Art quotes

"For the last 20 year period I've been working with ideas conceived as a child." -Red Grooms

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inspired by Life

Sand Waves, recent winner Okemos

     Inspiration, just where does it come from? It most likely varies from person to person but for me that creative nudge comes from a variety of stimuli.

     We have traveled over much of North America to bring home photos that fill three shoe boxes, along with their accompanying funny stories. Niagara Falls, over many visits, has created at least two paintings. The sunsets, lo the many sunsets, has garnered their own section in yea old shoebox.

Red Bluff 30x40 
     Paintings like Red Bluff and Sand Waves, just to mention a few, were inspired by the mysteries of defusing evening light. Summer dune walks, and a few winter walks too have helped to put paint to canvas. The summer dune walks are the easiest to walk and paint. Sand in sandals is a lot more pleasant than snow penetrating old boots.

      For me, as a painter, I sometimes need a push to get motivated as the fore mentioned sunsets, but sometimes it is a technique in the process of painting that gets the paint flying.

Gravity 16x20 oil on canvas
     A few years ago a big dribble of paint slid down the canvas creating a free streak sending a big WOW echoing out of the studio. So I did what all artists do when having fun. I went with the slow rolling run of paint sliding down the perfect white canvas. To paraphrase Picasso – you can’t create until you destroy the white surface.

     So for me the birth of a new technique was born. Sometimes the creative stimuli is the expectation of a new method of applying paint such as the big dribble. And so the fun begins bringing with it a new path to explore and a new series of images.

      We all have heard about renowned art communities- the Impressionists, the Hudson River School, the Group of Seven - and their valuable contribution to the art world through the mixing and blending of their dialog between the members. Being in an artistry environment can also stimulate the work of artists.

     Museums and galleries are favorite haunts of the art creator to keep the creative energy flowing.    
So what inspires you to do your art? Could it be your shoebox of photo memories, that special sunset or the new technique that keeps you going on to the next challenge? Maybe it is visiting your favorite museums and galleries and adding new ones to keep the ideas fresh. 

     As the  sculptor, Louise Nevelson, reminded us, “Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.” Whatever inspires you, I hope you keep creating. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Original Art

Gift giving season is fast approaching. I was watching customers recently in the fine art of shopping. My observations, though not scientific, sure were fun to see how the shopper goes about the process of picking out their prizes. Most people picked up and felt for quality and held it up to the light to get a better look-see. In art shows the potential buyer walks around and among the art, hands behind their back like a Norman Rockwell painting trying not to touch the art work. Wouldn't it be fun to have an art show that encouraged the handling and hefting of the art pieces? 
We all have the experience of giving what we hope, is a thoughtful gift, followed by a gnawing feeling that the gift was, well in the dark recesses of the recipients abode, i.e. closet. Take heart. Just tell yourself it was given in the spirit of whatever makes you feel better and good luck next time.
Speaking of the spirit of giving, we went to the dedication and opening of the new Broad Art Museum on the Michigan State University campus. The dignitaries were replete, the atmosphere was charged with excitement as we all waited to get our first look inside this very unusual building which in itself is a grand piece of art. This is quite a gift to give, all forty million dollars’ worth of hope and encouragement for the arts into the future for generations to come.
Here’s hoping Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum will continue to shine and stand out as a beacon for the arts for many years.
            Though many of us don’t have the big bucks to give like some fortunate folks, don’t lose your artistic eye, and keep shopping for that special gift. As we shop this season we hope you will stay positive and give original art a chance to make someone happy.

Happy holiday, 
On Hold  16x20  oil on canvas. Boats caught in ice, Lake Michigan
Snowy Ridge  18x24  acrylic on canvas

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What is The Value of Art?

