The Art of Elaine Burge
It all started in a small town in Georgia. A kindergarten class was given the task of creating their own drawings of the local rodeo, and the best drawing would win the student artist tickets to see the rodeo in person. What was intended to be a one-day project turned into overnight homework for one little girl—as she drew the horse with the cowboy holding on tight, she became enthralled by the scene of the stadium, drawing each member of the crowd one by one. That little girl, Elaine, not only won tickets to the rodeo, but she discovered a passion for art through her love of animals that never went away.
When Elaine graduated high school, she embarked on a new journey to the bigger town of Athens, Georgia. In Athens, everything revolves around the University of Georgia Bulldogs where football is a religion. Here, Elaine continued to develop her love of creating and received a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design while sprinkling in painting and drawing classes every chance she could.
It Takes a Village
Fresh out of college, Elaine began working as a web designer in Atlanta but continued to paint, receiving commissions to create art for various friends, family, and clients. Her husband, a wildlife manager, encouraged her to chase her passion for art, and her desire to have a tangible product from her creativity and her continuous support from her family pushed her toward pursuing her dream. On one Saturday evening, Elaine was live painting at a wedding and heard about the Gregg Irby Gallery in Atlanta. Promising they would only look and not discuss business, Elaine and her mother-in-law strolled into the gallery one afternoon to look around, and soon after, Elaine mustered up the courage to introduce herself to Gregg.
After reviewing Elaine’s art, Gregg tasked Elaine with creating a cohesive body of work to display at the gallery—20 pieces, no less. And while Elaine’s experience was mostly in portraiture, there was something special in her animal paintings. Cows, baby fawn, and hunting dogs are just a few of the animals that come to life with layers upon layers of acrylic paints—a childhood love of animals popped off the canvas with every brush stroke. And upon Gregg’s deadline, Elaine’s body of work was complete. Gregg placed Elaine’s collection in her gallery and to this day, Elaine maintains a collection of work in this space.
“I start with a sketch,” Elaine says. “But then I cover up the canvas in color.” I start to giggle, and Elaine says, “It’s intimidating! Just a white canvas. I just have to cover it up with color to get started.” As intimidated as Elaine sounds by the stark white canvas, her process in its entirety is humble and requires patience. Starting with a hand-drawn sketch, Elaine quickly covers the canvas with her medium of choice, acrylic paint. As she works, if there is something she doesn’t like, she just “covers it up.”
“It’s a process,” she says. “I cover up what I don’t like about the piece and just keep adding until I like it.”
Through the process, a lot of patterns develop in her pieces. These hand-drawn and imperfect patterns are inspired by textiles, specifically Elaine’s love of old patterned quilts, which add dimension to her work.
Over the Years
Starting in portraits, then adding a 20-piece body of work in animal paintings and eventually transitioning to landscapes and abstracts, Elaine has found the secret to making her work accessible to a multitude of clients. Wide-open spaces extend into her landscape work, where you truly feel like you are in the middle of a field with wind blowing across your sun-kissed cheeks. Her animal paintings pop up off the canvas in a way that makes you want to look where the pink, blue, and green dog is pointing so that you, too, can see the quail.
Lately, Elaine has taken a leap into abstract work. While she calls it a break from the norm, her abstract paintings feel natural and draw inspiration from animals. With every intuitive brush stroke, Elaine creates a whirlwind of color that makes you look twice and find something new each time.
Although her work has grown over the years, her passion for portraits remains steadfast. These moments captured, no matter how big or small, burst off the canvas in a swirl of color. From a bride and groom embracing during their first dance to three men coming in from their morning hunt to a little girl twirling in her Sunday dress, each of these moments memorializes a special moment in time for her clients. This responsibility is not lost on Elaine: “Not only are you creating a special piece of art, but it captures a memory of something your client truly cares about.”
Elaine’s daily life is full of inspiration for her work. Her husband shares her love of the great outdoors and her little girl is a true bundle of joy. With four dogs, nine chickens, and two cats, Elaine has ample inspiration for her animal paintings. And moving forward, you will find Elaine staying true to her roots while adding in more layers, fabrics, and patterns to her works of art.
When asked what her advice for younger artists would be, she said, “If you have the urge to create, make the time to do it. You’re doing the world a disservice by not sharing your art.” Elaine’s goal of sharing joy through her painting is truly a gift to all those who see it. Whether it be a moment captured in time, a sense of freedom in rolling hills, or the comfort of man’s best friend, Elaine’s work feels like home.
Written by Sarah Grubbs
Photography by Kristen Scott, Holly Knight, and Donna Von Bruening