Artist Creates Business Niche

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Artist Creates Business Niche

A photo of a heron and reflections in the water after being processed by artist Elisa Baker using special software. (VBR)
A photo of a heron and reflections in the water after being processed by artist Elisa Baker using special software. (VBR)

Inspired by a lifelong love of photography, and using creative computer software designed by her husband, Elisa Baker has embarked on a path to turn her personal passion into a business venture.

Baker concentrates her photography on capturing images of Rio Grande Valley flora and fauna. Her husband developed the software that processes photos to create a sfumato effect. A style of painting associated with Italian Renaissance artists like Leonardo da Vinci, sfumato is a technique that produces soft transitions between colors and tones with subtle gradations without lines or borders.

“Mike is a computer guy,” she said. “He writes software and this has turned out to be wonderful. To me, it’s more artistic than a standard photograph. The art effect to me is where it looks more like a water color and it’s kind of romanticized. What the software is doing is kind of softening edges and maybe texturizing in some cases, depending on the subject matter.”

Special software gives Elisa Baker’s photo of brown pelicans art effects known as sfumato. (VBR)
Special software gives Elisa Baker’s photo of brown pelicans art effects known as sfumato. (VBR)

Baker’s first attempt at selling her art came a couple years ago at a downtown Harlingen Art Night. “We printed up some stuff and got permission from a friend who knew one of the store owners to be in front of her store.” Little did she know that event would lead to her first gallery placement.

Peggy Allen, owner of House of Frames in Harlingen, saw Baker’s art and suggested she talk with Sandy Margaret, founder of Kingfisher Gallery on South Padre Island. “The next day we decided to load up some stuff and go over to the Island,” Baker said. “She looked at my art and said, ‘You know you are not going to take this home with you,’ and I have had stuff in there ever since.”

In addition to larger format art pieces, Baker uses the technique to create coasters, glass cutting boards and other items that make her creations more accessible to a wider audience. Items like coasters sell for a few dollars while larger format images can run from $200 to $1,500, the price tag on one piece she has at Kingfisher Gallery. She continues to be a regular exhibitor at Jackson Street Market Days in Harlingen, SPI Market Days and other special event venues.

“We are always looking around to see what options there are for galleries here in the Valley,” she said. “The reality that I am finding that because my work is photographic art sometimes there is a limited number of slots at these galleries for people who are photographers versus artists using paint.”  

One of Elisa Baker’s nature photo images transformed with a sfumato effect. (VBR)
One of Elisa Baker’s nature photo images transformed with a sfumato effect. (VBR)

Her work is also for sale in Tesori, a gift shop in Port Isabel. And she joined the Laguna Madre Art League to connect with other artists who create images of natural South Texas settings and wildlife.

“It’s all about eyes as far as I am concerned,” Baker said. “The more people that look at it the more chance you have of somebody actually wanting to purchase it. It’s just really exciting to know that you can sell a piece of art that somebody likes it enough to hang it in their home.”

Baker’s husband is not only her partner in life, he plays an important role in building the art business. “I say ‘we’ a lot because I wouldn’t be able to do it all without my husband. I work full time and he is the one who does most of the legwork to make it possible for us to go to these events. And, if it weren’t for him, I would probably be too shy to get out there and do that.”

Baker works from her home in Rio Hondo as a customer service representative for a Medicare help call center operated by United Health Care. But she looks to the future with hopes of making her art business a full-time concern. “I have no desire to be a starving artist, I can tell you that, so right now I am going to keep on working so I can have enough money to live comfortably. I definitely like the idea of being able to open my own store eventually and be able to display all of my own art. It’s not something we have an immediate plan for, but …”

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