“Network to get work. You are your own best tool for self-promotion. Utilize all your assets. Don’t be discouraged when someone tells you ‘no’ and create an opportunity for yourself out of every situation.”
I had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth Sutton , a 28-year-old rising star on the contemporary pop art scene. Sutton was recently interviewed by Galore Magazine, about her hustle to get her work seen and commissioned, and she’s an Instagram expert — Sutton’s preferred platform to sell/show works, engage with followers, and share news, and she receives hundreds of messages per week thanking her for her inspirational and very honest posts. On April 29th, Elizabeth was honored at A Gala Celebrating Jewish Women by Batsheva. Her artwork can be found across private collections in the US and abroad (including Kendall Jenner). Sutton is an incredible charity fundraiser, and a proud young voice for creatives outside of and within her community — always willing to offer honest, creative advice. Sutton’s current collaboration with Bari Lynn Accessories sold out at Saks Fifth Avenue in December, and she’s working on a new line for Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman (where her art is currently installed), and Harrod’s. Next up, the ambitious young artist will also launch a September takeover at Joe & The Juice locations in NYC and a namesake home accessories line — additionally she’s working on custom art for Alessandro Michele’s office at Gucci.
What is your Backstory?
I am a 28 year-old mother of two, artist, designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, a Modern Orthodox Jew and moved to the city when I was 17. I studied business and marketing and graduated with honors from Baruch College while working in fashion. I was married very young, at 21, during which time I helped my now ex-husband build a tech-startup called PRIV, that exited to Comcast Ventures. During this time, I went through a lot of trials and tribulations in my personal life that included severe financial loss, terminal illness, death of an immediate family member and a miscarriage, all which drove me to the beginning of my art career. My career started by fluke — I had painted my first ever pieces to make artwork for my son’s nursery and I shared the images on Instagram. This is the moment which I consider the beginning of my career as an artist. I have never had any formal training in art and have taught myself all of my techniques through experimentation, trial and error. In the two years following my beginning, I gave birth my second child, my beautiful daughter Nora, and I left my husband shortly thereafter, which marked a new chapter in my life which has become a wonderful, crazy, fulfilling adventure.
Can you share one of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
It is very hard to choose just one. In addition to my fine art business, I am currently working on a number of exciting collaborations. I am designing my second capsule collection for the largest high-end little girl’s accessory line, Bari Lynn Accessories. My first collection was so successful that it was picked up by major department stores, including Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Harrod’s. I am also collaborating with international coffee and juice chain, Joe and The Juice. I will be redesigning their coffee and juice cups for a limited edition release in all their New York City locations, launching this fall. In addition, we will be hosting a number of events including a live painting as well as a gallery night at their Spring Street, SoHo, location. Next, I will be painting a number of murals at a new high-end restaurant, Wall Street Grill, opening in Manhattan. And last but not least, I will be launching my first ever limited edition prints as well as my own home accessory product line within the coming months.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was it like? Do you have any stories?
I have met so many influential, intriguing, and impactful people over the course of doing business that it is hard to even recall all of them — people who in a million years I never could have fathomed, at this point in my career, doing business with. I have sold artwork to the largest private collector of Rembrandts and Monets in the world. My artwork hangs in the homes of Kourtney Kardashian, Kendell Jenner and Scott Disick. I’ve developed a relationship with an incredible woman, Bari Lynn Erber, who has now become my mentor. I will say one of my proudest ‘hustle’ moments was meeting the CEO of JetBlue on my flight to Cuba and managing to persuade him to donate two roundtrip tickets to any destination for the ArtStart fundraiser that I held last October. I also have had the pleasure of speaking and meeting with some inspirational fellow artists, including some of my favorites: Girl Boss Ashley Longshore and world-renowned Romero Britto and Mr. Brainwash. I also had the honor of receiving a private tour of Keith Haring’s studio, courtesy of the Whitney Museum. And lastly, I attended the Cannes Film Festival last year as a guest of Chopard, where I had some of the most incredible experiences and created some of my favorite memories. I hope to return one day, but next time, getting my art involved.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
Initially, all my inspiration really came from my children and from my desire to gain my happiness back. My works are full of color, which to me represents happiness, and my art has helped heal a lot of the pain I have been through in my life. Most recently, I was inspired by falling in love, which I believe led me to create one of my most exceptional bodies of work to date. Unfortunately, that relationship ended around the same time that I experienced the biggest tragedy in my life. This past December, while exhibiting my artwork at my own pop-up gallery, at Art Basel in Wynwood, two of my art assistants were in a fatal car accident after leaving my birthday celebration at my gallery. My 28-year-old assistant Juan Salazar, both a father and a husband, did not survive his injuries. I know that I have an angel watching over me and I am doing my best to use that experience to further my inspiration and my ambition so that I can financially secure the future of the rest of my “ESC team” and art family. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my Instagram followers who are always so supportive of my career and my goals.
