Elisabeth Hays is one of the newest artists to arrive at the Shain Gallery in Charlotte’s Myers Park neighborhood. Her beautiful mixed media butterflies with their golden antennas and brilliant colors immediately catch your eye. Every butterfly exudes the personality of the artist herself, with their bright, colorful and joyful nature. Inspired by her daughter’s love of butterflies and her children’s stories, Elisabeth created her colorful collection of butterflies and bugs. Her love of the Alabama coast has also served as inspiration for her ‘Bay Maps’ and ‘Mullet Parade series that show her appreciation for the natural world around her.
When did you first become interested in art?
I have always been very interested in and have loved to create art. When I was little I used to paint the walls of my closet.
I studied art in college, and after college, I went into interior design for about ten years. After my second child was born, I sold my business and decided to dive into art and really focus on that. I made that shift a little over four years ago.
How do your surroundings inspire your art?
We live on Mobile Bay in south Alabama and that’s a huge part of my inspiration. We’re really water people. We’re always on the beach, boat, or exploring our area. Having grown up in the area, we love exploring our coastal waterways. That’s seen in my ‘Bay Maps’ and ‘Mullet Parade’ series.
The butterfly and the bugs are more inspired by my kids, from their imaginations, playing outdoors and the stories they’ll tell me.
What is the color palette (or color) you find yourself using most often in your pieces?
I use a lot of blues and greens inspired by the water around here. I also tend to use a lot of pinks, oranges, and bright jewel tones. That’s really my go-to color palette.
I love the mixed media butterfly pieces that you’ve created. What drew you to the butterfly in particular?
My daughter loves butterflies and I’ve always loved how each butterfly is unique and there are so many different types. They just have such a nostalgic air about them.
Years ago, when I was at market for my design store, I bought a book by photographer Christopher Marley who creates the most beautiful artwork featuring reclaimed specimens in mosaics and shadow boxes. His whole display was at market, and all of the colors were so inspiring.
When I’m in a rut, I always pick up his book and get inspiration from the different colors and shapes in his work.
How do you start a typical day in the studio?
I have young kids, so a lot of my morning is spent getting the kids ready and off to school. Since I’m not really a morning person, my creativity doesn’t really start until after lunch when I’ve had some caffeine. So I take care of the business side of things in the morning.
I’m most creative in the evenings. My kids and husband go to bed around 8 so I like to go down to the studio and sometimes I’ll be down there working on my pieces until midnight. That’s my favorite time to be in the studio.
How long does it take to create one of your pieces, and do you tend to work on several pieces at once, or just one piece at a time?
I definitely work on more than one at a time, especially with the butterflies and my medallions and other mixed media work. They will be in all different stages at any given time. When I’m adding my first layers of paint, I may be working on 12-30 at a time. I just spread everything out on the counter space, and once I’ve gotten the first layers down, I start working on them more individually and add the different marks and materials.
For the bigger ones, I’ll work on them alone, whereas with the little ones I’ll work on 6 or 8 at a time.
Tell me about the piece that you’re working on right now.
Right now I’m working on a collaboration for the Grand Summer Ball and the St. Thomas Hospital Foundation. It’s an annual event and they asked me to be the featured artist.
In the foyer where everyone comes in, we’ll have a big gallery wall of all my butterflies in a bright pink and orange color palette, which is their signature palette. We’ve also done prints of different butterflies as party favors for the over 500 guests who will be attending.
My butterflies will also be featured in the flower arrangements. So that will be really fun to be a part of an event with other creatives.
Your work was featured in the 2022 Mobile Bay Magazine Inspiration Home. What was it like to be part of this project?
That was probably my biggest collection at one time. It was for a green home that had a two-story stairwell with a skylight at the top. It was the perfect space for the collection, which featured about sixty butterflies.
Since it was a green home, I tried to go more with earth tones and more natural colors. We also used a Birchwood frame instead of the acrylic shadow boxes for a more natural element.
What do you enjoy most about working with Sybil and the gallery girls at the Shain?
I’m very new to working with the Shain Gallery, but Sybil and the gallery girls are so nice and easy to work with. I haven’t made it to the gallery in person yet, but I can’t wait to go see the gallery in person and get a feel for the space.