MARBLEHEAD — Plastic bags may be bad for the environment, but a longtime local artist has found a better use for the material.
Elaine Daly’s artistic skills began when she was 4 years old, but her resourceful habits only started a year and a half ago. A Marblehead resident for 58 years, she is inspired by ordinary things on a daily basis and her outside-of-the-box thinking came to fruition when she participated in an experimental group through the Rockport Art Association.
“I always get the newspaper, so one day I’m sitting there and I’m looking at the pink plastic bag the paper comes in and I start thinking, I’d like to put that on something and see what happens,” said Daly. “I think the most interesting part is when you take it off and you’ve already painted over it you can use it for something else.
Nella Lush is the head of the experimental group in Rockport that Daly took part in. It was there she learned that every piece of art has to be made from some kind of internal feeling, and that she should never be afraid to think outside of the box.
“Nella has a real love for applying paint on a canvas and will try anything and everything,” said Daly. “When she gives a demonstration, she really wants you to come right from your inside and not have anything in mind and just see what happens on the canvas.”
Daly didn’t always live in Marblehead. She moved there from Methuen almost six decades ago, shortly after meeting Harry, her husband. Her biggest artistic influence as a child was her father and his love for drawing. Daly, now 81, spent a lot of her childhood driving her father up a wall while racing around the house on her tricycle. To keep her quiet, Daly’s father began showing her some of his work.
“He would show me the little Indian on the nickel coin, only he made it look like a chief by doing this one line, profile drawing and adding a headdress,” she said. “It just clicked for me at 4 years old, so I sat down at my little table and chairs and I just kept drawing and drawing and drawing.”
Although Daly’s first painting was of the ocean, she grew up in “cow country Methuen” knowing nothing about the salty water. Now, she spends most of her time creating pieces that portray different views of the open water she has grown to adore.
The mother of four creates her pieces in a studio she rents on the fourth floor of the Studios at Porter Mill in Beverly. Dianna, her only daughter, is the one child who followed her mother’s footsteps by becoming an artist. The two women share the studio and sell their vastly different pieces during open houses, with Daly having already sold three of her plastic bag paintings.
“Plastic is kind of a big controversy right now and at least I’m using it for something I think is pretty or I think is valid,” she said. “This just sort of happened, so to be honest I wasn’t really thinking about the environment until someone said something about making a use of something that is so bad.”
Daly is always going through phases of inspiration from everyday life. Her most recent painting was influenced by the tango class she signed up for three months ago. The use of plastic bags was just one of those phases that happened to keep giving the resourceful artist something to play around with. She may not know how much longer she will work with the material, but she’s going to keep at it until the ideas stop flowing.
“You can manipulate what you want for the heck of it or manipulate it to look like something, like I’ve done that for mountains and for water,” she said. “I mean, you never know what’s going to happen, so you get the paintbrush in your hand and you pray.”
Daly will showcase her abstract art during the Marblehead Art Association event at 8 Hooper St. on Saturday. The artistic showcase runs from 10 a.m. to noon and Daly was given a two-hour slot where she will highlight her plastic bag art. Materials will be provided so attendees can participate in creating some of their own resourceful pieces.
“When you don’t try new things you become stale. It’s like food, you have to be alive and if you’re not constantly growing your brain just stays still and that’s really bad.”