Elise Allen’s path to fine art didn’t exactly follow a straight line. Once a professional faux finisher in New York, she took a break from her career after getting married, having children and moving to New Orleans. It wasn’t until she met an inspiring fellow artist in the Big Easy that everything changed, and her painting career came to life. “The floodgates opened and I just kept painting and painting,” says Allen.
Eventually, she tried her hand at faux finishing again — focusing on Venetian plaster — but this time working on custom wood panels. “You can’t do Venetian plaster on canvas — there’s too much pressure when applying the plaster.”
This unique technique is now Allen’s artistic mainstay. Making each piece requires hours and hours of careful work. “There’s up to 200 layers of plaster per piece,” says Allen. “Venetian plaster is very thin, so there’s a lot of layering, and layering and layering.”
“I like the abstract element of Venetian plaster,” she says. “I like what comes up when I’m working on it. Every pass brings up something new and interesting,” she says.
She has two studios that she works out of: A small work studio off her bedroom at her house. “I work on smaller pieces there. I like that because I can work early in the morning or late at night.”
“I usually work on 4 to 5 paintings at once. I work on something, let it dry, and then work on something else,” Allen says. “Sometimes I get stuck, and then leave it for a few weeks until I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and get inspired again.”
Allen also works in a studio in downtown New Orleans, on Julia Street (pictured in this post). “It’s a huge, open space. There’s great light and it’s very peaceful and relaxing,” she says. “I keep a very calm place, and I think you can see that through my paintings.”
Despite the dramatic transition from the Manhattan art scene to New Orleans’ vibrant artistic community, Allen loves the beauty and color of New Orleans — it constantly inspires her. “Every time I walk around the neighborhood, I see a new house and a new color. I’m constantly surprised and inspired by the beauty around me.”