When I first learned of multi-hyphenate artist Elizabeth Sutton, (she’s a mompreneur slash product designer slash interior decorator), I was fascinated by her vibrant paintings and even more captivated by the girl boss qualities she exuded on her Instagram page. The first thing that caught my eye when I walked through her door, a temporary tattoo on her arm that reads ‘Hustler,’ told me all I needed to know about Liz before I even fueled her with questions.
As I chatted with her on the balcony of her UES apartment, (while her dog, Bond, pawed at our feet and her assistant intermittently showed her incoming emails), she exhibited no signs of distress. “I am definitely somebody who works my best under pressure. When I feel the pressure, I know I have to get shit done and I don't have a choice, so I do it,” she explains definitively. In fact, Elizabeth created her first painting two years ago after a personal, harrowing experience pushed her to explore art. “I definitely started working in a time that was very difficult in my life, I wanted my art to be happy art,” she noted of her colorful aesthetic. With her notable geometric shaped paintings, she puts naysayers who swore we’d never use geometry IRL to shame. You would surmise she grew up a child art prodigy, but as it turns out she picked up a paintbrush for the first time in October 2015. Read more about self-taught artist, Elizabeth Sutton, and her collection that grew into the popularized success it is today.
What was your life like before you started your collection?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and grew up an Orthodox Jew. I'm a mother of two babies; 2 and a half and a seven month old. I'm an artist and an entrepreneur/designer. I started at NYU; I finished at Baruch and I studied finance and marketing. I got a Bachelor's in Business Administration and while I was in college I worked at a fashion line called Parker. I did wholesale, sales, and a lot of merchandising in their showroom. I got married relatively young. I wasn't working, I started doing art as a hobby and that's actually when I made my first piece of art ever but never thought to pursue it as a career. I'd never taken an art class or anything. While I didn't have a full time job I helped my now ex husband launch his app called PRIV which is a beauty on demand app that recently got a majority buy out by NBC. In October 2015 something happened in my personal life that really pushed and motivated me to start working. Originally I thought I was going to have some type of catering company because I was always hosting dinner parties and entertaining guests and I love to cook.
How did you get into art?
I loved art, I grew up in New York so I was always privy to the best museums and culture in the world. I've been going to the MET since I'm a child but the only artistic craft I ever did before I started my business was scrapbooking; I used to scrapbook when I was a kid. Other than that I never touched [a paint brush]. I taught myself everything—my glitter, my collages, my painting. The first time I ever picked up a paintbrush was in October 2015 and I never took a class, ever. The only art class I've ever taken was a silk screening class and I took it because I wanted to make my first silkscreen edition and I needed to understand the process in order to design it properly.
Whether it's art, interior design, or whatever it is, I was always destined to do something aesthetic. I'm someone who likes everything to be aesthetically pleasing be it a dinner table, an organized closet, my handwriting. And for some reason I didn't study that. I didn't choose to study that field but it's definitely what I was born to do.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I have a lot of different categories of my artwork. I'd like to say that I categorize them as follows: geometric abstractions, icons, inanimate and animate objects like the new floral and animal series I’m working on, quotes, and my 3D glitter butterflies which are my signature—those are very unique, I sell them like crazy. I'm really inspired by color, I definitely started working in a time that was very difficult in my life, I wanted my art to be happy art. When I'd paint in my studio for 8 hours a day, it was basically a meditative process for me. It really helped heal whatever it was that I was going through during that time. I get inspired by everything. I see things in the street and I take a picture if I like it but really the ideas come from my head. When I first started to teach myself painting I had started with very simple patterns, geometric abstractions. As I became more comfortable I was like how could I execute this same style because I wanted to stay on brand. There are other types of art I can make that are very cool, they look very different and they're off brand so I don't promote them. It's very important for me to be branded. I was trying to figure out how I could stay true to my style, which is geometric and colorful. My art is really predicated on color balance and symmetry. That's how my art became successful.
I was trying to expand my skill set and paint other things because I can't draw. I can sketch, I can visualize, I can execute, but I don't draw. I started doing digital manipulations of photographs; it's a manual vectorization process and then I sketch that. I project it, I trace it, and then I paint it. That was my way to expand the type of work that I could do while still maintaining my brand identity which is colorful, geometric.
