New in Town: Elizabeth Harris

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By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 27, 2015
 
IF YOU want to meet artist Elizabeth Harris, your best bet can be the estuary where she goes often with her canvas, paint brushes and colours to seek inspiration from nature and bring it alive in her paintings. And that’s what brought her to Squamish.
“The Chief, the rivers, the estuary, the ocean…I could be here for many years and still be excited at the artistic possibilities,” she says.
Harris, who recently bought a one-acre property in Paradise Valley, is no stranger to Squamish. As an artist living in Vancouver, she visited the town many times all these years to hike and enjoy the great outdoors. And when she would drive from Kamloops to Vancouver, Harris and her daughter would take the Squamish route and she recalls how she expressed a desire many times to find a permanent home in Squamish.
In many ways, Squamish was a reminder of the place where Harris grew up—a sprawling cattle ranch around Fort St. John. The rolling hills and pastoral landscape inspired and sharpened her artistic sensibilities and helped many a blank canvases morph into colorful scenes gleaned from abundant nature.
After graduation from Emily Carr School of Art and Design, Harris lived for a few years in Kamloops, but then moved to Vancouver where she lived for nearly 20 years before moving to town.
Four years ago, Harris met Elisa Langenstam of Stock Home Design at the Whistler Sunday Market. Harris rented Langenstam’s studio on Second Ave and had been commuting almost every day till she decided to make Squamish her permanent home. This year, she found a property with the help of local realtor Jack Fowler and moved there in March.
Squamish was the ideal location for Harris for two reasons: First, she would be equidistant from Whistler and Vancouver; and second, she would be surrounded by nature, a perennial source of inspiration for her art. Living in North Vancouver or downtown Vancouver, she had felt removed from nature. It was accessible by car but she was never surrounded by it the way she was when she was a little kid growing up on a cattle ranch.
The move to Squamish will bring rivers and mountain and forests close to Harris, stirring the creativity that urban living might have stifled. “You are always inspired by your surroundings here. The textures, the forms, the layering of elements…there is always something new to look at,” she says.
Harris is a ‘plein air’ painter, a French phrase used to describe outdoors painting. And as a plein air artist, she knows there would be enough material in Squamish to last a lifetime. She enjoyed painting the scenes in the estuary, the birds and their singing and the subtle changes of nature.
Harris has a big outdoor studio and a coach house, which she is renovating to rent for summer workshops and start an artist-in-residence program.
“I feel more relaxed here, and I plan to make my paradise in Paradise Valley,” she says.