Like a flower, an artist needs love and encouragement to fully bloom. Many artists face being smothered as they develop—teachers, parents, friends, and siblings echo the notion that what the artist is doing isn’t worth it, that it’s a dead-end pursuit. Watercolor painter Elizabeth Pratt was fortunate to grow up being encouraged to pursue her artistic inclinations every step of the way. “It was never squashed by my mother, my father, my husband—nobody ever said ‘this isn’t valuable’ or ‘don’t waste your time.’”
Growing up in southern Ohio, Pratt found early support for her artistic pursuits in school. “I was always encouraged to paint and draw,” remembers Pratt. “I went to a school that had art in first grade, and almost every day I could paint something.” By the time she was a senior in high school, Pratt was taking art classes at the Dayton Art Institute on a full scholarship.
Pratt cultivated a love of watercolors in high school, and 60 years and roughly 2,000 paintings later, she still gets excited using them. “I’ve never felt watercolor had to be little old ladies painting posies,” she says. “You can go the whole gamut in watercolor.” This is evident in much of her work including Coming In and Homage to Audubon, which capture a range of dynamic colors and have a lucid, aqueous appearance.
At the close of World War II, Pratt fell in love with a returning veteran and got married. “I didn’t go on to art school, but he turned out to be very good for my future,” says Pratt heartily. “He told me to go my first class and encouraged me to get featured in galleries and be in shows. He was better than any art school.”
After several years in Morocco and Washington, D.C., Pratt and her husband came to Eastham. Wanting to escape the summer heat in D.C., Pratt began devising ways to spend more and more time on the Cape. Naturally, selling some of her paintings came to mind. “You can’t sell a painting of Washington, D.C., on Cape Cod with much success, but you can sell a painting of Cape Cod in Washington, D.C., very easily,” says Pratt with a laugh.
Pratt, now 85, has never tired of working with watercolors. “I love the freedom of it,” she says. “It’s the fact that I don’t know what’s going to happen. I always tell my students I don’t need to play the lottery because I have the thrill of playing it every day with my watercolors. It doesn’t seem like it’s going somewhere, and suddenly there it is.”
Even as a seasoned professional, Pratt’s yearly wish is that she’ll continue to grow as a painter. “I’d like to go out thinking that the art community respected me and I hope I will be remembered happily by them. That’s all I want,” she muses. It seems a safe bet that this artist’s legacy will live on as one of mastery and longevity.