Winter Trail 9x12 oil

Oak leaves have tumbled off their high summer perch and are swirling on the deck as the first early “chance of snow” forecasts get us thinking here comes winter. Oh well, more time to get to our business of putting holiday art shows up and planning for the looming New Year.  We have a one person show at Shiawassee Art Council in February and an art demonstration at Jackson Civic Art Association in March. We should have an interesting beginning of the New Year.
Have you ever wondered what the inside scoop is all about when it comes to dealing with the big time art auction houses or your local art dealer? The book, The Value of Art by Michael Findlay (Prestel Publishing, 2012) can open up some doors to more awareness of the art business. Where we fit, if we do fit, in this art business puts you on the world stage with all the art patrons over the last century.
Findlay, who was with the noted art auction house, Christie's from 1984 to 2000, takes a close look at art as an investment. In the book Findlay purports to buy what speaks to you, a piece of art that you can look at for hours without tiring.  As for art investments, as in the stock market, buy low sell high. He points out that economic cycles are also reflected in the business of art.
“There are so many ways in which a work of art can act on our sensibilities from the primly intellectual to the wildly emotional. We can be transported to the lowest depths of sorrow or taken to a high spiritual plane. We  can be delighted, we can be baffled, we can be appalled, we can be refreshed, we can be moved to tears or spend the rest of the day smiling,” Michael Findlay on how art affects the individual.
It is fun to look over the shoulder of some of the largest art deals that have taken place  internationally and you don’t have to spend a dime thanks to this fun read.
Gulls in Flight 9x12 oil 
Back in the studio I look around at a lot of stuff that someday, hopefully, will inspire a painting or two. Today inspiration came from a tourist gift shop purchase on the great lakes coast, a little pair of seagulls bouncing on springy wires. I hope you can smell the fresh lake air and hear the call of the gulls.

p.s. Grateful to have received First Place at the 41st Art Exhibition of Okemos Library annual fundraiser, Okemos Michigan.
Sand Waves 13x23 oil on board, First Place November 3 2012 Okemos  Show

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Joel F Ellis Back to the Studio

     The big summer events of late summer and early autumn have been covered with the usual angst. The biggest jobs, Art Prize and the featured-artist show in the lower wing at a large physician’s building consumed a good deal of organizing time. The Physician’s Building show, through October, has twenty-five paintings in a grouping titled, “Blue Skies Smiling” (because I smile every time a clean canvas begins). These big projects took most of the creative energy, while the real fun part of this trip, painting, has been set aside.
       So the tension and guilt to paint builds. My usual starters seemed to fizzle out, building more tension. The two old friends that help in the painting restart mode were employed, Art and Fear (Bayles and Orland) and Hawthorne on Painting (Charles Hawthorne, 1938, available from Dover). Both books have many passages tagged by sticky notes. I am ready for their soothing guidance. The note markers lead to a quiet confidence drifting over my creative soul and yes the process worked. I did go back to the studio and painted the way that felt right, free and spontaneous.  
       The newsstand magazines encourage artists to blog and blog often, almost like vote and vote often. The articles also encourage showing the latest work. Sounds good and worth considering but for many the process of creating is never quite completed. My studio work space has quite a few paintings I know could use “just a little more something”. So when do I call a painting completed? For some, including me, this is one of the most difficult moments in the painting process - when to put the brushes, tubes of paint, stirring sticks, pine boughs or whatever is being used in playing with the paint, down and say, “finished”.
       With all this prattle about getting started and then stopping I humbly announce the completion of my latest painting . . . well maybe.
Harmony, acrylic on linen, 20x24
       The acrylic on linen canvas was birthed, after much shall we say struggle and the usual wow feeling on its possible completion. So here’s to the latest, I hope, Harmony!!!   
Enjoy, Joel

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ArtPrize 2012 It's a Real Trip!

        Art Prize is in the final voting stage of the top ten public selections which ends October 4, the show ends Sunday October 7. Check to see what the folks chose on this very interesting journey. We put Blue Niagara, the already award winning 30x40 acrylic on canvas in the Tapas restaurant - San Chez Bistro, 38 W. Fulton, Grand Rapids. The owners and staff of San Chez have been cordial hosts and great supporters of this terrific art experience.

We went to their opening party and greeting for the artists; then to the B. O. B. (Big Old Building) for a very crowded reception with many artists to get the huge art show off and running.  The  big ol’ B.O.B. hosted several large works on its four floors of walls and outdoor sculptures in the parking lot. Busloads of visitors have come from the Midwest and all over North America to Grand Rapids for this huge art exhibition, ArtPrize 2012.

The installation of some of the large sculptures was art in itself. Some pieces required heavy lifting cranes to get their entries in place. Our installation required a brick wall and a screw to put Blue Niagara in place. With the addition of two spot lights, the painting has a stunning setting in the San Chez Bistro Dining Room with a view of the city.

