Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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Old Materials, Modern Tools


My favorite papermaker Supan Promsen with his niece and a woodblock printed on his paper, 1 x 2 meters

Each day I walk into my studio, and as I look over my work-in-progress, the paper I've been painting gives me a thrill. This unique paper is custom-made for my artwork by Supan Promsen, the man pictured above.

But while I like to use old-school art materials, everything else about the work is 21st century. Supan and I communicate by email, in English. He keeps me up to date on the progress of my paper as it's being made, then FedExes it to me in Australia. I photograph myself and others with a digital camera as we model for my paintings, and use Google to translate text into Chinese, Thai, and Japanese for my current series.

Many times I've rued all the stuff it takes to make art. Usually when lugging artwork across town, or moving countries again. Easels and stretcher bars and large-format thick papers take up a lot of room. I've often wished I could be content with all my work being purely digital; it would make for lighter luggage, but artwork on an iPad wouldn't give off that subtle mulberry smell that my paper does. Something like cornstarch. It's an elixir to a materialist like me.

And that's what keeps me working with all this stuff: the materials are a crucial part of the process: as I mold them with my ideas and hands, I transform them into art. Or [because nobody interesting agrees on a definition of ART anymore] something like it.

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