Elizabeth Kincaid
See her work in the Member Galleries

It started with the Elephant. Six year-old Elizabeth Kincaid, in first grade, paintbrush in hand, created an elephant. “That’s when I knew I was an artist, that I was going to do art.” She was hooked. Her six-year old self figured if she could manifest an elephant with a brush and paint, then this was what she wanted to do. And she did.


Growing up, Elizabeth didn’t have much, but her mother, who was so supportive, always made sure she had a new box of crayons and lots of paper. Elizabeth took every art class her schools offered and her talent grew. When it came time for her to go to college, she chose Western Washington where she earned a BFA in graphic design, which opened up job possibilities.


Elizabeth’s mother had a great admiration for artists so she supported what her daughter did. “I was coloring all the time as a kid.” She didn’t always have paint, but she always had crayons and sketchbooks for drawing - lots of drawing. “She put me through college as an art major, which most people viewed as impractical. My mom was very practical but this was a measure of how much she loved me.”


But her love is watercolor. Her second floor studio, in the home she shares with her husband, Larry (who is also an artist!), features a set of large windows and lots of light. Individual trays for watercolors are arranged within easy reach of an easel - each color getting its own tray so as not to sully the colors. Elizabeth works carefully with thin washes - glazes - of color, building up to the intensity and the hue she wants. So, it wasn’t a big leap from this method of watercolor to colored pencils.


Colored pencils have been a side medium for Elizabeth; then 3 or so years ago, she decided to take a plunge and really learn how this new medium works. For Elizabeth it works exceedingly well. Her home is filled with wonderful and varied art in both watercolor and colored pencil.  “My only quibble with colored pencils is how slow it is” compared to watercolor. Recently, however, Elizabeth has been trying out some new surfaces. For watercolor, she prefers 300 lb Fabriano Artistico papers. “I don’t have to stretch them,” she chuckles. For her colored pencil paintings, she’s been working on Bristol paper and more currently on film. “Film has speeded up the process so much,” she says. “And, I can work on both sides so I can produce the depth of color I want.” Many thanks to Pam Belcher for introducing this particular surface.


She joined CPSA two years ago. “I’m on a learning curve with colored pencil, because I’m new to the art, but I bring a lot of experience to it. It seemed like if I believed in the medium it was my responsibility to support it so I joined.” Elizabeth has done presentations/demonstrations at CPSA meetings, showing her mastery of color as well as her ability to create stunning abstracts.


Shifting from reality to abstract uses a different part of creative mind. “Abstracts come out of my unconscious - I tap into the same place that generates doodles. With my realistic paintings I’m seeking to record what I see in nature.”


Elizabeth worked as technical illustrator for a time and then got a job as an illustrator, met Larry and got married. When Larry had an opportunity for a great job on the east coast, she said she’d be willing to leave her family and her friends and move to Maryland if she could paint full time. “I longed to do that - and that was the deal.” Her hope was to be able to sell her work - and she has. She’s sold hundreds of paintings - and written a book - Paint Watercolors that Dance with Light.


Her colored pencil pieces also dance with light. Her life-long drive is to manifest on paper what the world is around her, to infuse it with life. She doesn’t filter the world, but rather expresses what she sees, just as it comes out of her. Her favorite subjects are growing things - landscapes and close-ups of growing things. Sometimes she gets restless and tries something different. Her painting of the Blacksmith Shop in Old Sturbridge Village is one example of ‘something different’.


Elizabeth’s paintings come from her own photography. “I am hunting for paintings with my camera - not taking reference photos - composing as I go.” Then comes the thumbnail from the photo, and since the design was pretty strong to begin with, a thumbnail lets her identify what’s weak. So, she crops or adds or takes out.  Composition, she says, is more important than skills with your medium.  “Composition is essential. If you don’t have a strong composition it [your work] just lays there when you’re done - composition is what makes it memorable.” She does admit that you can blunder into a good design.


Elizabeth’s process for colored pencils is as precise as her work is. She does trace, because it’s efficient. She saves drawing for fun - usually on vacation. She has dozens and dozens of sketchbooks filled with her drawings.


“Tracing is tricky - you can introduce error.” Elizabeth uses a light table to trace her image on acetate using a micron pen. She then takes that to Kinkos and gets it enlarged “on their giant xerox“up to the size she wants. Then, she traces that enlarged image onto tracing paper while looking at the original on the computer screen and making any corrections. “My drawings are accurate - I take liberties with color” and what lovely things that creates. Then, on to Stonehenge or whatever surface she’s chosen. She uses Colerase pencils so she doesn’t have graphite showing through the painting.  With thicker paper Elizabeth covers the back of the tracing paper with graphite and then transfers the image. “ I want nothing on the paper that is not erasable.”


