Artist Spotlight: Barbara Ellis


Vivid: What is your art background?

Ellis: B.A. in Commercial Art; The City College of New York (CUNY) – I’ve studied at F.I.T. (New York City), The School of Visual Arts (New York City), Central Piedmont Community College, and independently with artists Louise Farley, Lee Baumgarten, Walter Stanford, and Steve Aimone.

Vivid: What materials do you use?

Ellis: I work with oil, or various forms of acrylic paint, art crayons and sometimes tissue on canvas or fabric.

Vivid: Where do you find your inspiration?

Ellis: I’m inspired either by preconceived concepts,  or raw impulse (subconscious emotional memory).

Vivid: Where is the craziest place that you’ve found inspiration?

Ellis: In a Louisiana slave plantation.  The resulting image reflected energies that were passionate/lively as well as dark.

Vivid: Who are some of your favorite artists?

Ellis: Elaine de Kooning (abstractions),  Willem de Kooning, Judith Godwin, Norman Lewis, Basquiat

Vivid: Describe your process?

Ellis: I begin by making random marks on the canvas.  As the composition develops, I make adjustments to areas that make me uncomfortable.  The process is repeated layer by layer as I respond with free-sweeping gestures that emanate from Spirit.  This unusual painting method is direct.  It essentially channels spiritual, subconscious and emotional memory into visual form.  Oftentimes, creating a pleasing composition requires turning chaos into order using both additive and subtractive methods.

Vivid: Can you describe a typical day?

Ellis: I typically arrive at my studio late morning or early afternoon.  During lunch, I contemplate the current project: where I am and what needs to change.  Next, I get into a music flow (which depending on my mood can range from straight-ahead jazz, world, house or neo-soul).  Then I get to work.  I’ll work until either the energy slows, or I realize it’s time to get home and start dinner!

Vivid:  What musicians do you listen to?

Ellis: OMG! I just love music!  I come from a line of music-heads and have a wide palette,  so where do I start? Here we go: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Yusef Lateef, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper, Buika, Zim Ngqawana, Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri.

Vivid: Black or sweet and creamy?

Ellis: Neither! Organic herb tea…(lately raspberry, ginger) straight up or with a little organic honey.

Vivid: Favorite cocktail?

Ellis: Classic Margarita straight up no salt

Vivid: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created, and if so, what was it and why?

Ellis: Lavender Dance.  A most surprising lavender dancing figure emerged after it took me through many frustrating layers.  I suppose it really wanted to Be…

Vivid: What is your sign?

Ellis: Scorpio sun (with Libra Moon and  Libra Venus…  I’m grateful for those two aspects that help balance the intensity!)

Vivid: If you could invite anyone (living or dead) to dinner, who would it be?

Ellis: Barack and Michelle Obama.

Vivid: Tell us three words that describe you.

Ellis:  Kind.  Intentional. Thoughtful.