Art quotes

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Joel Ellis Art Virtual Gallery - Happy Holidays

The key to original art is One-of-a-kind, none other like it. That is the advantage of very special gifts of fine arts – it is the only one. Artists who create from their experience and from the heart know this extraordinary phenomenon very well. 

       The works from Joel Ellis Art during this giving season are based in the aura of original art. If you want to purchase special gifts consider the richness of the Greater Lansing Area, Michigan where art is in full bloom. My works are currently displayed at several venues in the Capitol Area including several small paintings in archival mats and clear bags at about $65 in Absolute Gallery, Shiawassee Art Center and Lansing Art Gallery:

Newfoundland  5x7 in 8x10 archival mat, one of 10 small paintings at Abolute Gallery
Cosmos Bloom 5x7 in 8x10 archival mat, small painting at
Absolute Gallery in Old Town Lansing
Absolute Gallery – Old Town Lansing    10 small works  

Great Escape 18x24  oil on canvas, at Force By Design downtown East Lansing
Force by Design – 5 mid-size and large paintings atop the Marriot Hotel East Lansing      
Wet Beach 20x24 oil on canvas, at Lansing Art Gallery, downtown Lansing near the Capitol
Lansing Art Gallery – 3 mid-sized works, plus several small, downtown Lansing         
We Are Stardust 36x36 acrylic on canvas, in the atrium of Mid-Michigan Physicians Building, Lansing 
Lansing Area Arts Connection – two large works in the atrium and a small painting, Mid-Michigan Physicians Building, Lansing
Okemos Library – in the excellent Mid-Michigan Art Guild winter show, Okemos
Northshore Waters 16x20 acrylic on canvas, exhibited at Shiawassee Art Center, Owosso
Shiawassee Art Center, Owosso – 3 mid-size paintings plus small 8x10 matted works
Abalone Dreams 20x24 acrylic on linen, at the Technology Innovations Center,
second floor above old Barnes Noble Building,  East Lansing
Technology Innovations Center – East Lansing (second floor of old Barnes & Nobles)
Wishing you all a satisfying and wholesome Holiday,


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why Artists Paint - Chinese saying, Henry James, 4-year-old artist

       A few days ago a painting was handed to me. The presenter watched my expression with an expectant glance trying to catch my reaction. The creation was all in blue circles swirling over the white paper. When an artist first sees a new painting the normal reaction is something like, how was it done and could I do this, too? The new painting was placed beside one of my mostly blue pieces and the similarity was quite remarkable. Who did this good little painting? A four-year-old created this masterpiece, a young artist reveling in the joy and exhilaration of the moment.
On Hold 16x20 at Lansing Art Gallery Holiday Show

       As artists we often get caught up in promotion and marketing, trying to arrange the next contact so we can be in the right place at the right time to catch a sale break. This can sap the spontaneity and pure joy away from the reason we are in the arts.
       The four-year-old artist got recognition and validation for his work. Isn’t that what we all seek when we put our work in public view? An ancient Chinese saying gives us insight as to why we create: In painting, the master paints not the created image, but the forces that created that image.
       We don’t know the forces working on the four-year-old and we can hardly monitor the forces that lurk in our own lives. We don’t always have time to evaluate our action as we pursue our creative passions but if we did, we might consider the writer Henry James’s often pondered three questions: 1. What was the artist trying to achieve? 2. Was the attempt successful? 3. Was the effort worth attempting?       
Agate Field in Shiawassee Art Center, Owosso, MI

       The four-year-old artist painted for the pure joy of the moment, no concerns about the market or the contact leading to public acceptance, just pure and innocent joy. Oh to have the courage of a four-year-old artist.

