up my personal history and days later the resulting painting will make it to the eyes of someone in Stockholm, Vancouver or the woods of Wisconsin.  I’m not sure how I got so lucky. 

Elizabeth Mayville
Gallery Representation : Lafontsee Galleries
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Heather Smith Jones M.F.A., is a multi-media artist, arts instructor, and author. She lives with her husband in Lawrence, Kansas and loves painting, printing, and drawing in the studio that he built. Find out more about what Heather does here:

Website :
Blue Sparrow Press :
Poppytalk Handmade :

Jan Halvarson


Pinecone Camp said...

I love reading about artist's thought processes when choosing what to paint then executing it. Great post!

Melissa Blake said...

What an awesome interview! :)