We had the good fortune of connecting with Elinor Shapiro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elinor, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
my favorite phrase is “Just break the white” another artist told me this once when I was struggling with feeling blocked and unable to create. That one little phrase managed to completely change the way that I work. Before, I treated all my artwork and materials so preciously that it stifled my ability to create. Fear of ruining something would hold me back. But now I just think, break the white. It could be with a smudge, a footprint, a splatter of ink. It doesn’t have to be high quality, but as soon as the white of the canvas is broken its like my fear evaporates the canvas is already damaged so how could I damage it more? this phrase unlocked any rules I had in place for myself in my creative state. I think this phrase is applicable to everything, if we treat what we are doing to preciously, we will be too scared and frozen to take any risks. All of the best growth I have had in my career or in my art has come from taking that risk, or at least considering it. Break the white of the canvas, break the monotony and do not be scared to ruin it, one mistake will not crumble everything as long as you are dedicated.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a pretty small person and most of my canvases are larger than me which leads to a pretty intense art making process. I like to get my whole body involved with big gestural charcoal base layer before working into it with oil paint. When in my studio one can witness me walking and crawling on top of my canvases, dragging them around and getting into all kinds of trouble with art supplies. its easy to romanticize photos we see on social media, and yeah, I adore what I do. but what people dont realize is that one of my greatest challenges is the physicality of creation. When I was a teenager I started having issues with my arms, from my hands to my shoulders. I went through years of physical therapy and other treatments. Eventually I had to completely change my art style to accommodate the wrist braces and the pain I was in on a daily basis. The problems in my wrists are now a bit more under control thankfully, but I have moved on to have some serious back, hip, and neck issues. One of my doctors once said to me, if you do anything for more than 30 hours a week you are an athlete, that includes hunching over a canvas. So yes, I love what im doing and would change nothing about it, but people look at me and assume I am completely able-bodied. There is nothing worse than wanting and needing to work on a painting only to be in too much pain to do so. I bring this up not to complain but because its something in the art world I dont really hear discussed. We work hard and its important to care for ourselves, but also because some of the most important inspirations have come from these trials. I know of many artists who have suffered injuries or degeneration that leads to artistic awakenings, Matisse’s paper cut outs were because he could no longer hold a paint brush, Renoir had to have paint brushes taped to his hands, Chuck Close went from realism to his own iconic style. It can be so difficult to keep your spirits up and too keep creating when something out of your control his holding you back. but if you change your perspective and have a strong will those hinderances may completely revolutionize what you are doing into something even better. I cant say that my path has into being an artist has been easy, but I have loved the challenges and the rewards have made everything worth it. I am doing wonderfully now taking the steps down the path that I desire, I am represented by Vanrensburg Galleries and I work at Chateau Orquevaux artist residency, so my whole life revolves around art. But I am still growing and learning and pushing towards my dreams.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I havent traveled nearly as many places as I would like. But the most magical experience I ever had was exploring Dijon, France. The old city center is all walking paths with random courtyards filled with outdoor dinning experiences. It was magical to just wander through the narrow streets and peer into shop windows or discover small little cafes. im a pretty relaxed traveler, with a small Itinerary I like to hit a museum or two but then the rest of my time is spent walking around seeing people and places and simply accidentally getting lost.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Chateau Orquevaux Artist Residency (specifically Founder Ziggy Attias)