       Speaking of the art market, many opportunities are available this season to buy beautiful original art. Folks that are in the tri-state region of Michigan-Ohio-Indiana, or those who are returning for the holidays may want to visit several venues that I share with a host of regional artists. Be sure to support the arts during this brilliant colorful season:
We Are Stardust 36 x36 in atrium at Mid-Michigan Physicians Bldg

Lansing Art Center,119 N. Washington Sq., Lansing MI 48933  
Shiawassee Art Center, 206 Curwood Castle Drive, Owosso, MI
Rackham Hall, University of Michigan, fourth floor, to see Purple Pair in “Reaching for the Light” exhibit (show comes down December 6), contact River Gallery, curators, 120 S. Main St., Chelsea, MI (see previous blog)
Spring Marsh Song 36x36 in atrium at Mid-Michigan Physicians Building
Lansing Area Arts Commission at Mid-Michigan Physicians Building, 1540 Lake Lansing Rd, Lansing, MI, three floors of good art; Joel Ellis Art in the atrium: We Are Stardust, Spring Marsh Song
Force by Design, sixth floor of the Marriot Hotel, East Lansing, across from Charles Street Parking Ramp on Albert St, East Lansing
Evening Breeze 18x24 Lansing Art Gallery

Technology InnovationCenter, (above former Barnes and Noble building), 325 E. Grand River/downtown East Lansing; accessible from 2nd level skywalk of Charles Street parking ramp
Mid-Michigan ArtGuild, Okemos Library, 4321 Okemos Road, Okemos, MI
Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in my work – Joel F. Ellis, , 517-525-0150 or at any of the venues mentioned.
Sylvie's Beach 24x30 at Technology Innovation Center

Thank you for your interest,

Early Snow 18x24 to be in MMAG at Okemos Library

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cool Paintings for Cool Cities

       A few days ago we had a family gathering and birthday celebration, a great way to keep the summer a little longer. The house was specially cleaned and made ready for the family. A friend said the good part about a party is an excuse to really clean the house and the added bonus, tasty left
Autumn Dune Grasses, 16x20 oil on linen
(Copyright Joel F. Ellis)
       One relative guest wanted to see the studio. She was from another state and gets to Michigan once a year. She walked into another world of colors, shapes and smells. Her reaction was surprising to me.
       Oh, cool Joel, this is really cool.
       We forget the person not creating the art is entering into a whole new world. She was quick to spot the painting in progress, and not shy about talking about the parts she liked.  As a piece is “in the process” of creation we go through levels of ecstasy and dismay until all the weak parts are discovered, analyzed and improved. I have found a break from the painting process will give my eye a better insight into the improvements needed. That’s where a cup of tea comes in handy; a moment of contemplating the tea of choice for this painting session is a real plus.  A minute or so later and the fun starts up again until that next sip of tea and a chance to see the painting in progress beginning to transform by the step back and check process.
       Many years ago my university oil painting professor said it takes two people to paint a successful painting, one to apply paint and one to tell the artist when to stop. A good artist’s friend added that he wishes all artists could be more self-critical of their work. I put a little note in my journal about the comment hoping he wasn’t being tactful about my artist endeavors.
       Over the last few months we have been putting my work in for judging to get into some special shows. Some are accepted and some not, that is the process we all face in the arts. We put our efforts out to be viewed and evaluated by the audience. It would  be wonderful if all comments were “Oh, cool Joel, this is really cool.”
       As a side note – I am happy to say that two of those special shows have been accepted:
  • I was one of six artists selected for the “Art in the Sky” project, a partnership with Adams Outdoor Advertising (billboards) and the Greater Lansing Arts Council. The painting, Bold Beach, (see previous blog, September1) will be presented on a billboard within a 100 mile radius of  greater Lansing to help promote the arts in our Mid-Michigan area and show how “cool” arts are in the Lansing area.
  • Purple Pair, a special painting was selected by the RiverGallery for “Reaching for the Light” curated by the gallery at Rackham Hall, University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus. I am delighted by these entries and acceptance.

Welcome to a colorful autumn

Purple Pair 18x24 acrylic on linen, currently exhibited at Rackham Hall, University of Michigan
(Copyright Joel F. Ellis)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Begin with a New Canvas, and Cookies

       When we go into the studio to get back to work we have to clear all the stuff of life out of the way so the paint will fly freely. In the book Claude and Camille, the lives of the artists living and working in France during the late 1800’s, puts us in touch with their significant difficulties. For most of the painters that became known as the impressionists, life was a hand to hand struggle with poverty and the events of the emerging European nations. Some went on to be the super stars that still attract crowds to museums around the world today. Just how did they overcome these difficult times with little financial support? Looking over the pages of history, some came with a strong family financial support system while others worked day jobs. Some were fortunate to have a patron for that much needed help to keep the break-through art flowing. Having a support system can come in many forms in today’s world, from the internet world to the local artist group. We all need a little pat on the back and a kind smile to keep us going.
Bold Beach  16x20 oil on canvas