Don’t worry about the voting or the competition,  if you have time by Sunday October 7 go for the art, the mind blowing art.

As for me, it is time to put together works for a number of other shows including a twenty painting display for the Lansing area, which includes the selection, framing and putting together the show catalogs, and oh yes, time to paint again.

If you get a chance to get to Art Prize in the next few days Go,  go and enjoy the fine art and even some not so good art and enjoy the interesting city with it fine dining and party atmosphere. 

A unique work of art getting ready to exhibit.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cycling Salamander Gallery Artists Reception Tops

We just returned home from a big weekend of travel and visiting art venues around the state. The highlight was an opening show at the Cycling Salamander art gallery just south of Charlevoix, Michigan. Years ago the gallery was a pottery studio of potter extraordinaire, Bonnie Staffel.  The building has a funky rambling charm that comes with years of creating art. The owner is a gracious and talented artist, Rebecca, who put together a cohesive and stunning show around the theme of Ancient Forests.  The turnout was great as well as the food and live music.

Rebecca, owner of Cycling Salamander, and buddy John
If you are in the Traverse City/ Charlevoix area this fall stop and see the Ancient Forests’ show as well as all the interesting items in the gallery and say hello to Rebecca.

Art show receptions are unique events in the entertainment world. We think of the image of the large urban shows with people holding a glass of wine gathered in little groups to study the details of a particular work. I have been fortunate to be involved with a little different image through the kind work of volunteers in community galleries such as Shiawassee Art Center in Owosso, Michigan,  that includes classical piano and super finger snacks along with, of course, very good art in several gallery rooms throughout the building.

The Mid-Michigan Art Guild shows are presented in various places in the Greater Lansing Michigan community: Framers Edge in Okemos, Michigan, Absolute Gallery in beautiful Old Town Lansing, 1212 Gallery and Delta Library in west Lansing, always with flare and good snacks. One of my favorite featured artist shows was at the Hope Borbas Library Gallery a few years ago. Again, good food provided by classy volunteers. This show stands out for me because of the patrons who were willing to talk about the creative process of art.
After the working trip Up North, I was home again in the studio trying to get inspired to paint. To encourage the process I was perusing art magazines in hope of getting the creative juices flowing. In an old Art Calendar Magazine, June 2010 (now known as Professional Artist Magazine), I read an article on “14 Tips For Creating Outstanding Art Events”. It was a good read and matched up well to the really fine art opening at Cycling Salamander.

The art input for the weekend did help get the paint flowing again. Tapping into a vision/dream another unusual painting materialized thanks to all the stimulation.

The next big art event in Michigan is ArtPrize . Keep reading the joelfellisart blogs and we’ll explore this unique art adventure together!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Day I Ran A Painting Marathon

[This blog is taken from an entry in my art journal from a few years ago – thought you would enjoy it.  Pictures are from the Marathon session. Don't try this at home.] 

            The painting process really appeals to me. Sometimes, however, I can get lost in time and end up over-working a painting. I tried to use techniques to help prevent this problem, but nothing seemed to help until one day while watching a Marathon running event I got an idea.  What about a timed event for painting, something more than “a painting a day”, why not one painting per hour? Maybe a Marathon of 26 paintings in 24 hours.

            Now we’re talking some serious painting.     

            Yes, its quirky, but artists tend to experiment with all sorts of quirky exercises. The best day came, a day free of the trials of daily life, a whole twenty- four hours worth. My stash of canvas surfaces all lined up, studio cleaned, well, almost. Ready to paint. Then I leaned down, zing, a muscle in my back let lose. Oops, should have stretched before the big race. Eight o’clock starting time became 10 o’clock. Have to stay focused, get this race going.

            Lining up reference photos that were taken from last summer’s trip gave a sense of being in the forests and dunes of Michigan. By matching the photo to the canvases I should have the first painting completed soon, right?

The first pack of three canvases had ripples in the weave. A little gesso should help to solve this glitch. Good enough. I just blew most of an hour.   

            Eleven a.m. the first of many canvas boards hit the easel. I like to paint much larger so this should be easy. My fast drying acrylics were working great but forty five minutes into the first of twenty-six paintings was going slower than expected. Could it be that I was dabbing and dallying? The whole reason for this marathon was to speed up the painting process with simplicity and discipline. I’ll have to keep better track of time.

