Elana Hagler

Observational Art and Finding Your Way, with Elana Hagler

Elana Hagler


What comes to mind when you think of observational art? Are there specific artists that you think of? Have you dabbled in observational art? My guest is art educator and observational artist, Elana Hagler. In our conversation, Elana opens up about her journey as an artist, early influences in grad school, how she struggled to find her way post-grad school, what she looks for when she starts a project, the role of art in our world today, and much more! I can’t wait for you to hear from Elana’s unique perspective. Make sure to check out images of Elana’s work located at the end of this post!

The challenge of finding your way as an artist.

Whether you went the traditional route via grad school or you found your way as an artist on a different path, most of us have all faced that moment when we had to ask ourselves, “Now what?” For many of us, this question comes after the structured environment of grad school, was that your experience or did it come at a different point? Artist Elana Hagler had just finished grad school and had experienced some significant losses in her family when she and her husband decided to move to Denver to be closer to his family for support raising their young children. During this “Exile” from her community of artists, Elana had to find a new way forward. While it was a scary and difficult time, Elana looks back and is grateful for the changes and challenges faced that helped her grow as an artist.

Observational art and finding a “Problem” that’s almost too hard to solve.

What is it about observational art that draws the viewer in? Is it the focus of the artist? Does something get telegraphed from the subject to the artist to the painting? How does this all play out from the artist’s perspective? According to Elana Hagler, it’s the “Problems” that draw her in and help her to focus her attention on a specific subject. Elana loves to challenge herself with juxtapositions and contrasts that are almost too difficult for her to handle. These challenges for Elana go beyond just light vs. dark and sharp edges vs. soft edges, she looks at the contrast of the intimate vs. the monumental. I know artists like you will appreciate and value Elana’s distinct viewpoint of her subject matter and how she approaches the canvas.

How influences and styles show up in artwork.

When was the last time you looked at a piece of artwork and knew almost instantly where that artist had studied or who their major influences were? I don’t know about you but I do this constantly and I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. In my conversation with Elana Hagler, we discussed the ways that different styles and schools of thought show up in today’s artwork. I also share my personal thoughts on the divide between west coast and east coast artists and how that connects with Elana’s helpful viewpoint as an art educator. Who have been some of your greatest influences? Do you think they show up in your artwork?

Why it’s important to slow down and pay attention.

Too often, in our world today, we are trained either actively or passively to make quick judgments on things that are valuable and worth our time and the things that aren’t. This quick and reflexive discernment can be attributed to the rise of technology and our seemingly endless stream of visual stimuli. The benefit that art brings to our world today is the call to slow down and pay attention to a crafted and cultivated object that is worth consideration. I hope artists like you can find some hope and encouragement from Elana and I’s conversation around this important topic.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:00] I introduce my guest, Elana Hagler.
  • [3:00] How Elana got started as an artist.
  • [6:00] Elana talks about her art education.
  • [10:30] How Elana describes her artwork.
  • [12:30] Leaving grad school and figuring out how to start a career.
  • [19:00] Elana tells a story about stepping out and taking a risk.
  • [26:30] What does Elana look for when she starts a work of art?
  • [29:00] Elana shares some technical aspects of her process.
  • [36:00] How influences and styles show up in artwork.
  • [41:30] Elana goes over some observations from her role as an educator.
  • [46:30] What is the role of art in our world today?
  • [50:00] Don’t be afraid of painting something you find beautiful!
  • [51:30] Artwork that Elana wishes she could have back.

Other artists mentioned on this episode

Resources Mentioned on this episode

Connect With Antrese


Two Stone Pines
Venus of Montgomery
View of Civita Castellana

Get better results in your studio Today.

When you feel confident about your work and you are solid in your self concept as an artist, you stop worrying about how long the painting takes, or when you will “make it.” Instead, you focus on what you know is working. You allow time for your process to unwind. You let go of all the chatter. This is what you will create for yourself in Growth Studio - the unwavering belief in yourself as an artist so that you make art that matters to you. Click here to join.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}