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Artist Holmes brings love of nature to her work

Working on her sidewalk art in August at the Syracuse New Times contest, Elisabeth Holmes explains chalk technique to Benjamin Smith.

Working on her sidewalk art in August at the Syracuse New Times contest, Elisabeth Holmes explains chalk technique to Benjamin Smith. Linda Loomis

— “My goal is to combine my love of and talent in the arts with my passion for nature and find some way that helps build community and empowers other people — especially young people — to explore their creativity and protect the environment.”

If that sounds like a big order Holmes, one of three sisters, claims it’s just routine in her household. Her mother, Jennifer, is a special education teacher in Phoenix, and her father, Eric, is a program manager at Lockheed Martin.

“I have great parents,” Elisabeth said. “They always encourage my sisters and me to follow our dreams and develop our gifts. I think they have accepted that none of us will have cookie cutter jobs.”

Sarah, the middle sister, the “smart one,” studies environmental science at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Youngest sister Ashley is in the Animal Behavior and Environmental Conservation program at Canisius College, and she is spending winter break in Sumatra to study Indonesian wildlife.

Elisabeth says she is always eager to learn more about art. She participates in open figure drawing sessions at the Westcott Community Center, where she finds a strong sense of community. It was there that Iver Johnson, a board member, saw her talent and asked her to represent the group at the Syracuse New Times sidewalk art event in 2011. Two important things grew from that invitation. First, Elisabeth, who realized she had not done anything with chalk in a few years, made a pastel portrait of her family’s Black Lab, Bowie. That led to her doing other animal portraits on commission.

“I was totally surprised by how my animal portraiture came out,” she said. “I was even more surprised by the affirming feedback I received from those who bought them.”

The second good thing that happened was that Elisabeth won first place that year at the sidewalk art contest for her personalized version of Rafael’s “Three Graces” upon which she painted the faces of her two sisters and herself.

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