In early August I sat down with Louisa Maza, an electrical engineer and artist based in Brooklyn, New York. As an electrical engineer one might expect her life to be square, however, her art and experiences show otherwise. Other than her day job, she enjoys creating, hiking, and exploring beautiful places. Louisa is in fact my sister, and this was the first time in a year that she and I sat down. Covid kept us virtual, but we were finally able to see each other in person. We chatted on my bed like two schoolgirls, and she told me all about how she plays around with colors to express a deeper part of herself.
Where did your journey with art start?
My journey started with school. The first school I went to was very much focused on realistic artwork, anything that deviated from that, creative expression, wasn’t really encouraged. Then I changed schools and the art there was much more conceptual and about the ideation process and brainstorming process. That’s when I really fell in love with art.
I then went to college for engineering so there was no formal art training past that point, but I kept painting. It was something that I would do on my holidays. My goal was always to paint one or two things on break. Now that I don’t go to school anymore, and I have more time and money to fund my painting supplies, I’ve taken it up in a more serious way. I’m now in an art group and I’m organizing an art exhibition and just generally immersing myself in the art world. I’m finally able to call myself an artist.
Tell me about your work. What’s your process, what do you like to create?
I paint. In high school, I learned how to use oils and fell in love with them, but oils take up time and space. You have to leave them out to dry for a week and in tiny New York apartments it’s not as convenient. Something else I’ve been playing with is scale, and having an oil painting taped up on the wall doesn’t work, it’s just not practical. So I’ve been getting a lot more comfortable with acrylics, which is now my medium of choice. However, I still use oils to add texture to my paintings. I add glue and found materials, not in a collage style, but sticking pieces of packing paper that you would normally recycle and create shapes that are 3D on the canvas.
I’m generally obsessed with color. I use it instead of lines to define shape and create depth. Watercolor was a new discovery as you’re entirely dependent on color. So during the pandemic, I started doing a watercolor journal and would try and do 10-15 minute sketches. I didn’t get to do it every day ---- that was the goal ---- but I did it as often as possible.
Did you have to feel inspired to do these sketches?
During Covid, I found myself more attracted to natural themes. Before I was very much into portraiture, and then during Covid, I couldn’t really bring myself to do portraits of myself or the people around me ---- I don’t know why. I did do a series of self-portraits, but they were of my hands. My sense of self became so tied to what I was doing and not what I looked like. I guess because no one could really see me. Now that things have opened up some more I’ve gone back to portraiture, but for the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been doing beautiful flowers, the outdoors, and trees.
What do you prefer to paint?
I would like the answer to be portraiture because some of the most emotive and inspiring exhibits I’ve been to have been portraiture, but I think I’m a ways to go in embedding that amount of emotion in my portraits.
The human body is really fun to paint, more fun than nature. There are more subtleties. I like finding colors that people don’t notice naturally in a photograph and highlighting them. I feel that with nature it’s so vibrant on its own that you don’t need to add anything.
Other than observing colors, do you ever expand and use abstract colors? How do you pick and choose?
I just finished a portrait that is going to be in an art show where I tried to only paint with colors that were not natural skin colors. The colors I was drawn to were purple and red. I did all the shadows in purples and blue and all the lighter highlights of the face in orange-red tones to get the contrast of the primary colors.
Do you ever play with colors in that way with nature or just portraits?
In my watercolors I definitely do. I like to buy odd-colored vegetables and fruits and then paint them. I bought a ton of purple carrots and did a watercolor where I tried to find all the different shades of purple.
Do you ever use black?
I never ever use black. Except, I have used a pen to add eyelashes or really fine details. But that’s it. Never ever black. It’s not a real color!
Bonus Question: If you could be any animal, what would you be?
A parrot. There is such a diversity of parrots, and they live in some of the most beautiful places in the world. They’re really smart and really caring and loving creatures. They can form really strong connections with themselves, and with humans of course, and I think it would be really cool to fly!
I loved delving in and hearing about Louisa’s artistic development since we lived under the same roof. She has always been talented, but she’s refining her skills every day, and I could not be more excited for her! I love that she’s becoming the artist she has always wanted to be.
As part of the Green Point Art Circle, Louisa has helped organize her first exhibit at Café Grumpy in Green Point, Brooklyn. There, she will be one of the many talented artists who will have their art showcased.
The opening night is Saturday, August 7th from 5-8 pm ET, and the exhibit will be up until September 6th. There will be wine and good company, so if you’re in the area go support your local artists! Visit their Instagram for more info.
And if you want to see any more of Louisa’s art, follow her on Instagram @louisamazaart