            The first painting was finally completed in less than one hour and not too bad, if I say so myself.

            To celebrate, I did some stretching exercises for the stiff back, and took a long look at the couch. Maybe I should test it for upcoming naps?

             Wow! Fifteen minutes into my second painting and I’m on the couch sleeping. After doing some self-reaming, I got back at the goal.

The process continued through the day. I would have to work through interruptions like the maintenance person coming to fix a sagging light fixture. Paint, stretch sore muscles, and rest through the afternoon and into evening if the marathon was to be completed.  

            The safe place for completed work was beginning to fill up. To my surprise some paintings were pretty good. The weaker were ones off by a few brush strokes. The overworking problem seemed to be under control at least for now.

            Dinner break came and yes I succumbed to the human cravings. Food, I need food. After wolfing down too much dinner, the inner voice was yelling, “get back to work.”

            In a small college town where I once lived, the townies came out to watch a Marathon spectacle - Young people running twenty-six miles. How strange that was for us, seeing the college kids plod their way up the steep hill to the main street, their faces etched in pain, bodily fluids leaking.  This vivid image crept into my thoughts as I too plodded along. The many cups of tea had to be dealt with or I, too, would be that ominous soul on the up hill of this painting marathon.    

            I painted on into the evening.  The sun set, night came over the sleepy town as my studio light shone onto the empty streets. Paintings kept getting finished and still they looked pretty darn good. What was going on here? Was I in some kind of time warp?

            Breaks between paintings were getting longer. Late night talk shows could be heard coming from the next room. The specter the marathon runners began to appear in my mind as images of exhausted, plodding, tragic apparitions. My back was stiff and sore but thoughts of crossing the finish line with twenty-six finished paintings dogging me on. This was a rare moment in an Artist’s life. I had to keep going. But for how long?

            Late Late  shows wafted into the studio. The sore back turned into back pain, the nasty kind. We’re programmed not quit, right? Those gol darn blank canvases lined up waiting for the artist’s hand. I could not drop out; too many people knew I was out to do a painting marathon.

            Then inspiration hit me. I know how the Half-Marathon was invented. Yes, high fives all around, I just finished 13 paintings, a glorious half painting marathon, none of them overworked, all of them colorful and bearing the gift of simplicity.


Friday, July 27, 2012

A Road Trip To Remember

       I am sitting at the computer and glancing at a completed painting that turned out great if I do say so myself. The photo inspiration came from a photo revisit. Let me explain. When I was in my a child my family took a Michigan road trip. My father stayed home to manage his business. In his place my grandfather became our tour guide. He took us up the middle of the state across to Lake Michigan by car ferry boat and into Wisconsin then up to the Upper Peninsula and down the straits of Mackinac. We had many stops at historic sites and rich scenery of Pure Michigan. When we stopped we would pile out of the car stretch our tired bodies and take pictures, lots of pictures.  
       Many years later these stops  were revisited on my own family’s road trips. One such site stands out for its extreme beauty. I stopped the car in the Upper Peninsula (this time we took the impressive Mackinac Bridge) to stretch our legs at a parking pull off. We walked down a dark and shady worn path that led under a huge iron bridge over a little stream with moss covered boulders. Cameras were clicking away as we tried to capture this majestic scene to remember at home. Standing in this pristine site filled with cool texture and a symphony of sounds it suddenly occurred to me that this wonderful place was one of the stops on my childhood family journey so many years ago. Some things actually may stay the same at least for one lifetime.
       I got an email from an art gallery that has a summer theme of forests of Michigan. The image was there in that pleasant place in my memory, dense forests, pure tumbling water and moss covered rocks. After finding the second generation photo of my journey into that beautiful scene, my interpretation was on course. As things go in the arts, the gallery might or might not take this forest painting. The process of art in this case reminded me that the first step – inspiration - is motivated by many sources. In this case, I am so happy to have returned to a very special memory.    
       As we watch parents do their parenting thing, we have to marvel at all the effort that goes into raising and nurturing a child. That family trip many years ago is fondly remembered. Here’s to the family road trip and may we all have many more. 
Joel                                         Upper Peninsula scene, second time around 

