Elizabeth Sheppell is an explorer, creating artwork that pushes the boundaries of different mediums and pops off the wall at you. The Atlanta-based painter has made a career of experimenting with materials, colors, and techniques. Her works include her series of "fats" on panels—raw, saturated, and textural paintings featuring endless layers and unusual shapes. This "fat" series has served as a catalyst for Sheppell's new capsule, created exclusively for Lulu and Georgia, of one-of-a-kind plaster paintings. It is a first for the artist to use plaster as the medium for an entire collection, but the material's matte finish lends it a natural appearance. "I collect and am drawn to crystals, seashells, rocks, and plants, and I wanted to create layered, textured pieces that evoke the feeling of this richness found in nature," notes Sheppell when we spoke with her for our latest artisan feature. We also discuss how impactful creative havens have been for her career, whether they be 90s-era Brooklyn while studying for her BFA, her original space at an arts community in Atlanta, or her ongoing partnership with the art house Zoe Bios Creative. Finally, Sheppell gives a few styling tips on curating her bold, tactile, and tonal paintings, including pairing them with a few styles from our collection of table lamps. Read on for more from our conversation with the painter.
Could you tell us about your creative journey? Can you reflect on a specific moment when you knew you wanted to pursue painting professionally?
I grew up on a farm in Ohio and spent a lot of time alone; being creative was my outlet and dream space. My parents collected art and antiques. Beautiful things surrounded me and left an impression on me. I spent all my spare time in the art room and took classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in the summers. I received a BFA in painting and a minor in sculpture at Pratt Institute. Brooklyn in the mid-'90s was raw, rough, pure freedom, and a creative haven. I have had other jobs/careers to support myself through the years but have shown and sold my art all along the way. I have had gallery representation since 1997. I have been fortunate to have been a part of many great galleries and had my work placed in corporate collections and with established collectors over the years.
You've spoken about how much you love that your studio is located at the Goat Farm Arts Center in Atlanta. How has its community of artists impacted how you see the world and inspired your work?
Being in a city art community is always a great comfort. It gives a sense of belonging. I had my studio at home for many years but wanted a more spirited and open place to create. My original space at the Goat Farm had a very rustic feeling that fit my messy practices. The chickens and goats that ran about the farm touched my childhood memories, and I felt right at home. The amount of creativity, installations, photo shoots, and art shows have been a great inspiration. The wide range of artists and the ability to connect again and not be isolated has been a nice change. It also helps to keep pushing as you have a feeling of momentum knowing others are on a similar journey right next to you.
I am now in a satellite studio close to my home as the original Goat Farm undergoes a transformation. I now have a newer, pure white space that perhaps keeps me a little more in order and feels more modern and quieter in my surroundings. The natural pieces I created for Lulu and Georgia embody that peaceful meditative feeling.
Similarly, how did your relationship with Zoe Bios Creative start, and what do you like most about working with the art house?
I had worked in the wholesale home and decor industry for many years, and I knew Zoe Bios from seeing them at trade shows. I love their quality of work and feel they are unique to this industry. I reached out to introduce my work as I thought we could be a good fit.
What is refreshing about working with ZBC is not having to limit myself, and they encourage experimentation and finding new avenues to share my work. Since they are also creators, there is a deep understanding of the artist and their practices.
They understand the level of quality I want to uphold and are very supportive of new ideas to present.
We're so excited about your plaster wall art paintings! What was the inspiration for this collection?
I have been painting "fat" for many years, and this collection is a softer version that is more neutral in tones inspired by natural, earthy elements. I originally gave this collection the name Natural Touch Stone series. I collect and am drawn to crystals, seashells, rocks, and plants, and I wanted to create layered, textured pieces that evoke the feeling of this richness found in nature. It is a sense of serenity but also expresses the deep layers within us.
You've chosen plaster as the medium for this capsule. What drew you to experiment with the materiality of these pieces?
This is the first time I am using plaster as a base for a whole collection. I wanted to bring more texture to build upon and explore this medium. It gives a more matte and natural look. I also add many different acrylic mediums to my paints that help obtain the peaks and depths of the works and the technique I want to achieve.
You speak to working on multiple pieces simultaneously in an unorganized state of chaos. Could you walk us through this creative process?
I always have small paintings going on while working on larger works that take more time. I have worked this way for a long time. I create these on wood panels or paper that work well together as a large wall installation or sell on their own. It often brings in new ideas that spark the next collection. This is a looser way of painting that helps create space for the larger works. Focusing on one large piece for so long is too constricting for me. These smalls give breathing room. My studio tables are full of paint, and there is no real organization, but somehow, I know where it all is. I feel great freedom in working this way.
Any styling tips for layering this collection into peoples' homes?
I love multiples of small pieces on a wall to create an installation. Or adding a larger piece into a home, salon-style, with their existing artwork, is also a fun idea.
Similarly, are there any Lulu and Georgia pieces that would pair well with your wall art collection?
I really love the textured and sculptural table lamps. The organic, earthy tones of the Dampoelis, Jayna, and Duffy lamps, in particular, would pair well as they have some interesting finishes and a sculptural feel that I am drawn to. Your collection has so many beautiful natural pieces, so it's hard to pick!
What is one thing you want all of your customers to know about your goods?
I paint intuitively and put my heart and soul into my works. I believe connection is important these days, and I hope collectors can feel they were created with thoughtful intention.
We know that care is critical in preserving these pieces—how should customers care for them?
They should not be placed in direct sunlight in a window space. If the pieces ever get dusty, just carefully use a small soft cloth to dust them.
For someone who is just getting started in this space, what is one piece of advice you would share with them?
Always be true to yourself. Keep pushing and putting out your work. It takes dedication and persistence. There might be a lot of no's along the way, but that is part of the learning experience to make you a stronger creator.
Have clear intentions with partnerships, and be open to opportunities you may not have imagined.
What's next for you, your work, and your partnership with Zoe Bios Creative?
I am working on a collection of art for a new gallery partnership with Thomas Dean Gallery here in Atlanta. They have a great mix of well-established artists; I am looking forward to this new journey with them. I have also created a textile line from my artwork and will continue to pursue this avenue online. It is a bohemian vibe with lots of colors and textures. It is a fun way to express more ideas and bring them in new forms to customers.
I also recently had a lovely studio visit with Minh Nguyen from Zoe Bios Creative. We will be working on more series together for future projects to come.