How did your brand grow into the success it is today?
A lot of freaking work. A lot of hustling as you can see from the tattoo on my arm which I did all day today. Basically how it started is I posted a picture on Instagram , someone reached out saying they liked my art, they wanted something, I said sure no problem. I reached out to a couple people who had come through my home over time asking for art, to see if they were still interested, a bunch of them said yes and it really all snowballed from there. As soon as I decided I was going to pursue this, that this was the path I was going to take I reached out to every single contact that I knew that I thought could help me. People in real estate, people in the art world, I started networking like crazy, meeting people, introducing myself, going heavy on social media, and I was just getting these amazing opportunities. And then the character Ryan Serhant from Million Dollar Listing reached out to me; I filmed two episodes for his show. I staged a bunch of apartments and developments for him, I participated in the Hamptons’ Decorator Showhouse, I had my art up at the Oreya Four Seasons restaurant, I participated in the Architectural Digest Design show, I did a permanent installation at the landmarked Lenox Hill Greenwich Village, as well as curated a number of solo shows at different venues. I had a big event during fashion week at an event space called Beautique where Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin showed up coincidentally and have since shipped 3 of the Kardashians artwork. My art will be on display at Bergdorf Goodman next month, and I am working on a number of secret design projects and collaborations.
Can you tell me about the art fundraiser you're organizing?
I'm hosting and organizing a fundraiser this fall, October 19th, for an organization called Art Start. They provide creative therapy via means of art music and therapy for homeless youth in New York City homeless shelters. Because I don't work with a gallery, I always need to put on my own events. I was doing these smaller events; I did the Architectural Digest Design Show but I wanted to really put all my effort into something and go out with a bang and my pet causes have involved homelessness. I've helped homeless people for years. I really got inspired by something that happened to me on the train. I saw a kid who was obviously homeless, he gets on the train, puts on a great performance and starts soliciting dollars and I gave him 5 dollars and gave him my card and told him 'keep hustling'. Right after that I called my publicist, Natasha, saying I know what I'm doing for my next event. We need to find an organization that involves art and homelessness and team up with them. I approached them [Art Start] and told them about me, they said okay no problem. They didn't know who they were getting involved with, I think they thought that I was going to do a small event. I'm not. I've set a minimum goal for 20k. In an ideal world I'd say my goal is 50k but I don't like failing and I didn't want to set myself up for failure so I tried to set myself with a more moderate goal but hopefully we far exceed that. I myself am donating two original artworks valued at 12,000 dollars and we have a number of amazing auction and raffle packages.
What was your schedule like today?
Today I went to the NY Now gift show to do some product research and network with manufacturers but instead all I did was solicit donations for my Art Start event. I did a studio visit in the morning. I met with a kitchen showroom company who's borrowing my art for a very big design event. Now I'm doing an interview. I have a ton of emails to answer. I interviewed an intern. I interviewed someone who might be starting a sales force for me. I have to come up with some designs for commissions. I speak to my graphic designer all day because I'm putting together a product line. Almost every day I focus on my product line for home accessories and decor. Everything from tableware and giftware but eventually I'd love to be producing lamps, furniture, linens, everything. Spend time with my kids. Organize my household. Who even knows. I don’t even know where to find my head half the day.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Essentially I’d like to have something of a lifestyle brand. I'd love to have my designs on thousands of products. I'd love to be a cross between an artist/painter, a designer of products and spaces, and a chef. And always a mom first. At the end of the day, my creative interest lies mostly in the interior sphere. Nothing satisfies me as much as painting.. I love the process as I find it very meditative. But when I design a room and see it all come together—my vision—it's the same thing to me as designing a piece of art.
What advice would you give someone going for a career in art?
Don't get defeated, you need to have a thick skin. When people slam the door in your face, try again. Go to somebody else. You definitely have to figure out ways to monetize your business through prints, editions, renting your artwork out to leasing offices. You have to get creative, putting your designs on products, things like that. And try to sleep. You have to remember to take care of yourself too, which I often forget.