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Making Art: Painting with Paper

Making Art: Painting with Paper       
Written by Melissa Slaven Warren, photos by Jason Armond    
Saturday, 23 March 2013
Using magazines as her medium, Elizabeth Singletary assembles bits of brightly colored images to tell a story through paper in this year’s signature artwork for the North Carolina Azalea Festival.

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Some artists enjoy sharing the meaning behind their artwork or listening to patrons’ guesses. But not Elizabeth Singletary. For the 2013 Azalea Festival featured artist, her work is really just about making people happy. “My whole thing is, if you like something, you like it,” Elizabeth shared. “If it makes you feel something, you don’t have to know what it is, you like it just because you like it.”

And that’s the sentiment that prompted Donna Cameron, current president of the Azalea Festival, to invite Elizabeth for coffee and ask her to create the official artwork of the 2013 Azalea Festival. “It was a huge thing for her to go out on a limb and pick someone that rips up pieces of magazines,” laughed Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s passion for paper began at an early age when her dad taught her how to do calligraphy. It was a rainy-day activity they shared until he passed away when Elizabeth was just eleven. His beautiful handwriting, and how it meshed with paper, was the gift he left her, and sparked her passion to be an artist.

When it came to the theme for this year’s festival artwork, Donna encouraged Elizabeth to be true to herself and follow her heart. Elizabeth wanted the piece to be all-encompassing and representative – not just of the garden tour homes’ backyards, but of anyone’s yard blooming with azaleas and dancing butterflies.

Elizabeth included the newly designated North Carolina state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. This butterfly species is found in all counties across the state – and in most backyards. On a personal level, the butterfly represents a transformation for Elizabeth as an artist – from caterpillar to butterfly.

Elizabeth’s work is created solely from scraps of magazine pages glued to a canvas and sealed with clear acrylic spray. There is no paint, only the illusion of bright, beautiful oil colors. Elizabeth doesn’t cut the bits of paper-instead, she rips them piece-by-piece and glues them in place as she goes. Bright colors and textures first draw her in as she flips through the pages of magazines. “I personally like artwork that elevates my mood, so I like the bright colors,” she explained. The piece took Elizabeth nearly thirty hours to complete.

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Elizabeth’s work includes hidden images within the image. Among the bits and pieces of ripped paper are elements of surprise from Azalea Festivals past. Close examination will reveal motifs of downtown fireworks, photos of the Belles, pieces of past Azalea Festival artwork, the words peace and love, part of the map from the parade route, the Azalea Festival logo and what else, other azaleas.

Elizabeth’s art – heavily influenced by nature – animals, birds and flowers – is in a number of local galleries including Checker Cab and the Fisherman’s Wife, as well as several out-of-town venues in North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut and Washington. You can learn more about Elizabeth’s creative collages at www.elizabethsingletaryart.com. She is available for commissions to your specifications.

So for those still determined to find the meaning in Elizabeth’s Azalea Festival piece, for her it means a right, happy occasion for our community and the re-emergence of spring. “People say my art is very bright and happy,” shared Elizabeth. “I love that.”

This article can be found in Focus on the Coast.