Have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to incorporate philanthropy, goodness and strength into every aspect of my business. I come from an extremely philanthropic family. Both my grandmother, Honey Rackman, and my great-grandfather, Rabbi Emanual Rackman, dedicated their lives to helping others, and I do my very best to honor their memories. Following my divorce last year, I was emotionally in a difficult place, which led me to plan a fundraiser for ArtStart, an organization that provides creative therapy via art, music, and dance to homeless youth and at-risk teens in New York City shelters. I dedicated three months of my life exclusively planning this event, along with event planner, Michele Farber, and which we raised over $30,000 and a ton of awareness, had over 300 guests, and the Co-Director said that it was “by far the most successful” event they’d ever had. I also donate silkscreens to approximately 30–40 charities a year. When my assistant passed away, I finally understood why I had dedicated three months of my life to planning a fundraiser at a time where I couldn’t really afford to do so — it taught me how to fundraise on a dime. When I received the tragic news that my assistant was on life support, I immediately started a GoFundMe campaign, promoted ir via my social media, and I raised over $35,000 within a few weeks through 600+ individual donations. These funds were also used to help my living assistant who had undergone brain surgery and was unable to work for a month and a half. I also purchased a home in Cuba for my deceased assistant’s aunt, as well as provided urgent funds for his 3 year-old daughter, who was back in Cuba. The funds raised will help sustain his daughter for the next 12 years, though I will always take care of her, even when those funds run out. From a different perspective, I am extremely open about my life, both the good and the bad, on my social media. I receive genuine messages on a daily basis from admirers who tell me that my positivity, drive, and attitude have inspired them to change their lives and give them strength. Currently, one of my biggest goals is to empower girls and women around the world to be financially independent. I will also be incorporating a philanthropic angle in my collaboration with Joe and The Juice.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Prepare iron-clan contracts when entering into a business negotiation. Make sure that all terms are explicitly defined, including damages in case of breach.
- Don’t be so trusting; be open and genuine, but always be smart, as I have learned unfortunately that most people are only out for themselves.
- Network to get work. You are your own best tool for self-promotion. Utilize all your assets. Don’t be discouraged when someone tells you ‘no’ and create an opportunity for yourself out of every situation.
- Weigh opportunity costs. At a certain point in your career, you are going to have a lot of different opportunities and options on the table and you will want to accept them all. Your time is finite, so choose the opportunities that you accept wisely and always leave room in your calendar for error.
- Social Media is your best friend. It is a ton of work, but if done right, it is a free advertising and marketing platform. Free marketing never used to be an option to companies prior to the existence of social media. Social media gives you access to people all around the world. Develop a specific, goal-oriented strategy.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Just one? I think I have to choose 3.
Caroline Scheufele, the President of Chopard, is definitely at the top of my list. Last year, I had the pleasure of being a VIP guest of Chopard at the Cannes Film Festival and the experience was superb, soup to nuts. Chopard is the largest sponsor of the festival, and organizing events and logistics of that magnitude without hiccups is what I’d call impossible. I’m sure there were hiccups behind the scenes, but my experience was flawless. It was once-in-a-lifetime. I admire Caroline for being a strong, talented, and powerful woman, but she also has an amazing energy that makes everyone feel special and important. Being in her presence was a real honor. It would be a DREAM to get my artwork involved with Chopard and the festival. The VIP hair & makeup suite, as well as the Chopard Suite at Hotel Martinez was wallpapered in a geometric pattern that was spot on with my artworks… One can dream.
Dream number 2? Meet with Alessandro Michele. Gucci is by far my favorite fashion house these days and Alessandro Michele has taken the brand and breathed new life into their aesthetic. If I could afford it, my entire wardrobe would be Gucci. I recently painted a photograph of a pair of Gucci boots I purchased. I’m trying to get it into his hands with a dream goal of doing a collaboration with the fashion house. Fingers crossed combined with major hustle.
And lastly, Mark Zuckerberg. One of, if not, the greatest innovator of our time. My career began and continues to live on Instagram, but as you know, Instagram has become less of a democratic platform. I know they need to monetize, but there must be a better way. I, along with the rest of the world, would love the opportunity to pick his brain. I also happen to have a special tech idea floating in my head that I’d love to pitch him.