Artist Spotlight | Elize Nazelie

This week, we picked the brain of the artist behind Diesel’s current art show: Elize Nazelie. Elize has been a long time Diesel regular, and we are stoked to have her as our featured artist this month. Here’s a peek into her background, sandwich preferences, and furry feline muses.


How/when did you discover Diesel Cafe?

I’ve been stopping into Diesel since I was in high school (at Arlington High), and Davis was about one of the coolest places you could go to in the surrounding area. I worked at Toscanini’s in Harvard Square and moonlighted at the Someday Cafe as well… It always makes me happy to see Diesel has thrived as one of the last great coffee shops from that time.

Why did you choose Diesel as a location for your recent show?

I’ve wanted to do a show at Diesel since I was about 16, and I emailed every year or two and got a reply that they were booked for the year… I’m glad I didn’t get in until I was older because I work a lot larger and more confidently now and have a better handle on my medium than I did when I was young.


What is your background in art? Do you focus primarily on painting? What else do you dabble in?

I didn’t go to art school or anything, but I was always filling up on art classes in high school, and after that I did a two year tattoo apprenticeship, and have been a tattoo artist for 7 years since then… It’s so great to get to work in an artistic field every day. It’s only been since I’ve become secure in my tattooing business and opened my own tattoo shop that I’ve been able to shift some focus onto water colors which are my spirit medium deep down.

Who are some of your artistic influences?Oh jeez there are so many!! My earliest influences on wanting to become an artist were all the great artists of children’s illustration. There is a book called “When Cat’s Dream” by Dav Pilkey, which first made it clear to me as a child that people could create amazing things with art aside from it being a fun way to pass time. It was cats from the beginning I guess!! Nowadays I try to go to the MFA and other museums regularly and try to learn what other people have been doing with water based mediums for centuries.

Do you recall a favorite art show that has been up at Diesel in the past?

I’ve been a fan of Dan Blakeslee’s music since seeing him performing in front of JP Lick’s a few summers ago, and was completely blown away to learn that aside from being so musically skilled, he has illustrated hundreds of his own show flyers and album covers. His show was amazing!! Talk about a person who makes every aspect of his art his very own!!

Many of your paintings feature cats. Do you have kitty models (aka pets) of your own?

Oh you know it!! I have an 8-year-old Persian mix named Nimbus, and when my now husband moved in with me, he brought a fluffy, anciently-old orange cat named Otis with him. That’s why there’s a slight bias towards long haired cats in my paintings. I don’t have as good a grip on what sleek silky cats look like after all that fur!!



What’s up with the dragons?

Ha ha, good question!! The dragons are a remnant of my tattoo shop training, as well as my interest in children’s illustration leaking through. I always struggled with making dragons look tough and scary like other tattoo artists, so now I’ve tried not to fight it and do them my own way. Japanese dragons are super interesting because they are a hybrid mix of many different animals, so its fun to mix and match exaggerations if each animal characteristic to get totally different results. Dragons are supposed to have the body of a snake… I think mine look more like dachshunds recently. I also like to try and reflect the animal personality… Like laying down, grooming their fur, etc… dragons don’t have to be bearing their teeth and flexing their muscles all the time.

What’s your favorite item on the Diesel menu?

For food I’ve always loved PK’s Pouch, I’ve been getting it for years, and everyone knows Diesel makes the best egg and cheese sandwich on planet earth. Get it with a little red onion. For drinks I get a half-Thai-iced-tea/half-Russian-Caravan with the cream on top, at the suggestion of Jess Brasil. Less sweet but all satisfying.

Do you do custom paintings? How would someone contact you with an idea, if so?

Absolutely I do! You can always email me at [email protected] with your idea and size you’re looking for. Please be patient with my response time, because I get tons of tattoo emails too so I’m a little slow with replying to everyone.

Some of your paintings feature cats in famous movies. Give us a sample of some of your best cat puns!Many of my cat puns are suggestions from friends of mine… once you explain to someone to think of movie titles with cat-related words in the names, you get texts at all hours of the night when they come up with one, it really is fun to try and think up!! I write all the good ones down in a little notebook for later. My personal fave is Cat Gordon: Savior of the Mewniverse (because I’m especially a sucker for a two-pun title)… I just did a mock book cover for The Litter Prince the other day, and got a particularly relevant one right before the great Robin Williams’s passing… Mrs. Meowfire :3