On August 7, La Mesa native and resident Elisabeth Eckert left for two weeks in Italy, specifically the titanic Rome, the transcendent Florence and the breezy Sorrento coastline. It’s her second such sponsorship amid her quest to be the best visual artist she can possibly become — at 23, and even as she flouts conventional education and prevailing norms, she’s off to a fantastic start.
“There’s a lot of stigma in the art world,” she explains, “and how you make it and become a professional artist and start being recognized for your work. Usually, you go to art school and hope to get recognized by a gallery or picked up by somebody. But there’s this other way, and that’s what I want to bring the most attention to.”
So says the bona fide entrepreneur, the one-woman art house who’s her own best critic and champion. The words flow as fine-spun as those of the professors whose methods she eschews; a glut of references to art history signal her preferences in media and a fund of knowledge unavailable in the classroom.
Here’s a true believer in the power of art and community, whose acumen for business rivals her sense of beauty and the role of art in its creation.
“Art changes people’s minds. It helps people to think – so it makes sense to go in that direction,” said Eckert. “But it’s something that I want to push back on, because art is inherently supposed to be beautiful. And a lot of traditional art schools are teaching you how to create something that the art galleries deem valuable to get messages across more than creating beauty. The beauty is the thing that’s most important to me.”
Either way, she wins.
Eckert started as an acrylics enthusiast, taking up chalk after falling in love with the popular artwalks in Little Italy. A marketing stint with San Diego Gas & Electric gave way to work under Erin Hanson, owner of Mira Mesa’s Erin Hanson Gallery and a proponent of the oils medium. Hanson’s preference for oils soon rubbed off, with Eckert betraying her taste for art history in the process.
“Paintings from the first Impressionism era (the 1860s and ’70s, featuring such heavyweights as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Rodin) are all painted with oils,” she says. “That’s the style I love the most. I believe it’s captured better with oils because of the texture of the paint. Color is one of my favorite parts, and oil captures it really well.”
And when life hands you a hurdle, you simply toss aside the crossbars and walk on. Eckert knows about hurdles.
“Most dyslexics,” the Heritage Christian School product explains from firsthand experience, “tend to think outside the box. They tend to be more creative because they have to figure out how to make their way in the world a little differently. That’s been [an asset] for me in the work I do.”
The source of her inspiration, she said, she discovered at a watershed symposium some years prior.
“Everything you create,” she explains, “comes from your worldview. I was really convinced by that talk that I wanted to hold onto my perspective and to let the art that I create come naturally out of my worldview. The perspective that is pushed in art school I didn’t really want to pursue.”
For Hanson’s part, she’d found a kindred soul in Eckert, who said it was “an honor” to work at the venue.
“Lis has a wonderful eye for aesthetics,” Hanson said, “and we had a kinship in our love for nature and exploration. Her…Italy trip is such an inspired way to slingshot an interest into reality, and I know it will come out a success… [W]ith continued tenacity and spirit, she will achieve anything she sets out to accomplish.”
To a point, Eckert has already achieved it, having noted a certain local notoriety.
“The people in San Diego do love beauty and nature,” she said. “They love the mountains; they love the oceans. People here are a lot more attuned to nature, especially water.”
And her business acumen only broadens the win-win scenario.
“People just decide that if someone loves your art, someone loves your art,” she continued. “It brightens up their day. It means something to them. I think any creative would benefit from learning business, because anything involving selling your work or exchanging value, business comes in handy.”
It’s also the most important thing to those who look beyond the usual medium of exchange. Eckert responds accordingly, her upcoming journey the latest installment in a concerted effort to make the world beautiful, one beautiful painting at a time.