       But going back to the studio we still have to deal with the stuff of life’s issues. We still have to be in that creative zone. For me I often think how my two grandsons are doing in art school and hoping their art journey can be as rewarding and full of adventure as mine. There are so many things I have learned and would love to share, but they will learn when there is a need and they too will have their eureka moments to build on.
       And just where do we put the struggles of daily life when we look at the clean canvas and start that something new? That something new is just that, a new start that reflects the artist’s environment and is a part of the artist’s take on the happenings in their times. Some events can be horrific while others can be mellow and calming. These real life events can be the energy that propels the artist to go on to the next level and bear their soul to make that creation reflect the times we live in.    

Salute to Summer   30x40 acrylic on canvas
The stuff of life is important and we all deal with these events in our way, some with the printed word, others with the paint brush and some with a fresh batch of cookies. Bless the cookie maker for they will for sure make the world a sweeter place to create.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Goya, Picasso Speak from Courage

       Have you ever gotten lost in your favorite art museum or art gallery going from painting to painting ooing and awing and the next piece before you is a light switch? Our first reaction usually is wow what is this cool art piece? We quickly come out of our euphoria and hide a little laugh. The moment of seeing the “real world” is that moment, that sweet moment, wishing we could always see our world with that feeling.
       Now how do we get this “light switch as art” feeling in our daily lives? We could visit as much of the art that we can take in but that might be too much of a good thing. Artists prepare for the mysterious trip into their creative place each in their own way. If the artist is apprehensive and doubtful, their work will show it, but if they plunge in bravely with confidence it too will sparkle and speak to the courage it took to present the soul of the artist to the world. Picasso created some of his best art during the occupation of Paris and Goya told his stories through his creative art during the inquisition.   
       We like to think the lives of artists are courageous and confident, but in a careful reading about the lives of those well-known and remembered creators we learn they come in all backgrounds and levels of influences in their lives. In Goya’s The Third of May 1808, to help the world to experience his pain and passion, we are thrust before the firing squad. Picasso takes us to the bombing of a modern day city to experience his pain in his massive work Guernica.
       Remember the “light switch as art?” We are sensitized by our personal experiences and the times we live in. Our personal life, our circle of family and friends and beyond all blend with the events of the world we live in. Hopefully we feel the enrichment of life the artists have presented to us, the viewer. The artist’s goal is to help us see the world a little clearer and more intense so we can make a better place to live on this big blue marble slipping through space. 
The Third of May 1808 by Francisco de Goya

Enjoy this art summer, 
Guernica by Pablo Picasso
Perseverance 22x27 acrylic on canvas  Joel F Ellis

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jan van Eyck Was Here, What's in a Signature

Cool of the Dunes  20x24 oil on canvas
       Signatures - we all use our personal identification every day. Artists, too, have the special identification mark we use to make things legal and official. Think back to our first checking account when we had to sign the bank paper work. We learned to practice the name over and over until we got something that looked presentable and official. The artist has the same issues to consider, our official ID and one that says, “I am the creator of this work of art.” In the beginning we do wonder, should the signature be a squiggle or a bunch of letters from our name?
       One of the first detected signatures was placed on the room’s back wall of Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait. It said “Jan van Eyck was here. 1434.” (Source: Secret Lives of Great Artists, Elizabeth Lunday )
       As we stroll passed the paintings on the walls of our favorite art gallery or museum take time to look at the artist’s name, is it big and bold or small and hard to find. There is a purpose for the personal ID. The artist is saying to the world “my work is finished and ready for its own life.”  Sometimes it is on the bottom right or in the painting texture of the images. The date completed can be near the inscription as well. Some artists like to put this information on the back of the support or on the stretcher bars for stretched canvas. 
When one of my favorite paintings, Cooling of the Dunes, was awarded Best in Show the judge discussed light and shadows, complementary  colors, then added that he liked the signature within the paint of the dune's edge.

Morning Fog 18x24 Signature in the painted right corner. Original sold, giclee available
Giclee uses exact matching pigments in a digital capture to reproduce from the original work.  
     Collectors of art do want to have that signature as well as the art itself. We all know the famous names and their personal note to us. Don’t we all hope to find that famous signature waiting for us in grandma’s attic?  So as an artist I pledge to sign all my work and hope my creative attempts may get into that attic of dreams just waiting to be researched in the online indexes of artists’ signatures.

