Elisabeth Sullivan’s imaginative, vibrantly colored, slightly surreal acrylic paintings can best be described as “dreamscapes”. Imagination and inspiration have always come easily to Elisabeth and her interest in art was apparent from a very young age. “I’ve been drawing since before I can remember”, she recalls. “The desire has just always been there. In fact, my mother tells me she thought I would be an artist because I was drawing eyelashes on my stick figures when I was just 2 years old, and I would draw and color for hours. I guess I was pretty easy to entertain … and I still am! All I need is something to draw on and something to draw with. Inspiration is all around me, and imagination is always with me.”
Elisabeth’s formal art education began with high school art classes in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. While in high school, she twice had work selected for the highly competitive annual regional exhibition of high school student art. She was also commissioned by her high school’s Athletic Director to design and paint a mural in his office.
Elisabeth went on to study fine art in college. She spent a year at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and three and a half years at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, where she completed her education. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design Illustration in 1988.
Longing for a warmer climate, Elisabeth headed south to Austin, Texas, after college. She found a job bartending to pay the bills while she took any freelance work she could find, including illustration, graphic design, mural, and sign painting. Finding only sporadic freelance work, Elisabeth decided to try a different avenue. Using the skills she learned in her college airbrush classes, she began airbrushing T-shirts and other apparel with her original art, which she sold at local art and craft fairs.
As her business became more successful, she was able to quit her bartending job and focus solely on expanding her line of wearable art. She became interested in painting clothing of her own design and learned to sew. She designed a unique line of organic cotton apparel that she sewed together, hand painted, and hand dyed. She sold her creations at art festivals throughout the western states.
In the spring of 1997, Elisabeth’s art fair circuit brought her to Southeastern Arizona for a month. She fell in love with the area and moved to Tucson that fall. She continued with her clothing business for a few more years, but painting has always been her true passion, and in 2001 she decided to pursue that dream. Throughout the ten years, Elisabeth made a living with her wearable art, and she never stopped drawing and painting. She kept a working sketchbook, painted regularly, and was often commissioned for murals. Inspired by her new surroundings, her sketchbooks overflowed with ideas, and Elisabeth spent the next few years developing a body of work that would bring her ideas to life. She had no difficulty in choosing her subject matter. “I have always been inspired and fascinated by the incredible forces of nature and the magnificent creatures that inhabit this beautiful planet,” she explains, “and I have always heard you should paint what you love, so that’s exactly what I decided to do!”
Elisabeth started out showing her acrylic on canvas paintings locally at art festivals and gallery shows. Seeking a broader base of collectors, in 2006 she began exhibiting at art festivals across the country, participating in some of the most prestigious fairs in the nation. San Diego became a frequent destination for Elisabeth both for art festivals and to vacation. She found herself making the trip out there as often as she could, and her art reflected this. In 2011 she made the move to San Diego County and currently resides in the beach town of Encinitas.
Elisabeth’s artwork is currently available in galleries as well as art festivals and is widely collected. Her paintings and murals can be found in private residences and corporate collections, as well as hospitals and other medical, therapeutic and dental facilities across the country.
Elisabeth is involved in several conservation organizations. She is a member of the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Pacific Whale Foundation, and the World Parrot Trust. She is also a member of the Surfrider Foundation and donates artwork every year for the San Diego Chapter’s annual Art Gala fundraiser. “I feel the work these organizations do is very important,” she states. “Through my art, I hope to raise awareness and promote the desire to protect and conserve the beauty and diversity of nature.”
My paintings are a visual representation of the impact nature has on my senses, fueled by my imagination and dreams. I’m interested in creating a peaceful, happy mood, evoking fond memories of a time or place, and arousing curiosity. I leave the story in my “dreamscapes” open to interpretation, inviting the viewer to experience the scene in their own way.