Elisha Fields said she had lots of different jobs over the years, but few of them really suited her. “I like the idea of being my own boss,” she said.
Over the years Fields flirted with art, but did not pursue it seriously until she moved to the Atlanta area 13 years ago. “I took a lot of classes; I wanted to learn as much as I could. I went through a period when I just wanted to draw night and day. My husband would call me and remind me to eat,” said Fields, who’s now a resident of Tucker and has converted her basement to an art studio.
As she pursued her interest in art, an opportunity to combine her drawing with her business skills—beyond selling the works themselves—emerged.
Copying the work of other artists, Fields said, is an excellent way to learn. A time honored technique for copying, especially when producing a copy larger than the original, is the grid method. The artist places a grid over the source material, reducing it to a series of squares. Then a grid is drawn on the new art surface allowing the artist to reproduce the work square by square.
The problem, Fields pointed out, is that drawing the grid lines, then erasing them when the work had been sketched, is tedious and time consuming. “We artists want to get on with the creative part, not spend our time erasing lines,” Fields said.
The solution that Fields found through a lengthy trial-and-error process was what she has named the Sketch Genie, a moveable grid that can simply be lifted once the sketch is done and can be reused an indefinite number of times. She recommends using it only with pencil drawings so that paints don’t get on the grid lines. Artists can finish the work with paints after the grid is removed. The lines, she explained, are made with an elastic material so that a pencil slides easily under them.
Fields now produces the grids in a variety of sizes and offers them through workshops that she conducts around the country. Although she teaches people to use the Sketch Genie at her workshops, she said the technique is easy enough for a person to order the material on-line and work from written instructions.
Fields has applied for a patent—a process she said may take years—and she has tried to find a company that can manufacture the Sketch Genie. Because the manufacturing proposals she has received so far have not been cost effective, she continues to manufacture the product by hand.
“It’s a system that can be useful for beginners as well as for experienced artists,” Fields said, adding that even children have no problem using the system. “At one of my workshops, I had a little boy write on his comment card, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” she recalled.
Although her Sketch Genie business now consumes a good deal of her time—she’s even hired part-time help to assist with building the grids—Fields has not left her first love, art.
Fields said she still spends much of her time painting and selling her work, which she said involves more than just putting a price and a for sale sign on the items.
“I like to spend time talking with prospective buyers and finding out a little about them and what they’re looking for. I want them to have something that they will enjoy for a long time. My paintings are like children. I want to place them in a good home.”