Eli has been painting her whole life, but it was in Portland that she began her full-time career as an artist. Though she has always enjoyed painting, being an artist wasn’t her first choice of careers. Eli remembers a conversation that she had with her father at the age of 3, when she told him that she wanted to be a waitress. Her reasoning: “I get to hang out with people like my mom and dad and then people leave money on the table for me to pick up.”
Her father discouraged this path, so she told him her second choice: to be a world traveler. Eli said through her laughter, “Dad said I would need money to do that. So then I told him my third choice: to be an artist. He still wasn’t happy.”
She was able to actualize her childhood dream of being a waitress while attending the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. Eli joked, “I loved it [waiting tables], until I didn’t.” Her transition into becoming an artist was a gradual one.
Eli’s approach to school was unconventional, and she never completed her degree. She told us, “I never got into a program, I just took whatever courses I was interested in. Oil painting, sculpture, ceramics—whatever I wanted.” By the time she had stopped attending art school her paintings were being displayed all around town, in restaurants, bars, and retail stores.