Meet Elizabeth Lang of Between the Evergreens
It’s our great pleasure to share about the artist behind the Between the Evergreens. Elizabeth Lang, or Liz, creates nature-inspired paintings, available as originals, art prints, and greeting cards. She also does commissioned work. A fellow Atlanta native, you can often find Liz at arts & craft festivals connecting with patrons by bringing her art to them in the outdoors. Here is our interview with our dear friend, Liz Lang.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ARTIST? WHAT HAS THAT JOURNEY BEEN LIKE?
Since I can remember, I played around with making things, designing, painting, and drawing. My mother put me in art classes at a young age and I'm so grateful for that. She always showed encouragement for my artistic side. I never studied art formally, but the art classes I've taken throughout my life have shaped my natural desire into a skill, and for that I am very grateful. When it came time to pick a major in college, I chose counseling because I had a strong internal belief that art wasn't a real career. I can't remember anyone telling me this specifically, but I think it was one of those things you pick up on as a kid when you hear others call art a "hobby" and encourage you to choose a "promising" career like being a doctor. Whatever I had seen or heard lead me to internalize that art was just for fun. I didn't even consider it when it came to a major. To choose to be an artist, I felt, would be frivolous. That belief stuck with me for me for years to come.
After years of working as a counselor and academic advisor, I grew and realized things were possible that I never thought were. In my career working with college students in addiction recovery, I began to see myself overcome challenges and grow as a professional and an individual. I started to see my strengths and realized art was one of them. I encouraged others to follow their dreams and pay attention to what they were good at in order to choose a major and career. Desire, skill, and hard work combine to make a fierce future. I realized there was something I had never allowed myself - to see my own desire to be an artist as valid and possible. "Artist" was a big title and I didn't feel worthy of it. Once I acknowledged that desire, it took a few more years for me to make a move.
In 2016, I left my job at the university where I had worked and grown so much. I left behind friends and working with the people I loved. But I wasn't running away; I was running toward something I felt called to. I knew what was next, but I didn't know exactly what it would look like. I had wanted to start an art business on the side while working at the university, but I couldn't find the time or energy. I left my job to start my business using my savings. I created the space I needed to work, making myself a studio in my apartment and asking friends for help. I traveled and hiked for inspiration and took little side jobs to make money. I let myself paint what I wanted to and tried to adjust to working for myself. I signed up for festivals. I bought supplies. I did commissions and got my work into stores. Every milestone felt huge. It was such a rush of energy that first year. But I definitely felt the growing pains. There was so much I had to learn. So many things I did wrong. So much wasted - at least that's what I thought at the time.
I am much more comfortable now living as an artist. I've settled into the pace of making art, the ups and downs of creative flows, and the acceptance of "wasted time." What I thought I was wasting, I was actually using to step up. Growing usually looks like a lot of ugly and only a few pretty things. But when I look at the big picture, it all looks beautiful. I understand how each step got me to where I am. How every mistake taught me something. How I will always have something to learn. I create best when I live happily in a place of confidence and humility: confidence I deserve to be an artist and humility to understand I am not perfect.
THOSE ARE BEAUTIFUL LESSONS LEARNED! WHERE DID YOUR SHOP NAME COME FROM AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
I started my business after a long-felt connection to nature and art. I wanted to make beautiful things and I felt most inspired by our natural world. My favorite place in the world is the Redwood forest, and so I began to search for ideas for a name for my business that related. I was reading John Muir and found a quote that inspired a name and a feeling, "Between every two pines, is a doorway to a new world." To me, this quote expresses how it feels to venture into the natural world and find something peaceful - a moment of mindfulness and insight into yourself. I believe we can find that on walks in nature, listening to waterfalls and birds singing, feeling rain, bathing in the ocean, and climbing mountains. That is what I want my art to express - a feeling of the awe nature brings you. There is peace and joy in the colors, smells, and sounds we can find outside!
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR ART? WHAT DO YOU HOPE IT MAKES PEOPLE THINK OR FEEL?
I want my art to make people feel the way nature makes me feel - alive, hopeful, and inspired. I have struggled with the idea of art as helping others. I grew up believing you help others in very specific ways - sharing food, kindness, etc. If art is the gift I have been given, how can I use it to help? I think I ask myself this constantly, but at the moment, the way I answer it is this... When I discovered art, I felt whole. I had an outlet for emotions, and I found a place I could be myself. I have never felt more "me" than when I do art. That gift changed my life, so maybe by faith I should continue to use my gift to change the lives of others. I'm not a vain person. I don't care for shallow appearances. I care about beauty as a meaningful and powerful thing in our world. And I want to share that beauty through my art.
