Elizabeth Semple

Elizabeth Semple, who taught K-12 art in South Florida for 17 years, is on “art retreat” in the Hot Springs area.


When I see one-of-a-kind art, I see a thought that wouldn’t let the artist rest until s/he gave form to that thought. I cannot rest until I illustrate the day’s experience of some weird and tragic/comedic irony. Or was the big event of the day actually seeing time-shattering beauty poised in a single moment? Creating art creates stillness in the sure knowledge that I am doing exactly what I should be. I have a long way to go to real skill, and was thrilled to discover the local artists’ community who provide so much insight and support for this life-quest. This year of being on “art retreat” is a huge luxury for me as finally I have the time and space to birth the forms of the words and images that bustle in my head.


Like all artists who have to wrest time for art from “the rest of their life,” I have always used whatever media best fits the lifestyle of the time. Most of my college portfolio is figure drawing. Quilt-making was the perfect form for the “mommy” years. Writing and graphic design were my forms during the years in publishing. Learning how to use technology to help me talk, write, and teach about art dominated the teaching years.

Draw/Write as an Outlet and a Corral

Pictures and words have been the favored media of a lifetime. My goal this year is to skill-build as an illustrator. I note in my sketchbook and camera the most resonant bits of the day. Then I wake up very early the next morning and fill a page with a single drawing that captures the essence of a moment of that 24-hour period. Sometimes I have to write about it first, to get the image to come.

This simple journalling is my outlet for strong emotions and a corral for strong images. I strive to create convincing images that tell a story, and sound a chord in the quiet heart of the viewer. I am working to master figurative/realism so I can bend it to effective illustration. I honor the brilliant simplicity of Munch’s Scream. Visually, the variety and richness of all the natural and structural forms of Western North Carolina--including, of course, the people--are a huge inspiration. Mentally and emotionally, there is a backlog of images, thoughts, and emotions from a full life. I also would like to learn to paint these passably well.

These Photographs

At first I used a camera just to “take notes” for drawings. Then I used it to prove to myself that I had actually lived. Then Edward Swoszowski (contemplativeeye.com) got me interested in identifying what makes a strong photographic image, and in digital enhancement. The photos shown here are of moments in which time had stopped, moments in which I was arrested by the sight of something so beautiful I could hardly breathe. I felt like a bandit for having seized these images. The only image that I significantly altered is the forest floor. These are my strongest and most recent images that show best in this web format; click here for the rest of my portfolio.

Influences and Instructors

Portrait artists and other illustrators have had the strongest influence on me, especially Artemisia Gentileschi, the artists of medieval manuscripts, and the creators of most ukiyo-e. I am entranced by the black and white illustrations of Albrecht Durer, Gustave Doré, R. Crumb, and the picture books and encyclopedias of my childhood. I sit at the feet of Marguerite Henry, Chris Van Allsburg, Maurice Sendak, and Keizaburo Tejima. Teachers in color, mood and texture these past five years include Yolanda López, Carmen Lomas Garza, Frida Kahlo, Kimberly Dow, Alex Colville, N.C. and Andrew Wyeth and Mary Cassatt. Sculptors Louise Nevelson and Sandy Skoglund teach me about narration in three dimensions.

The skilled and fervent encouragers in my local artists’ group--Barbara Quigley, Louise O'Connor, Diane Cable, Lynda Wheelock, Anne McLaughlin, and Bill Weldner, inspire me, as does my great-uncle Orlando Vitullo and the ever-cheerful cartoonist Dick Kulpa. Digital/photographic artist Edward Swoszowski reminds me to never stop looking and seeing, and my Robert, an artist with carpenter tools, holds back the forest so I can draw.

Thank you to my mother who sent me to museum art school. Thank you to The School District of Palm Beach County for holding my job teaching art, while I learn how to better serve our students.

Elizabeth Semple

© Bill Weldner 2015