Open Doors is a series in which photographer Anna Solo visits the homes and workspaces of fascinating Seacoast people.
When Elizabeth DeJure Wood and her husband Steve made the decision to leave Boston two years ago, they planned to head west to the Bay Area. But, after multiple weekend trips to Portsmouth, they fell in love with the warmth, culture, and pace of the smaller city.
“The supportive creative community here, the welcoming nature, the calmer vibe, the open ocean being less than 10 minutes away” are among the features Wood says ultimately brought them to the close-knit West End block where they now live.
Wood spent 15 years working as a graphic designer, but she coincided her move to Portsmouth with the start of a full-time freelance illustration career. “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do for work is draw pictures, as impractical as that may sound,” she says.
Her drawings touch on a variety of topics that are largely related to human and animal rights. Her work is abstract, simple, and, as she describes it, naive.
“It’s an informed naivety,” she says. “I love drawing people and I love abstracting them. … I’m really into the shape of forms, both living and inanimate, and abstracting those forms to some degree, but they are still recognizable. My work intentionally has a quiet, softer tone to it — I think that partly comes from being introverted.”
In her light-filled home studio, every detail is casually intentional. The space is subtle and impeccable, yet full. Artwork, both her own and that of artists that inspire her, hangs on the walls. Small plants fill the comfortable space. A throw lies on top of a large soft chair in a cozy corner, usually occupied by her (feline) officemate, Marley. Though natural light streams in through the studio’s two windows, strategically placed lamps create additional warm lighting, giving the space a zen feel that lends itself to the work Wood creates there.
Describing her workspace as “utilitarian,” Wood explains that almost every item within its walls was purposefully placed. “I’ve thrown together a decent piece of maple plywood for my desk, a larger file cabinet from Goodwill. I have things in my space like my grandmother’s embroidery wall hanging and items I’ve found gardening, walking, or discarded; special gifts, things I’ve acquired in my travels that I love and that are comforting.”
Wood grew up in Boston but later moved to Southeast Asia and studied in Thailand, while also traveling. Following that, she moved to San Francisco to work as a production assistant for a ceramic artist. Shortly after, she relocated to Del Ray Beach, Fla., to connect with family members. This included her grandfather, whose 20th-century-style windsor chair Wood currently uses as her own desk chair and frequently includes in her illustrations.
Since moving to Portsmouth, Wood says, the city has given her both the mental and physical space to fully embrace her artistic nature. “Compared to a super densely populated place like Somerville, I feel like there’s breathing room here, both literally and figuratively. There’s parks, there’s the river, the ocean, and the culture here is a little more relaxed.”
This relaxed feel is evident as soon as one walks through the doors of Wood’s house, where soft, zen-like music plays, pairing nicely with the warm, soft, contemporary space. It is in this space that she has produced some of her larger projects, such as work she did for the Native American Rights Fund, which commissioned her to help raise awareness for important causes through illustration. She’s also done work for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which rescues and rehabilitates coastal wildlife affected by oil spills.
Wood describes her process as “a bit messy.” But she’s created an environment where she can freely immerse herself in even the most challenging and meticulous projects.