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Passion of Original Art

Great Lakes Passage by Joel F Ellis, 27x35
During a featured artist show of my works a few years ago, a woman brought her older blind friend to “see” my paintings. I was a little startled, but more honored to give a personal tour of the work with the woman.  I described various pieces as we came to them when she stopped me and said that her friend liked the texture in my work. She wanted me to help her see through feeling the textures with the descriptions. We came to a large painting, Great Lakes Passage, with palette knife ridges and defined brush strokes of dune grasses, she moved her fingers over texture that can only be experienced in personal viewing. No flat copy or digital image shows the true sense of the work. She stayed with the painting a long time, moving her fingers along the sand passage to the great lake, when she turned to me and said, “It is a beautiful original painting, reminds me of camping in the dunes.”              

Original art, what is it? Though much of my work ranges from heavy texture to smooth color on canvas, the whole experience has been lingering with me as technology changes so much for us. The art community is a buzz with the shakeup of digital possibilities. With so much reprinted work available they ask, what will the art gallery look like in the next few years and how will the art community ignore or embrace the changes? These are some of the questions swirling out there in our Saturday morning gathering of artists.

Original art, as the name explains, is created by the artists and has their finger prints all over the piece, so to speak, and sometimes actually embedded in the material. The patron who receives the original has the only work by that artist, there can only be one original. This is the promise or compact between artist and patron. Replicas are another art form depicting the original using today’s technology with impressive exactness of color and image. Not texture. Even GiclĂ©e , which I offer of some of my paintings, can capture finite details with options such as size changes using almost exact pigment replicas of the original, but never the texture unless added in to the final replica product by the artist, noted and signed with limited edition documentation for collectors. As I said, Another art form.

The digital world is astounding us with its infinite possibilities, many challenges and new avenues that can lead to unlimited potential for the adventurists. Digital art itself presents a whole new consideration of the concept of original. New to the field of fine art – digital art has the potential to explore so much beyond liquid colors on canvas. Digital art today is well into the discussions just as photography as a fine art has been discussed since the medium took steps beyond true image, leaving a collector to wonder which is the original, and does it matter any more?

I think it does. Online art galleries are out there waiting to wow the customer with their wares and some very fine looking art.  Comparing the art markets to the vast food industry in America, the online art would be like a huge chain store, while the artists down the street would be in the local farmers market. Buying original art allows the patron the opportunity to get to know the artists, to put a hand on the same materials, to feel the passion that the artists felt in the production of the work.

All this is not to say that the miracle of the internet does not play an important role in exposure to original art. I do have an on line presence, web site ( ) and yes this blog. The discussions of original art, though confusing in the new digital age, are invigorating, almost like a sensory finger climb on great lake dune.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Artist? What do you really do?

 We’ve had a busy beginning to the graduation/summer season visiting friends and family. Often  folks at these get-togethers look at me curiously and ask how things are going.  Are they waiting for the confession - yes I am an artist doing what artists do, whatever we do in the studio. Maybe they wonder: Could there be nudes in the studio? Wild parties, loose women, drinking strange substances and cutting off earlobes? No, nothing so dramatic in this life as an artist.

I pulled out an article I wrote a few years ago about confessing to an upscale art gallery that , yes I am an  artist. The gallery liaison looked me over and stifled a snicker – no funky clothes, no beret. I wanted to defend my statement but that would have taken that incredulous look off her face.

 It is not easy putting your hopes and dreams out there for people you hardly know to examine your soul. But look how far I’ve come, me, writing a blog on the creative process for the whole world to see. That process includes endless questioning and self-doubt, rushing me back to my worn copy of Art and Fear – Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking  (Bayles & Orland).

Yes, I am an artist, I can tell by all the painted clothes hanging on hooks in my studio, by the storage bins swelling with comfort smelling oils on canvas, with a bookcase full of painter’s catalogs, and best, the genuinely positive comments from dear friends, family, and customers regarding the new works displayed on the website (  Most importantly, I think I am an artist because I know creating the forms and colors is really fun and exciting, even though I still have all my earlobes (with apologies to Vincent Van Gogh, who I greatly admire). 
Enjoy these lovely days of summer,


                                                     Cooling of the Dunes by Joel F. Ellis
                                                       Best of Show, Mid-Michigan Art Guild, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIA, FIA, KIA, and SAC Art in Michigan, Check It Out!

