What She Does: In 2007 Elsa Briggs began playing around with acrylic paints by doing portraits of various Finnish metal musicians she had a crush on. She would try and capture them with almost psychotic reverence and devotion, but it was just a hobby. Nothing serious.
Then in the summer of 2008, Briggs was the victim of a violent attack less than a hundred feet from her apartment as she returned home for the evening. As she began to recover emotionally, she tackled her art with more determination and drive. Her output expanded as she would sequester herself away, creating and healing.
Since 2009 she's begun showing her portraits around Houston, and branched out to painting using pastels over tempera. In addition to her obsession with human form, she also does flower studies (something she admits is really just a genitalia metaphor), and runs her own line of handmade jewelry, Gold & Apel.
Why She Likes It: "I love color. That's probably what makes me happiest about painting other than the expressive nature of my art. I can mix just about any color known to man; I'm like one of those machines at Home Depot. I took some acrylic painting classes in fall 2009 where I learned to mix colors and apply washes and tints. That really took my painting to a new level.
"As a painter, I'm proudest of my expression. Even though I've been painting for 17 years and painting seriously for five, I still haven't found my voice. My wife says that my work is 'powerfully emotive' despite my not really having a distinctive style where when you look at it, you say to yourself, 'Yeah, Elsa painted that.' I'd love to get to a point where people recognize my style and also buy into the emotion invested into the piece. That's my dream."
What Inspires Her: One of Briggs's biggest influences is another local painter, Julie Zarate. Like Briggs, Zarate specializes in portraits with an almost compulsive focus, and the sheer amount of work that Zarate produces is a model for Briggs.
A lot of her emotional drive comes from a place of very dark rage. Much of it used to extend from her anger at her attacker, but since his incarceration, she's managed to harness the strength of other, smaller hates.
"I start putting paint down," she said. "I painted a sunflower as my idea of a higher cosmic power a few months ago for a show and people later came up to me and said that sunflower didn't come from a happy place. My art never comes from a happy place."
If Not This, Then What: "I plan on taking some classes in metalsmithing for jewelry in spring 2013. I'd love to do leatherworking, too. I'd also love to build robots and automata. That stuff has been in the back of my mind for many years, but finding sources for techniques is hard to come by as far as making mechanical animals is concerned."
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If Not Here, Then Where: Briggs isn't interested in leaving the supportive artist community of Houston anytime soon. That said, her obsession with Scandinavian metal figures and the tundra itself is a long-running joke in the Houston goth scene. She enjoys hiking in the woods of Finland when she has the chance.
What's Next: More and more gallery owners are contacting Briggs rather than the other way around, these days, and both her art and her jewelry are finding a market. That being said, she's got another project in the works, music. Jessica Garcia and Mike Carruba at 360 Recording Studios are helping her lay down a debut album and several EPs for release in 2013. Her paintings currently hang in Kat's Meow Salon in Fourth Ward.
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Baldemar Rodriguez, film director/producer and actor Linarejos Moreno, photographer Heather Rainwater, artist, jewelry maker Detria Ward, actress and entrepreneur Justin Cronin, book author Mark Ivy, actor Lauren Luna, painter and shoe designer Sarah Cortez, writer Kent Dorn, drawer, painter, artist Lillian Warren, painter Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright