When I was growing up, I moved around the country several times. As a young adult, I moved to Philadelphia, to a neighborhood that is part industrial, and part residential. There are many interesting views here, of factories, hillsides, city trees, and clouds that move across the terrain. This landscape inspires me to paint.

For many years, I worked as a carpenter to support myself, and have worked on my art at night, on weekends, and on days off. It has been a struggle to keep my art alive, and it has been worth it. I served an apprenticeship in the Carpenterʼs Union, and worked in the Union for nine years. I continued to work on my art, painting the landscape, and abstracting it in pastels, created from memory. I also attended the Fleisher Art Memorial, and drew the figure in many group settings. In 2004, I graduated from Community College of Philadelphia, majoring in fine art, and continued on to PAFA, graduating in 2008. From 1989 until 2015, except while attending PAFA, I was a carpentry contractor. I solved design problems, and created elegant carpentry projects using high-quality materials.

At PAFA, I found a wealth of information, and excellent teachers. I learned anatomy, and continued my landscape studies of Manayunk. I also set up complex still lives, and painted them. After graduation, I had the tools to be an independent artist, although I also needed to keep working as a contractor. I was able to retire in November of 2015, and am now a full-time artist. I have participated in many gallery, juried, and invitational shows. The work I am making now is derived from observation, imagination and emotion. I am continuing to change as an artist, working to unify observed reality with emotional resonance.

Still Life with Rattlesnake Plant by Elizabeth Heller


“The human being is alone in his carapace, poetry is a strong way out. The passage out that she blasts is often in splinters, covered with blood, but she can come out softly-- all poetry has to do is to make a strong communication.” These words from Stevie Smith, the British poet, speak for me about my art.

I am trying to express a beauty, harmony and power that I see in the visible world-- simplified and channeled through myself as a unique individual. My artwork has spiritual meaning for me. For many years, I have worked part-time on other jobs to support myself, and have worked on my art as much as I can. It has been a constant struggle to keep my art alive. It has been worth it, because, to me, art is a vast and mysterious territory of expression with unlimited boundaries. There is no “right” way to create--there is the slow, patient, frustrating, and exhilarating approach to oneʼs own truth about reality.

In 2008, I graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. My studies there greatly enlarged my knowledge of composition, color, and formal structure, and sharpened my ability to critique my own work. I work in oil paint on canvas or wood panel, always referring to a three-dimensional subject. Most recently, I have painted complex still lives with translucent colored glass, and natural forms of plants, flowers, and leaves, as part of the subject. I have also completed landscape paintings of the Manayunk Canal area, in Philadelphia, and other Philadelphia city landscapes, returning many times to the site, to clarify my vision.

My work is based on close observation of the natural world, but the impetus to create it comes from a deeper, more emotional state that I enter into when I see compositions that I want to paint. As I look at certain landscapes, arrangements of objects, or other people, a special clarity or meaning emerges from my vision of them, and compels me to record this unified beauty that I see.

There is an initial moment of “seeing” that I refer to when I start a painting. I work many hours more to develop the painting into a finished whole. Working in the same light, I build each part slowly, always trying to be aware of what needs refining.

When I look at the world, I see a subtle and delicate geometry--formed by the balancing of shapes, colors, space, and light. This delicate artistic geometry has an emotional meaning, and it speaks to me as a unified whole. It is my meaningful endeavor to unlock this message of beauty from the world.

Lower Fountain Street, After the Flood by Elizabeth Heller
Paperworks by Elizabeth Heller
Still Life with Peony by Elizabeth Heller
The Twisted Gate, Leverington Ave. by Elizabeth Heller
Above Leverington Ave. by Elizabeth Heller
November Parking Lot by Elizabeth Heller
Self Portrait in Orange T-Shirt by Elizabeth Heller
Down Umbria Street, Morning by Elizabeth Heller