Summer is finally here with all the ballgames and family gatherings. Travel to and from these fun times will be a blessing and a lots of fun. In summer, we move around the state a great deal. Along with the family and the drop off and pickup of art entries, we accumulate a whole lot of miles on the road. There is also the bonus of new sights to explore.
Michigan is a very diverse and beautiful state that never fails to amaze the serendipity explorer. As we travel this northern U S state we are amazed by the bountiful natural water reservoir, the Great Lakes. Lake Michigan, I think, is the jewel in the Great Lakes crown. With its broad sand beaches and dense emerald forests and inland lakes that give the nature lover a superb blend of natural beauty.
If your fair is the urban life don’t miss the many charming small towns. The small cafes and bakeries with their friendly locals are as pleasant as any town in Europe. Check out Northport, Michigan - great cinnamon rolls! 
If your travels take you on the many miles of expressways don’t forget to pull off at some world class art venues and fine art galleries throughout Michigan. Detroit with it diverse ethnic population can be a lot of fun to explore. Don’t forget the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), one of the best in the world. Be sure to stop and marvel at the grand historic and masterful Diego Rivera mural. There are many art communities that are a must see for a Michigan art tour.
Flint Institute of Art (FIA)  is as classic as any urban art venue in the country, with an exceptional permanent collection as well as classy travelling shows. Kalamazoo Institute of Art (KIA) rests in a very artistic region. The exhibits are world class. That was where we first became aware of Tunis Ponson’s work which is now under the curatorial protection of Roy Saper of Saper Gallery in East Lansing. Yes, right here in this artsy little town with big visions for art.  
A great example of smaller community superb art exhibits is Shiawassee Art Center (SAC) in Owosso where art thrives through an enthusiastic collaboration between staff, volunteers, friends of, and the community businesses and individuals. Many communities throughout Michigan have this same enthusiasm for the importance of art in the health of the community. Check them out as you travel.
Saugatuck-Douglas has some of the best art venues in the state, and a little further up the west coast of Michigan you can find other fun art communities: Traverse City where original art abounds, Manistee, and Charlevoix with contemporary galleries and old world classical paintings. These are just a few.
ArtPrize (in September), in Grand Rapids, has grown into international importance with its size and diverse venues throughout the city. One of the main attractions for huge sculptural art and smaller works in the main building gallery is at beautiful Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. That is where we became reacquainted with the excellent kenetic sculptor, George Rickey.
I’ll keep you posted on the various venues and paintings we deliver, and here’s hoping we do a lot of traveling this new art season.
Happy art travels, Joel

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sharing the Joy of Creating Art

People often ask very interesting questions when they find that you are an artist: how long does it take to paint a painting, why did I do this or that to the painting or where did I get the idea for the painting. These plus many more questions are often fielded at unusual times, not always in the exhibit.
My artistic grandson one day asked me more specific questions. His curiosity was more to the point, when did I get started in art and why?

                                                     A drawing by my grandson, Tyler
These bold questions can make a fellow take pause for a moment and look at the sweet innocent face asking these profundities. Ahh, an opening for me to share all the unsaids about this career. Here was my chance to imprint a little of myself on this fine young specimen.
I got started many years ago when I observed my father finding relief from his own hard physical work through painting calm scenes. I observed his process of setting up his handmade easel, laying out the paints on his handmade palette, and creating right before our eyes. The paintings were just for him, when they were done many became a patch or other in his handmade factory of producing cement blocks. What I learned most from my father, the artist, was the pure joy of creating. He was not hindered by critics or financial gain.
The image of my father painting remained with me as I experimented with pure-joy-creating in various artistic ways – photography, sculpture, sketching. I learned so much more in college with a series of art experiences on my credentials. Then I learned that it is very difficult to raise a family doing art, though I have close friends who worked hard at their sculptures and have made a name for themselves in the art world. For me, I chose education as my day job. Career transitions come with time and I was provided with a good amount of time to experience the pure joy of creating. Unlike my father’s choice of retaining the moments of creating his work, I decided to also share the work and I have thoroughly enjoyed that part of being an artist. So my dear grandson, I am doubly happy to have chosen to be an artist.
After that quick exchange of arty conversation, we moved as all good conversations do to other subjects like philosophy and music and the combinations of the two. I learned some things about his progress and curiosity in art and the role it plays in his world. This could be a beginning for us. I know I am just a link in this great big journey of time and hope good can come from it. We’ll keep the color pencils, words of encouragements, and a little guidance flowing in hopes of insuring the next generation of artists.
Joel  (  ) 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Perfect Painting - What Do You Think?

