It was on a bitter cold but sunny afternoon when I sat down with Baltimore-based painter, Liza Hathaway Matthews in her Woodbrook house overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Roland. A 1999 grad of MICA, Liza’s been getting a lot of press recently: two of her paintings appear in the February 2015 issue of House Beautiful and textile company Cotton & Quill has picked up her designs to produce fabric and wallpaper for interiors. As an painting major with a minor in interior design, the Garrison Forest alum is living proof that sticking with your passion, despite working full-time and raising three kids, can lead to success.
She shares with us how she got her start, how she manages her busy life, and what inspires her work.
BFB: How did you get your start?
LHM: I attended MICA for painting and interior design, and then started working at a commercial interior design firm. I found that it really didn’t keep my interest, and so I took a different tack and started doing fundraising for the United Way.
BFB: That’s quite a change! Did you continue to paint?
LHM: I painted when I had time, but I also had three children, so my painting time was very limited. I worked on the decoration of our houses, so I kept my hand in. As the children got older, and I changed jobs, I found more time to paint and started getting back into it. When we moved into this house over the summer, we converted one of the rooms into a studio where I can work without worrying that I am in the way of things… and I can spill paint on the floors and not worry too much!
BFB: What media do you paint in?
LHM: I use mostly acrylics, some oils and even Crisco Oil! I tend to use kitchen utensils rather than paint brushes. And by that I mean off-set knives, spatulas and the like. I like layered paintings, and applying the paint using kitchen utensils helps it go on in thicker layers and makes it easier for me to manipulate it. Regardless of what I paint, there’s always a little bit of green in it!
It’s a new thing, but I am trying to incorporate gold, silver or pearlescent paint into my work. It creates such a reflective surface and makes the paints shimmer. These paints give the painting depth and texture and create interest.
BFB: Where do you show your work?
LHM: I have had shows in some of the local galleries and shops. Last summer, I held a show at the Antiques Exchange and In Watermelon Sugar in Hampden. I’ve also had some of my paintings in model homes in Bozzuto Homes developments, so that’s been great exposure. I also work with an art broker who brings my work to new clients.
I am now working with interior designers, some local and some national. Celerie Kemble in Florida had a spread in the February House Beautiful Magazine, and two of my paintings were featured in one of the rooms. And I work with Hillary Thomas in Los Angeles. I frequently lend things to designers to show to their clients on approval.
I also accept commissions. I work with the client to decide primary colors of the paintings, and on dimensions and subject. Sometimes, instead of one large painting, I will create a triptych or a diptych. It frequently works better in the space, and it makes a statement.
BFB: Everyone’s on social media these days. What about you?
LHM: Ha! Of course, I am! I have a very active Instagram account (link) and try to post something to it every day. It’s very gratifying to get instant feedback on my work. And I have a website, www.lizahathawaymatthews.com, where I try and showcase some of my recent works.
BFB: Can you talk a bit about your style?
LHM: I love botanicals and flowers. I am working on a technique for marbleizing, hence the Wesson Oil! And I am wild for Chinoiserie – I do a riff on the traditional Chinese paintings of flowers on silk. I like layers and textures and depth in my paintings. I also love collages, bits and pieces… I do the backgrounds as sort of a water-colored wash, or I marbleize them, and then do the painting, adding to it in layers and colors until it’s finished.
BFB: What other projects are you working on?
LHM: I am working with Cotton & Quill, an Alabama-based textiles company. We are turning some of my prints into fabrics. They would make fabulous sheets and bed linens! I am also producing giclée prints of my works.
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