Painter Elisa Sheehan shares her portfolio, divided between two distinctive bodies of work. We spoke with her about inspiration and growing a business.
ABI: What is your inspiration and how would you describe your art?
ES: My inspiration is and always has been, nature. Even as a youngster my very favorite things to draw were those found in nature. Trees were something I liked to try to master by drawing repeatedly and flowers were always intriguing in their beauty and complexity.
I describe my art to those who’ve not seen it as “abstract botanical” and I think that’s accurate. While there are recognizable things in my work such as branches, leaves, pods, etc., I also like to use abstraction to get across the sensations of nature such as wind blowing through a tree, those sometimes intangible feelings of being present in the outdoors. Finished pieces are never strictly representational or abstract – they lie in between.
ABI: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see your business going?
ES: I have so many plans for the future and they excite and inspire me all equally! This Spring I have a series I’m exploring that revolves around lichen. I’ve been out collecting lots of different kinds of lichen and studying them. I’m trying some new techniques and mediums to see if I can bring this concept I have in mind to life.
Beyond that specific series, I am continuing to change up my color palettes and I’m really yearning to paint even bigger. As I continue to build up my portfolio, I plan to expand my offerings into fabrics, decor and prints. I’ve been asked many times if my pieces could be turned into a bedspread, a dress, tablecloths and napkins and I’d love to make that a reality.
Prints are also something I get requests for often, and I’ve recently been approached to sell some on a website so I’m exploring that option. I’d love to get my art into more hands and homes this way.
ABI: You have done some art licensing in the past. Tell us about this experience.
ES: Yes, I licensed the series of childrens art that I created for my own children when they were born. Since I didn’t set out to sell or license them at all when I first created them, the licensing deal was quite a nice bonus.
Of course I learned some of the very obvious things like negotiating a licensing contract, but I also learned what it’s like to work with a partner in this way and what they bring to the table. With the quarterly sales reports provided, it was enlightening to see which pieces were top sellers.
In future licensing deals, both with kids art and fine art, I will ask more questions about how they promote the items, the frequency of those promotions, and how many people and potential buyers they are getting the work in front of. Those are some things I didn’t really think about as much as I should have in my first deal. I would also think about what I can do in terms of complimentary offerings to my existing collection to bolster awareness and sales.