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GVG Studio Tour: Elle MacLaren

Elle MacLaren in her studio with several works in progress, 2017


I visited Elle MacLaren in her Santa Fe studio to see her new encaustic paintings and get to know a little bit more about the artist who makes them.

Elle MacLaren’s creative process manifests as an exploration of environmental images.  Material, color, and texture are the important elements of this exploration using encaustic, metal, cement, oils, graphite and various other media.  Her work references landscapes, cityscapes, and “planetscapes”.

“I am interested in the relationship between people and natural and manmade environments. There are many layers to observing the familiar.  There is an imprint, a memory, a feeling that goes beyond observation.  The images I create aim to bring the viewer into seeing the environment on a deeper level.  It is my intention to evoke a response from the viewer that gives them a larger sense of knowing the source when looking at the familiar.”

The artist’s easel with work in progress


Renee: Tell me about a formative experience early in your life as an artist.

Elle: When I was ten years old my mother took me to an exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I had been drawing with crayons and pencils ever since I could hold them.  When I looked at those oil paintings I fell in love with them, the richness and depth of color pulled me in.  I was given a set of oil paints shortly after that and have painted with oil ever since.

Renee: What is your favorite medium to work with and why?

Elle: I love paint.  I love everything about it, I even love the word itself.  I love oil paint and the way it glides onto and into the canvas with my brush.  I love mixing the colors and dipping into the paint.  I love encaustic paint and the way the melted wax flows through the brush in the truest colors I can imagine.  I love oil paint sticks for their sensual and buttery quality when applied to different surfaces.

Antarctica | encaustic on panel | 26 x 35


Renee: How has your practice changed over time?

Elle: From age 6 until about 26 my style was strictly representational, including portraits and some commercial illustration.  When I started working with mixed media I learned to play and loosen up.  The media itself was inspiring me more with imagery in the sense of using shapes and color to express myself. My work became abstract/conceptual which I find much more freeing and expressive as it allows both myself as the creator and those who view it to have a more personal experience.

Renee: What are some of your future career goals you’ve set for yourself?

Elle: I plan to continue to play and experiment – to push the limits of what medium can do. My current and future intention is  to make statements about relevant issues in the world and have as many people as possible see those issues expressed through my art, and, when viewing, respond in ways that give them a deep sense of knowing and understanding.

Elle MacLaren | Moulin I | encaustic on panel | 30 x 30


Elle holds a BFA in drawing and painting from Alma College.  She continues her ongoing experimentation with media, exploring new materials and pushing the limit of what they can do.

To read more about GVG’s artists through the GVG Studio Tour Series, click here.

All interviews have been conducted by Renee Lauzon, Gallery Manager at GVG Contemporary. If you have any questions you can email Renee at renee@gvgcontemporary.com.

To see more of Elle’s work, stop by GVG Contemporary @ 241 Delgado Street in Santa Fe, NM, or visit her online gallery page, by clicking here.

GVG Studio Tour: Kathleen Hope


The artist at work


Kathleen Hope is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and has received numerous awards for her artistry. She lives and works in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She explains that for her color begins her process. “When I start a painting, I usually pick only one to three colors. I place the large color samples next to my wood panel as I am prepping. It takes many days to build up layers before I begin to paint. I observe the colors during this process and the architecture of the painting presents itself. The feeling or the psychological properties of a color dictate the shapes I will use. It is important for me to arrive at only the essentials in a painting. Sometimes when there is too much information it looses its essence. I paint best when I push my medium to the limit, make good design decisions and maintain a playful spontaneity.”


To-do list


Hope works primarily with cement, plaster, acrylic, inks, and encaustic on canvas or board. The work is richly textured, organic, and contemporary. Her diverse background in interior design and color psychology is a significant influence on her work.

During our studio visit I asked Kathleen to share with me a little bit about her process, medium choice, and where she sees her working moving forward.


Kathleen Hope | Scandia | mixed media on panel | 24 x 24


Renee: What was a formative experience from your early life as an artist?

Kathleen: My mom was a watercolor artist and I remember going to outdoor art fairs with her. That was my first memory of art as a child. Then in college I took a studio class in painting and felt right at home. It was a large class but 10 years later my college instructor saw me and remembered me, which was unbelievable to me! She said that I was talented and hoped I continued my art practice.

