Chilmark painter Ellen Liman enjoys a successful relationship with Vineyard Haven’s Louisa Gould Gallery. Come winter, she moves to Palm Beach and wears a different hat, running Liman Gallery for some 40 other artists.
During the summer, her Chilmark home becomes her studio. It is the base of operations for her own painting, and a place she can meet with and talk to the public, something that can’t happen as frequently at Louisa Gould. “It’s an open studio,” Ms. Liman says. “People can come by appointment if they call between 9 am and noon in July and August.”
A Barnard graduate who studied at Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Arts, she talked recently about her work. “I love color,” she says. “I always like to push color, get it as intense as possible.” She is known for flower still lifes that fairly burst with a bright palette.
Sunflowers in particular make a favorite subject, but Ms. Liman also chooses arrangements from the Farmer’s Market. The shapes of flowers appeal, and this year her son, filmmaker Doug Liman, made her a cutting garden. A thank-you present for him is one of the flower still lifes propped in the south-facing sun porch she uses as her studio.
Last summer, Ms. Liman spent a lot of time drawing people on the beach. “I settled on people who were reading, because they’re still,” she says. “It was sort of an instant sketch class.”
This season the artist is adapting those drawings as oil paintings. In one case, she made a charming collage, cutting out patches of drawings, and then arranging and gluing them on a larger surface. “It’s fun to play around,” she says.
The surfaces of Ms. Liman’s paintings contribute importantly to her work. “I’m going for a lot of texture and a lot of paint,” she says. “I want people to know it’s a painting.” She believes having drips and elements askew makes the work more interesting. As her landscapes demonstrate, composition also plays a critical role.
This season she has often used a palette knife, which gives her paintings a forceful, animated look. “It’s so much fun,” she says.
The variety of subjects in Ms. Liman’s small studio space is remarkable, an accurate reflection of her active imagination and the breadth of her accomplishment as an artist. A trip to her studio to see her work is well worth it, but make sure to stop by the Louisa Gould Gallery too.