What makes the perfect painting?  Is it a landscape with trees and lakes, perhaps with a sailboat gently bobbing on the blue lake? In 1993, the People’s Choice project by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid described in The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution (Dennis  Dutton ) studied the artistic preference of folks in ten countries. In the study they want to town hall meeting to hear just what makes the perfect landscape. A worldwide poll conducted by various public opinion firms of simple artistic preference questions covered close to two billion people’s opinion.
Take a moment and think what you feel would make the perfect painting.
What did you picture? Did you have a blue sky, trees, water?  If you did you would be on track with the findings of the research.  Universally the ideal painting was a landscape with water, people and animals. The ideal color almost exclusively is blue. The researchers even noted a link back to our early ancestors who were looking for a cozy safe place to live. We seem to carry this image deep in our brain that comes out when we look for that perfect landscape.
A bitter side note… the esteemed researchers warned that the most disliked paintings described in the research were abstract designs. Sadly, the product of my new artistic excitement – brilliant abstracts,  will never be accepted by the masses. Fortunately, I still also love the dunes and forests, close enough to the perfect landscape. I think times are changing and the viewers and supporters of modern art, in these very fascinating art times, have already proven the People’s Choice project prediction regarding abstracts as weak if not faulty.
So keep looking at the beauty and changing earth we call home and find your perfect landscape, then squint at that sunset and just maybe you can make your own abstract. 

 This piece called Little Lake, or

 Spontaneous Bloom? What's your choice?
Happy looking, Joel


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Broad Art Museum by Zaha Hadid: Cause for Artists' Discussion

A gathering of artists, in East Lansing, were finishing their breakfast when the art topic became heated. The big talk was about the new Broad Art Museum on the campus of Michigan State University by the world renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Most respected artists at the table thought the building too radical while a few brave souls thought the new Broad will be great for East Lansing and Mid Michigan, bringing visitors from around the country and the world.

I have to confess I have been in the cautious group. The architectural design is radically diverse from the general university style. Long metal lines crossing at sharp angles seem to invite a variety of “looks like” comments: looks like a spaceship landing, looks like a truck wreck, looks like . . . you get the idea.  As the unusual shapes have come together over the last several months, however, the futuristic design began to make a statement about being brave and looking to the future. After a virtual tour of the inside of the building where art is displayed, the concept has made a positive impression on me.  See for yourself: Check the site regularly for updates on the project and shows happening now through the Broad Without Walls program.

Michigan State University campus will become a destination for the seekers of beauty in the arts thanks to the Broad Art Museum. The opening of the museum should be a grand affair in the fall of 2012.

For most recent views of Joel Ellis Art, please take a look at my website:  Thanks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Michigan Dunes, A Great Painting Subject

People sometimes ask me why dunes are often the subject of many of my paintings. There is a long family history going back, way back to family trips to Lake Michigan for a long day at the beach. We packed picnics, fishing poles and blankets and left before dawn, our destination: Silver Beach in Saint Joseph, Michigan. The once thriving amusement park was a fine family getaway but for me the first sight of the truly great lake was breath taking. The sand, so much sand, and how it the met the pure blue water was imprinted on me forever.

                                                  Spring Dune  13 x 17 oil on linen (Joel F Ellis)
Over the years the hallowed visits still mean peace, serenity and a magical transformation from the day-to-day grind of the everyday life. So… this magical spot is what I try to share with the viewer of the dune paintings, sharing my many journeys through the noonday heat or the sunset breezes rustling through the grasses.