Renee: What is your preferred medium and why?

Kathleen: After years of experimenting with all different mediums nothing felt right for me until a collector of my collage art challenged me to create a painting for her outdoor space. I said, “give me a year,” and that is how I found cement. It transformed my art and vision. I have been working with cement for ten years now.


Kathleen Hope | Morning Sun | mixed media on panel | 24 x 24


Renee: Describe a typical studio day.

Kathleen: I paint six days a week unless I am at a show. I start at about 9-10am and quit at about 6-7pm. My studio day consists of painting, prep and computer work. Every week I post a goal to achieve… commissions, marketing or prep for upcoming shows.


Work Boots


Renee: How has your practiced changed over time?

Kathleen: My work has become more consistent in style and texture. People can recognize my style without seeing my name.


On the drying board


Studio table


Kathleen’s work is represented by GVG Contemporary. To see more of her work stop by the gallery on 241 Delgado Street in Santa Fe, NM or visit Kathleen’s page by clicking here.

To read more about GVG’s artists through the GVG Studio Tour Series, click here. Or view her digital catalog of available work below.

All interviews have been conducted by Renee Lauzon, Gallery Manager at GVG Contemporary. If you have any questions you can email Renee at renee@gvgcontemporary.com.





GVG Studio Tour: Blair Vaughn-Gruler

Blair Vaughn-Gruler, 2017


As a part of GVG’s on-going Studio Tour series, I visited Blair Vaughn-Gruler in her studio where she creates her abstract oil paintings.

Blair approaches the ideas of space and geometry through large-scale, monochromatic, structural paintings, which contemplate the relationship of the physical body to the painted object. Vaughn-Gruler’s images subvert rather than build upon geometry, exploring the materiality of paint and the structure of paint as it exists when applied to a surface: “My visual vocabulary includes references to structure, repetition, deconstructed geometry, and the physical qualities of the paint itself.”


Some paintings finished, some in-process


Renee: Let’s start at the beginning. Will you share a formative experience from your early life as an artist?

Blair: I found out about abstract expressionism when I was about 8 years old. My parents had the Life Magazine issue with Jackson Pollack on the cover. When I saw that article, I was completely captivated by the idea that artwork could carry meaning beyond the pictorial. I got a set of oil paints for Christmas and made myself a studio in the basement. I also attended a grade school where we had art every day, and I was encouraged to be curious and creative from a very young age.



Renee: What is your preferred medium and why?

Blair: Paint, for me, has all the delicious qualities of body lotion, whipped cream, mayo, mud, glue and a healing salve rolled into one.

Renee: What is a typical studio day for you?

Blair: I maintain a rigorous studio schedule. My studio is at our home, so I can get there first thing in the morning, without first preparing to be out in the world. Then I easily paint until late afternoon, when the light starts to change, without realizing how the hours have gone by. I have 4 or 5 studio days a week, and on those days I work for 10 hours at least. I take a break to cook something wonderful at dinnertime. Happily, my studio is near the kitchen.


Plethora | oil and mixed media on yupo on canvas | 12 x 9


Renee: What do you listen to when you are working?

Blair: I listen to NPR, which usually includes talk and news in the morning and jazz in the afternoon. If the music doesn’t suit me, I go to podcasts. News and ideas keep my mind distracted so I can paint.

Renee: What are the major career milestones for you so far?


Blair Vaughn-Gruler | Interlock | oil on canvas | 36 x 24


Blair: Going back to school, and getting my MFA in Visual Art in 2010 nearly 30 years after getting my BFA in Painting. Making a living making paintings (in the postmodern era). Painting, apparently, is not actually dead. Having the courage to make a life focused around making, thinking and writing while encouraging and engaging with other makers. I have come to view this as a satisfying pushback on the current political and corporate era we live in.



Blair Vaughn-Gruler earned an MFA in Visual Art in 2010 from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BFA in Painting in 1979 from Northern Michigan University. She lives in Lamy, New Mexico and co-owns GVG Contemporary with her husband, Ernst Gruler.

To see more of Blair’s work visit her online gallery page, here. Or view her digital catalog below.

To read more about GVG’s artists through the GVG Studio Tour Series, click here.

All interviews have been conducted by Renee Lauzon, Gallery Manager at GVG Contemporary. If you have any questions you can email Renee at renee@gvgcontemporary.com.