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Life & Work with Elisabeth Marsch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisabeth Marsch.

Hi Elisabeth, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Thank you for having me! I’m grateful to share my story and artwork with you.

Everyone draws when they’re a kid, and most of them stop after a while. I just never stopped. When I was about 12, my grandfather saw me struggling with decade-old craft paints and gave me my first set of acrylics. I’ve painted ever since, and without me ever intending it art has become the driving force of my life. As a teen, my top two college majors were art and astrophysics, and when I graduated with my Bachelor’s in art my top grad school choices were art history and philosophy of aesthetics; somehow at both junctures art won out, and studio art at that. In October of 2015, I was preparing for grad school and working part-time as a metalsmith when I realized art history wasn’t the right path. I quit my job, put grad school aside, got a residency at the New York Academy of Art, and in 2016 I moved to Franklin and started my business as a portrait and abstract painter. I’ve been here for five years now, making portraits, miniatures, chemical reaction paintings and getting involved with the unique art and design communities of Nashville.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Hahaha. No.

Being a self-employed entrepreneur is a huge burden regardless of industry, and we all know what a struggle it is to be an artist. It’s funny that the starving, crazy, depressed artist stereotype is so common, and yet so is the assumption that if you have a creative career, you’re lucky, carefree, and happy. People routinely say things to me like, “I’m sure it never feels like work since you’re doing what you love.” Quite the opposite. I work harder and endure more because I care for my art so deeply. The passion I have for my work gives me the courage to endure difficulties that would make me quit any other job.

As an artist, the biggest challenge is simply making the business profitable. Galleries typically take a 40-50% commission, and self-employment tax alone adds 15% to my income tax burden. Plus, there are no benefits like healthcare, paid time off, or retirement matching. I just celebrated my six year anniversary as a full-time, self-supporting artist, and that’s an incredible gift and joy. But it’s been an excruciating road.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
This is the fun part! I specialize in miniatures and in painting on metal, primarily copper.

I paint traditional portraits, and copper and bronze backgrounds give the painting a luxurious modern feel while enhancing the luminosity and saturation of the paint. Large realistic portraits on metal are some of my favorite commissions to create.

I also have a line of “minuscules” – miniature oil paintings on paper, on copper, and in custom lockets. I started painting minuscules so clients with smaller budgets could afford original fine art, whether portraits of pets, family members, or historical figures. I have an academic bent, so I love to paint authors, thinkers, scientists, and musicians and connect with other enthusiasts of, for example, the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius or the literary works of William Shakespeare.

My most exciting work is my abstract paintings, where I use a chemical reaction process to create specialized patinas and grow beautiful blue, green, and burgundy crystals on the surface of my copper. These crystals are chemically related to precious stones like azurite and malachite; instead of mining crystals from the ground I grow them on the surface of my painting. It’s a fascinating way to explore the sciences within my career as an artist.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and are there any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
A lot of people realized how bare their walls were. Apparently staring at a blank wall for 12 months really makes you want to put art on it.

I think the common experience of touch-loneliness during covid can help us understand how important physical works of art are. Looking at a print or a picture on a screen is like talking to a friend over zoom or on the phone. It’s just not the same as being with them in person. Paintings and sculptures are meant to be lived with; they have presence and body. A print or a screensaver can be a wonderful thing, but with a physical painting, you can experience beauty and meaning in a unique and irreplaceable way.


  • Miniature portraits range from $75-265
  • Full size portraits range from $350-8400
  • Abstract paintings range from $300-9300
  • Private tutoring and consultation $75-125/h
  • Consultations about custom orders are free

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