Liz Neighbors colors the Cape with a joyful hue
“Good neighbors make a huge difference in the quality of life.” -Robert Fulghum
Liz Neighbors has been visiting the Cape since she was just 3 years old. She remembers the first place she stayed in Hyannis—the Anchor Inn; the “pilgrimage,” as she jokingly refers to it, that she used to make with her mother to the Cape Cod Candle Factory; the day she and her husband made sure to choose a community for their year-round home within driving distance to the Cape; and the sailing camp on Buzzards Bay where she enrolled her children once she had a family of her own. All the while, she was drawing. “Art has always been a big part of my life,” she says. “It’s what I love to do.”
“About two years ago, I challenged myself to create art every day, and I dared myself to put it on Facebook, not caring what anyone thinks,” says Neighbors. That was the beginning of Liz Neighbors Studios, the hallmark of which is Neighbors’ “Doodle-a-Day” series. The doodles, or rather unique notecards and matted prints, are all distinguished by their colorful, whimsical nature. For Neighbors, art was always a hobby that brought her comfort and joy, but she certainly never dreamed it would turn into a business. “One day I came home and people on Facebook were reacting so positively to my work,” she says. Her first print was sold at a party she attended on the way back from the printer, and from then on it’s been a whirlwind of friends, customers and memories for Neighbors to draw or paint. She sometimes creates in watercolor, but she explains that markers are often her chosen medium because they’re so portable.
“I try to capture a moment in time,” says Neighbors, who often finds herself drawn to Cape Cod beach scenes. “It’s always something different, and what’s really great for me is when people react to it.” She enjoys capturing events, like memorable days with her friends at the beach, the Fourth of July fireworks she watched with her family, a birthday she celebrated with her daughter, or the farm stand she drove past on her way to the Cape. Some of her favorite moments are when people recognize a place or see themselves in a memory she’s captured. “With such intense times, people want to see happy art,” she says.
Neighbors credits her time spent volunteering at a Connecticut hospice facility doing art therapy many years ago with showing her how truly powerful art can be. “It was so magical. At first I was nervous to approach people, but then I started to see how people came alive with it. They’d really open up, and it was so healing.” Neighbors has carried that passion for nurturing creativity with her, and today one of the things she loves best about her art is being able to share it with children. Who better to understand her carefree, imaginative nature than a child? “I really have fun doing art with kids and getting them comfortable with it. The best part is that it’s not structured. Children have so much structure in their lives already,” she says with a laugh. “Art lets them be free to explore.”
Neighbors is sometimes hesitant to jump into the commercial world. For her, art has always been about passion, not about business, but still, she’s found some special places to help her share her work. Velvet Barn on Martha’s Vineyard is a pop-up shop that prides itself on being unique and colorful, meaning that Neighbors’ artwork is a perfect fit. She’s also currently creating a series of holiday notecards for Lambert’s Rainbow Fruit in Centerville, and in addition to keeping up with her Doodle-a-Day, she frequently does custom orders. “I always feel so honored when someone wants a special order,” says Neighbors. Often customers want a picture of their home or their family, and for Neighbors, it’s special to be a part of those personal moments. “I had one friend who wanted me to do her family home, and when I delivered it she wanted five more for her brothers and sisters. I was so blown away, and I offered to make it into a print for her, but she said ‘No, I want to give them originals,’” explains Neighbors in amazement. “I was so happy to do just one house,” she says.
If you ask what keeps her motivated, Neighbors will tell you “It’s just what I love to do anyway.” It’s what she was doing all those years ago when she first started coming to the Cape, what she was doing in her teens, the night before her SATs, what she was doing with her children when they were young, and it’s still what she enjoys doing to this day. “Making people happy just makes me crazy happy as well,” she says. Most would probably agree that’s a pretty good neighbor to have.