I THINK YOU’VE NAILED THE NAME AND THE EFFECT! TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS… HOW DO YOU GET INSPIRED? WHAT TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS DO YOU WORK WITH?
I love to travel and hike to find inspiration. Nature seems to be able to hold everything you're experiencing. It's such a wonderful feeling to walk into the forest and feel your stresses melt away. Doing these things fills me with the energy to get started on new works. I mostly use acrylic paint, which tends to dry quickly, especially outside, so I typically take photographs of the places I visit and paint them when I'm back home in my studio. Sometimes I bring a travel art kit with me which includes oil crayons, paper, watercolors, and a notepad and pen.
DO YOU EVER HIT CREATIVE BLOCKS—HOW DO YOU PUSH PAST THEM?
I definitely find myself facing creative blocks at times. Each block seems to be unique. I try to listen to what I might be needing at that time - a good cry, a good meal, a friend, exercise, sleep? Sometimes just the act of paying attention to my physical and emotional needs is enough to move past what holds me back from continuing to create. I think if you listen to yourself, you might realize your "block" is coming from a voice inside you that needs something. Like "hey, what's this kid hanging onto my pants leg for and dragging me down?" And really that kid is just a voice that is asking you to take care of yourself and when you do, you can move on. But there are some blocks that seem to last for no known reason and continue no matter what you do. I push myself to work during this time, but sometimes I just have to wait it out. For me, creative flows seem to be more like waves in the ocean, cresting and receding at their own pace. I actually find a lot of balance in switching tasks when I feel unable to paint. For example, I like to work on administrative sides of the business when I don't feel inspired. I handle emails, marketing, cook dinner, go to bed, and start again the next day. Creative blocks can almost be their own entity. I like to ask them what they want, and if they stay without responding, I try to take care of myself and work the best I can until they leave.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF BEING A FULL-TIME ARTIST AND BUSINESS OWNER?
The hardest thing is relying completely on yourself. I mean, of course, ask for help! But if you don't work, the business doesn't work. If you don't hustle, you don't get paid. I miss that about working at a job with a set salary - getting paid for sick time and vacation! There are some days that I want to call in sick, but if I don't come to work everything shuts down.
SO TRUE! WHAT DO YOU ENJOY OUTSIDE OF YOUR WORK? WHAT WOULD WE FIND YOU DOING ON A WEEKEND?
Hiking and travel are not just means of inspiration for painting, they are my favorite things to do! I love to find new places to explore, and will usually take my dog Lucy who also loves a good hike. I also love to shop and eat! Little markets with local goods like produce and handmade items are my favorite. Since I work at many of these markets, I find myself spending some of the money I make. I try to spend wisely there, but hey, good comes back around right? My boyfriend and I also love to search out new food spots in Atlanta. Our favorites are little holes-in-the-wall with amazing Mexican cuisine.
HOW ARE YOU EXPERIENCING COVID-19? WHAT ARE YOU HOPING STAYS THE SAME AS WE REBUILD FROM THE PANDEMIC, AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE CHANGES?
Oh man! I have such mixed emotions about the COVID-19 experience right now. It breaks my heart to see the suffering of others - from those who couldn't be with sick loved ones or lost someone during this time, to those who are living alone or lost their job. I feel for them so much. I am fortunate to have a job that has continued to bring me income during this time, but it has changed greatly. Most notably, I haven't been able to do festivals and have greatly missed the people and excitement of art shows. But I do enjoy the quiet of being at home more. Maybe that is just me being comfortable working from home (and also used to it by now). I enjoy having more time with my boyfriend and our two dogs, cooking and enjoying movies together. I hope this time at home makes people slow down a little. I hope they realize we don't have to move so quickly through life. We can enjoy the important things like moments together and things will still get done! This experience has definitely helped me prioritize what's important and I hope that is one positive take away for others.
The hardest thing for me right now is missing people. I know we are all learning new ways to be together, but I don't love the inability to be physically present with others. I miss family meals and drinks with friends and festivals. I want to greet someone I see in the store with a smile and shake the hand of someone I meet for the first time. I want to talk to someone at an art festival about art and life and nature. I want to hug friends and sit close on benches, drinking beers. This experience has made me so grateful for those moments! It makes me feel so privileged to be able to call a friend and meet them for a drink at a local restaurant. I don't think I'll ever take that for granted again! And as sad as it makes me to miss that now, I am grateful for the awareness and appreciation I now have for all of those things.