Some dune visits may be represented down to each blade of grass while others may convey the swaying wave of green dancing over the floor of sand as water and sky meet to create these magical moments. Every trip to Ludington State Park or sites farther north on Michigan’s third coast bring a dune surprise – little lakes, fences exposed then gone, historic ship pilings, small animals alive and some going back to the earth as my young daughter used to say about a dead creature. We are truly grateful to have the amazing the Great Lakes as our playground. Joel(Spring Rain, 18x24, oil on linen).                                                                    

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Helene and I finally got an afternoon in the Milwaukee Art Museum. The 20,000 works are displayed in one of the most unusual venues in the art world. My humble words could never convey the scale and impact of architect Santiago Calatrava’s  masterpiece. Facing the bright blue of Lake Michigan’s west coast, the beaming white bow of the building boasts wings, yes wings that lift from the side exterior walls in the opening hour of the museum until the closing hour when the wings gracefully return over the walls. An architectural must see for art lovers.
After hours in and around the magnificent building through the soft curving interior walls we took photos of the building sculpture until it was time to go. On our return ride back to the southwest side of metropolitan Chicago, we played the game of naming all the art museums we have been so fortunate to have experienced. The list grew quite long as we headed south around Chicago. We got so engrossed in our little game we missed a crucial fork in the road and traveled east instead amid five lanes of busy traffic. The Willis (Sears) tower kept getting closer and closer. We turned on the mighty GPS and let the miracle of the modern age get us not so lost.
The art and architecture of the Milwaukee Art Museum should be on your list of great places to view and become part of the grander human experiences. See pictures of the museum below the blog posts.
To know the impact of the structure another valued architect, Rosolini, once said: "Don't watch the building. Watch the face of the people coming to the building."
Enjoy the art around you,

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Gloomy days slide by as we wait for spring and look through the inventory now completed and helping us prepare for the upcoming art year. The business of the art game is still difficult for us, the act of creating still the most pure and by far the most fun.
Creating art is perspiration and concentration. Some acts of art are pure pleasure, while others are pure hard work often with little positive results.
I wanted to immortalize an anniversary pot of roses. Sounds like an easy painting assignment but nooooo.  After four painting sessions, the dreaded mud. The painting result sits out of sight but watching from the its isolated distant location. On to the next…
Winter, with it blues and purples, set off a wave of energy for me that carried into a really fine “A” painting. So… perspiration, concentration, plus the hidden and often called on perseverance keeps the gloomy days away.
Still waiting for spring and flowers with all their color and textures and dancing in the wind. Please check the website for a look at my work:
Best to you for “A” days,

Monday, February 6, 2012

A New Start

At the beginning of the year, 2012, we realized it is another year to get organized and the inventory is still not under control. Not that we haven’t tried in past years. About three years ago we began a numbering system that helped in this new project.  Creative work as a way of accumulating and without some organization much of the work is likely to languish in the bins unaccounted. We’re talking hundreds of items.  The holiday season had an empty ring to as we saw the dreaded job ahead.

After many soulful discussions, we made a plan. The first day we arranged twenty paintings to photograph with their number and hand note them on two cross reference inventory sheets – one numerically and one alphabetically by first word in the title of each painting. We went through all the steps with no major glitches. In one full week, we worked six hours a day each, photographing and checking every painting in every bin noting the paintings that were also out at exhibition. Some paintings were sold and not noted on the old inventory sheets. Some, as art goes, were refined or painted over without an updated photograph. The inventory is now completed and recorded in the computer, but the challenge today is to keep the process going.  It is a good start to the new year.

With the inventory in control, I felt I could spend some winter nights reading without guilt. My good friend Karmen suggested Van Gogh: The Life by White and Naifeh. This 900+ page book has put together all the pieces of this genius’ life. After all the books I have read about Vincent, the gaps were so constant: how did it feel to live in these areas, what caused his illnesses, what was driving him. The big surprise confirmed some of my own considerations about the artists supposed suicide. I don’t want to give away this surprise, because though the book is a long read, the 10-year research and writing have been a treasure to those of us who really want to know about this prolific writer and artist – Vincent VanGogh.

Simply, Van Gogh said “I want  to paint what I feel, and feel what I paint.”

Okay, with that inspiration it is time to get back to work and fulfill the potential of this new year.

I intend to share the progress and thoughts of the artist’s day in this blog. If you want to check some of my newest paintings go to . If you would like to contact me, e-mail is the best source . Thanks for taking the time to read my restart of the Joel Ellis Art Web Log.