Thursday, March 19, 2020

DPW Spotlight Interview: Lori Ellis

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Lori's painting "Lemons on Blue" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Lori’s DPW Gallery Page:

My formal art education began in an intense fine art program at Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. At the University of Michigan I earned a BFA in Graphic Design. I worked in Boston and in Portland, Maine as a graphic designer and art director. I value the many things I learned in the business, but after ten years I was ready for new challenges in fine art.

The Maine landscape was the force that sent me back to painting. As much art as I had made to that point, I really hadn’t found a subject that spoke to me so deeply. I worked exclusively in pastels through the 80’s and taught my methods in adult-ed courses. After twelve years in Maine, job opportunities took us to the New Orleans area, and subsequently to Baton Rouge. I returned to school to earn my MFA from Louisiana State University. Grad school was a rich experience twenty years after undergrad. With nine painting professors to guide me, I gained a greater appreciation of contemporary art and art history. I also taught courses in drawing, color and design. 
In 2000 I joined the faculty at State University of New York, Cortland, where I taught painting, drawing, figure drawing, color, and BFA thesis courses. I also Chaired the Department of Art and Art History. I am now retired, as a Professor Emeritus, and reside in Southwest Florida.

Tell us a bit how you first started painting.

I started drawing at a young age. My grandfather loved to paint and I stayed for the weekends in his art studio/guestroom. I remember running my fingers gingerly across all of the gorgeous oil paint tubes, but he insisted I begin with drawing.

Lemons on Blue
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Lori's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I’d have to say all of them! I’ve never been able to resist trying something new. In 2D I’ve worked in oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, casein, pastel, charcoal, pencil, Chinese inks on rice paper... In 3D: clay, glass, metal, weaving, knitting, basketry, paper sculpture. One year I even tried to make garden sculpture out of climbing beans, but the deer defeated that effort.

Which ones have “stuck” and which ones have fallen away?

I worked for a long time in soft pastels, but oils have been my favored medium for over twenty years. I have worked with abstraction and non-objective pattern, but I really do love working from observation. I enjoy the challenge of creating an abstract underpinning of arrangement or story-line within realism.

Locally Grown
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Color and light seem to be my continuing love and challenge. I’ve just begun to explore the unique light and shadow colors of the Florida sun.

Who or what inspires you most?

The natural world is always inspiring. Whether tending my garden or taking long walks, I always see something inspiring. Lately I am having quite a bit of fun setting up still life. It is like creating a small theater where you can make anything happen. For my beach still lifes, I have an x-large baking tray filled with sand and a shelf full of potential props that I can move outside in the sun.

Ducky Day at the Beach
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

The only procrastination in the studio seems to be a small pile of paintings that are about ¾ finished. I am in love with something in the paintings, but there are still major problems, that may take years to solve.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

My studio is a dedicated space in my home with a very comfy arm chair. Even if I am not painting, I am looking at paintings, thinking about paintings, or planning paintings. Even on days that are busy outside the studio I always take a few minutes to peek in and get a fresh look at what is on the easel, so I am clear about what to do when I start working.

Tomatos and Tervis
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

A lot of people keep sketchbooks, but I have visual files on my computer with way more ideas than I have time to paint. Currently I use (mac) Photos and make image files grouped for possible series.

How do you keep art “fresh”? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

As well as looking at nature I look at a lot of art. I have learned from the traditional and contemporary masters as well as my beginning students. I don’t ever look to copy, but to give myself permission to accept all my own crazy thoughts. I always knew when my advanced students were onto a great idea – they would approach me looking both excited and worried that their idea was too “crazy”.

Calm Cloud
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

Whimsy. It has long been forbidden territory. I am trying to break my own personal myth that to be taken seriously you have to be a bit dour and “impressive”.

What makes you happiest about your art?

Happiness is certainly in eye of the beholder, but I am happiest when a painting makes me smile or opens my heart to the beauty of the world.

Sunday Lunch in Malta
(click to view)

Thanks, Lori!

© 2020 Sophie Marine

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