Her palette is basic, especially in watercolor. “I just see what colors to use. In watercolor I use a limited palette - basic building blocks for all paintings and mix colors from those. But she mixes optically, glazing one color on top of another. Colored pencils lend themselves to a similar approach. Elizabeth practices what she calls the Sheila Wash - working with very thin, very smooth layers the way her friend Sheila Theodoratos works. “I aspire to that skill,” Elizabeth says, “But I fail.”


She works from dark to light in her colored pencil paintings, establishing a pattern of values and shadows and then work to the light. Where she starts varies, depending on the information she wants to impart into the painting. “I work upside down and sideways to see shapes and not get distracted by the subject - leaning over all four sides - a strategy for a short person.” It works.


One of her favorite colored pencil pieces is Old Soul which hangs above her easy chair. It’s a craggy old tree and pink sky from a picture she took. This one has a very large exposed root that leads your eye at a diagonal and meets the tree which is an opposing diagonal - tree has white root, white branches - a dramatic zig zag. The painting also has some red in the tree and a bush with red. She liked that color, but “the blue sky was boring so I changed it.  I got this idea with all the red that a pink sky would be really hot and I liked the hotness of it, kind of like an antidote to the deadness of the white.” So Old Soul has a pink sky and it’s awesome.


Another favorite is called Tree of Life. It was a 25-year project! “I would work on it for chunks of time and then shift to commercial work.” It was her muse - a flash of an idea that she was was compelled to follow. “As a driven artist you have to create.” (See pdf version of this article for images. The link is at the bottom of this page.)


Elizabeth’s children are also very creative. Her daughter is a chef. “She told me there was no hope of her being an artist because I was so much better, so she makes art with food.” Her son makes works of art out of fly tying - for fishing. Only he scales them up and makes very large hooks and the flies are all kinds of beautiful feathers. He frames them and has a waiting list of people wanting to buy his work.


Elizabeth’s goals are to bring life, or the illusion of life, to the images on paper, of how light works on things. “Life should have meaning,” she says. “There are a lot of things you can do with your life - have a beautiful yard, a spotlessly clean house, volunteer for causes close to your heart. Spending time making art gives my life meaning. We have a finite number of days and I don’t want to waste them.”


Since she has started to use colored pencils more, her pace has slowed down. “You can’t be impatient to be done - can’t crank out x number of paintings in x number of months,” she says. “It’s not a medium for someone who wants results now.” She likens colored pencil painting to reading a nice fat book because the experience lasts. She feels that way about the experience of making art. “I like the experience.”


Her biggest challenge with colored pencils? “Getting that smooth tone, a smooth laydown. Achieving the Sheila Wash - to focus on reining in impatience - being delicate.” Elizabeth aspires to that kind of finesse, but she tends to go in strong rather than do multiple light layers. “Technique changes on film - it’s hard to get dark darks and I’m finding the techniques I use on paper don’t work on film.” Slowing down and learning how to get things down on film has been rewarding and Elizabeth’s results are stunning.


Elizabeth’s next big challenge is a black and white piece with Koi fish. Then, on Bristol paper - that will be a challenge - fall leaves by the water. “That’s the next one and then a purple plant with monarch butterflies.” She’d love to get a piece accepted into the International Show. Although she’s tried several times, none have made it . . . yet. 


After painting, Elizabeth’s second favorite thing is teaching. “It’s so satisfying when students have a break through and they understand and their confidence grows as they have these breakthroughs. I love the creative community. It’s what Sheila does with her Open Studio.


She and Larry took workshop once in how to make handmade books - basically book binding. “When I can’t work on big work, or need to stop making wall art because I’ve run out of wall space, I would make smaller paintings and make books of original art.” 


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT columns by Karen Smith

Previous columns

Featured Artist November 2017: Elizabeth Kincaid - see her work in the Member Galleries

Featured Artist July 2017: Keith Artz - See his work in the Member Galleries

Featured Artist May 2017: Pam Gassman - See her work in the Member Galleries

Featured Artist March 2017: Sheila Theodoratos - See her work in the Member Galleries
Featured Artist January 2017: Rhonda Dicksion - See her work in the Member Galleries

Featured Artist November 2016: John Ursillo, CPSA - See his work in the Member Galleries

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