• Color Theory: Lizzie Gill's Collages in Neutral

    Artist Lizzie Gill mines the past to comment on our present. We caught up with the Brooklyn collage artist to chat about process, sourcing material, and working with her hands in the digital age. 
    Lead image: Love is a 12 Mile Radius, 2014

    Can you tell us about yourself?
    My name is Lizzie Gill. I grew up in West Chester, NY and I started practicing art when I was a kid. I knew it was a bit more serious when I wanted to pursue it academically. I went to school and studied painting and print making at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. For the past five years I've been struggling and learning to be a practicing artist. I've lived in a few different areas in Bushwick and Ridgewood, now I'm living in Brooklyn Heights. I have my studio in my home. I work with a few different galleries including Sugarlift which is a Brooklyn based gallery. I do mostly collage-based work and digital painting, so I scan elements and paint with them in Photoshop.

    Strategy Poker, 2014

    What’s the first thing you can remember making as a kid? 
    I think it was a drawing on archival paper with crayon when I was three. It got put on the fridge as sort of positive reinforcement. That kept happening so I always sort of was drawn to art.

    Were your parents artists? 
    No, my father was creative in the sense that he worked in advertising a bit in the '70s. My mother is more business route so I would say they aren't exactly out of the box people, but they've always been very supportive of my art. My grandmother is a painter. She taught me how to paint when I was little and mix colors so I think that was definitely a big part of my formative art learning and interests.

    Can you walk us through the process of creating a new collage piece? 
    I'm really drawn to 1940's and '50s Americana and publications because I think that the publications really encapsulate the time. The text and the photographs, it's like a time capsule. I absolutely love it.

    I think it goes hand in hand with my want to hoard things so I've somehow turned my love and interest in collecting magazines into an art form. The process starts when I am hunting for 1940's and '50s women's magazines like Vogue, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal. I'll go through thrift stores, junk stores, or barns upstate whenever I'm traveling. That takes the most time, finding the source material. When I bring it back to the studio, it's flipping through 100s of magazines trying to find an image that resonates with me. I can't create the piece unless I resonate with the image, so I have to find the imagery first and then create something around it. 

    Slam Dunk (She Messaged First), 2015

    Then I'll extract the image from the background, so take the central figure out, the figure development and then I'll work in more of a maybe graphic design layout element and I will move the image around trying to find the right placement for it compositionally

    I'll abstract the image then I'll use print making paper for the background and speaking specifically about my hole punching ones, then I'll go in with a hole puncher and sort of use it as confetti. Then I'll take images from advertisements, I'll look for colors and then create sort of like an abstract, hole punch, pointless piece around that figure development. It's very painterly how I work so picking colors, choosing elements, trying to work the background into the foreground. That sort of like is what takes over.

    She Was Different (From Her Profile), 2015

    You don't have a drawer somewhere with a million different figures that you've cut out of magazines that you just pick from?
    I have friends who are collage artists that do work like that, where they have little files of "Women in Bathing Suits" or "Man on Tractor". Just different stuff. I don't really work like that. I won't even mark pages, if I see something great and I love it, it's not for that time, I'll leave it in the magazine. I'll just put it back in the drawer and have to treasure hunt again. If I'm making something, it's more of a specific size in mind, I'll just source for that specific piece. I don't cut out a ton of stuff and save it. A lot of my collage colleagues do. They have piles and piles and reference books and folders and stuff. Unused gold as they say.

    Are there any particular issues of magazines or magazines in general that are like your holy grail that you haven't been able to find that you're trying to get your hands on?
    I do like some of the earlier '40s Life issues that are harder to come by or get a reasonable price for. People are like "Oh, it's old. It's in," and charge a crazy amount for it. I think that there's some early on life magazines that I'm really interested in getting my hands on. That would be awesome.

    Fingers Crossed, (It's the Chick on the Right), 2014

    How does your mindset differ when approaching digital work vs. analog work? 
    I compare it to electronic music. It's like when do I want to sound like an entire band, but I'm just a one man band so I'm in my garage band and I'm making all these electronic noises and paint brush strokes. Maybe right now my studio's not outfitted to have big oil paints and stuff, but I want to express that so I'll do it digitally.

    Your work juxtaposes these time-capsule elements with titles that are pulled from modern online dating lingo. When did you come up with contrasting these ideas?
    I became interested in these sort of pursuits of romance and illustrating them with vintage illustrations. Sort of to be ironic and humorous as sort of a joke to myself. I mean, who hasn't had a run-in with online dating? I certainly did right when it was really getting hot, heating up. You know every one was doing it. It became very much a norm. I think it's become more normalized now. Two years ago it was very much all-day-every-day, "Oh, where are you going tonight?", "I'm going out, I'm going out on a tinder date." People just sort of communicate differently when it's behind the screens. People are more forward, amusing, or rude.

    None of this is a bad thing I just found it all very amusing. I found it very relevant to my age and my friends and what was going on and what I was experiencing. I would get some of these message and I would think about what I would be reading in these vintage magazines and what the idea of love was and marriage and all that. That's kind of when I decided that these two things really needed to come together. I wanted to modernize what I was doing, but also to be relevant to my pursuits of romance at the time. It was definitely self reflective in a way. I wanted to relate to my peers and I wanted people to be looking at this nostalgia and see how times have changed.

    She’s The One (4 Mutual Friends), 2016

    Are you looking to illustrate that attitudes towards romance and love have changed over time or that in some ways they've kind of stayed the same?
    I think in some ways they've definitely stayed the same, but the language has changed. All of the same things are there, the want to be with a partner, the pursuit of romance, questions of loneliness, companionship, it's all still there. It's just the medium has changed. That's sort of like what I'm exploring. 

    Your color palette harkens back to your source material, but have you always worked in more muted tones like you work in now? 
    When I was doing a lot of painting, like oil painting I would work in a lot of phthalo blues, which are very intense and sort of aqua colors. Different bright hues. Because of my source material that I'm looking at and the color sources and how the publications have faded, how paper and ink ages and things like that I think that completely colors my color palette. It totally influences my color palette and the time period that I'm working with, essentially like '40s and '50s, those things are faded especially when you find them. I have other colleagues that work more in the '70s and '80s and their color palettes are very bright and vibrant and fresher. More well-preserved. I didn't always work in such muted tones, but it's definitely evolved because my source material has influenced it.

    Double D8, 2016

    You've helped co-found the Brooklyn Collage Collective. Can you tell us a little bit about that group?
    I started it with a friend of mine, Morgan Lappin, who's also a collage artist. We wanted to form an idyllic group of artists that are working in the medium that can come together because everyone is working separately in their studio and everyone is kind of feeling isolated, missing that human contact in their work and feedback. We wanted to start something to bring that back. The studio visits, the critiques, the shows. Get our work on the wall. We started doing pop up exhibitions and inviting artists from the community working in the medium to show. Our first show was at Brooklyn Fireproof, which is in Bushwick, three years ago. Since then, we've shown in Australia, London, throughout New York. 

    The group also engages community in art conversations and activities. We do this thing called live collaging, which is the coolest thing ever. We invite the public to sit down and collage with us at our events, usually the opening night or closing night or just a time to get people into the gallery and hang out. It's awesome to see because we bring all the source material and the cutting material. It's nice for people who have never made art before because collage is so accessible. Materials that we stare at every day and are familiar with make awesome pieces of art and they feel really great about it. We talk to them about our techniques. It's really about engaging the public with this accessible art form and creating dialogues and exhibitions around it. It's fun. It's fun to have colleagues and friends that are working in the medium.

    Drop Dead Gorgeous, 2015

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