Pablo Picasso once said that “every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” When Toronto-based artist Elisabeth Heidinga felt stifled in her work, she quite literally tore a canvas to shreds and made something completely new with the result. Her intricate woven paintings are formed from abstract compositions cut into fine strips, then knit into decorative patterns. “To me it’s symbolic,” Elisabeth shares, “Taking two opposing ideas, enduring and growing through the process to arrive at something strong and beautiful.” While they still fit into frames, Elisabeth’s woven paintings have a three-dimensional quality that reflects the unique voice and style as an artist for which she has always searched. —Annie
Photography by Elisabeth Heidinga
What’s in your toolbox?
Given that what I am doing is unusual, it’s a collection of random makeshift items — a metal ziptie to pull strips through tighter spots, canvas tape to secure the strips, scissors to cut the strips loose, a loom frame to suspend the strips which aids with the weaving, long plastic strips to weave, a staple gun, and of course the canvas strips. Obviously oil and acrylic paint and medium, paint brushes, glass palettes, and canvas to paint my paintings.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
like I can conquer the world
What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
Instagram. I like finding artists that do amazing things. Sometimes it’s a really well put-together themed feed. Pinterest is always an option as well. I also love watching documentaries. Recent ones related to art were Iris Apfel, Banksy Does New York, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I sometimes need something a little a more visual for myself and therefore just use pen and paper. For family-related things it goes into a calendar app (Google) and a to-do list app (Wunderlist) that me and my husband share.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
I’d pick The Flash! His superpower is super speed. I have very young children and most of my time is occupied with them. I could use super speed to make things happen. Plus, weaving a painting takes a great deal of time. Eventually I will just have to get some help.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
To not wait! Just go for it. You will never be ready. Things will never be perfect. Get an education, travel, and let this all shape you. Find your true self and just show up, be who you are. Nobody can be a better you than yourself. You have something important to bring and offer, and the only person who has to realize it is often oneself.
How do you combat creative blocks?
You got to just keep going. Even if it’s little things. Sometimes you can just change things up by taking pictures of your work, the process, stage them if you have to, or work on making a website. Watch a documentary on an artist. Just don’t stop!
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
The fashion world is a big one as I really love color. I love browsing and seeing things that catch my eye. I might be Iris Apfel one day, haha! Traveling — NYC or Paris will definitely hit the inspiration spot. Exploring cultures and neighborhoods beyond the tourist attractions is key.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
Cy Twombly or Cecily Brown. I love their work. Their brush strokes are mesmerizing to me. They have a boldness which is just so beautiful. I feel [like] you could sit in front of their paintings and have a conversation with a piece itself.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
With little kids, silence is golden at the moment. My husband works as a music producer and engineer and he usually picks the music. It ranges from Ellie Goulding to some indie bands whose names I’ll never remember — such as London Grammar or Two Door Cinema Club. I try to put on classical music (Debussy, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky are some of our favorites) in the background for my two boys. They really love music and are now making their own song requests.