100 Creatives 2012: Elsa Briggs, Painter, Jewelry Maker

Categories: 100 Creatives

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."

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

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