       PS   Let’s not forget all the artists facing that cave wall thousands of years ago hoping to be remembered for their artistic expression and wisdom. They too left their name or even better their hand print on their communication to the futures viewers. Thanks to the cave painters and petroglyph artists in our past for showing us the way. 

Enjoy the views of original art,
Lellow 24x24 acrylic on canvas, signature left corner up the side

Joel preparing signature on Lellow

Monday, June 9, 2014

Let There Be Light!

We are having a gentle slide into summer, with dry days and cool nights, not like a month ago when we thought summer would never come.  Recently, we visited a patron who has collected a few of my paintings. He wanted to show us how one of the pieces responded to light conditions throughout the day in his home. His excitement about having the natural light create its own effect on the colors and texture of the painting is a good selling point for this very “living” art.

Milky Way 16x20 acrylic on linen
When we visit art shown in those well lighted galleries, we miss the chance to let the painting put on its own show for us in natural daylight.  To test a painting in progress I often change the studio lighting to see what is happening on the reflective surface of the painted canvas. Over time, artists learn the tricks light can play in reflecting that image to us. Notice how I avoided talking about the cones and receptors of the eye. That’s the science of what is happening. The bottom line is how the image affects you, the viewer, and do you want this experience displayed in your environment to stimulate your life day after day. To me this is what makes living with original art so invigorating, the actual living with the art. 

I have been reading, yes I vowed not read too much this summer, but this really sounded too good to miss, so… I got involved in the upper level of the art collecting business again. This time the book is The Supermodel and the Brillo Box by Don Thompson . The book is a good peek into the world of many very rich art
Light Flashes 24x30 acrylic on canvas
collectors and the art houses that support their craving. It appears that some collectors have a genuine love for the art and the artists. They are happy to share their art pieces in galleries around the world. Then there are others who use the world’s art expressions as an investment, storing their art treasures in vaults never to be seen and experienced, locked away in temperature controlled darkness waiting for the right time to be released for profit.     

I feel that for visual arts to exist the treasures must be experienced to make an impact on our lives as the creative artist had intended. The art has to see the light so we too can see the light.   

Light is the most important thing. It animates a picture: it can change everything. 
Paul Collins, portrait artist

I have to get out into the sunshine right now, and you should too. I hope you are reading this where you can enjoy this glorious Spring Day.

By the way, I have the three paintings shown here at the Technology Innovation Center, downtown East Lansing, second floor of the old Barnes and Nobel Building. You can reach it from the skywalk connected to the Parking Ramp off Charles Street. The show with other fine art artists exhibits June 8 – September 28. 
Splash  20x24 acrylic on linen
I hope you are reading this in a place where you can enjoy such a glorious day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Taking A Local Art Trip: Saper Gallery, Technology Businesses, Favorite Artists

Friday May 16, 2014 - A beautiful day and most of the university students have turned the town over to the locals. That means less student traffic and more art festivals and music events in the streets.  We went to the big art museum but it was closed until noon so we went to other art venues in town, what a great treat.  
Fortitude, 18x24 oil on canvas, currently at MMAG show
       In previous blogs we have noted visits to interesting venues to display our art. The last few weeks we have placed paintings in a variety of businesses supporting the local art scene. The first was the newly renovated Okemos Library, Mid Michigan Art Guild (MMAG) member show. The show highlighted the talents of members in the local art guild. The second is a start-up incubator office space for a very creative business community, the Technology Innovations Center (T.I.C.). The show was launched by live music and libations and a bonus, Maureen Ryan, one of the visual artists is also a fine vocalist. The third is a similar venue, a service center for several businesses relying on the new technologies for expansion, Force by Design. It too has wall space just waiting for the creative touch by artists. A big thank to you all for letting for us brighten your days.  
Autumn Dune Grasses, 16x20 acrylic on linen currently at Force By Design

       Our local art adventure on this brilliant day was moving along just fine, the kind of adventure that nourishes the soul, and we were not done, the morning was still young. On to our top notch and highly acclaimed art resource, Saper Gallery of East Lansing, Michigan.  We were greeted by a charming assistant who was willing to discuss the local art and how it is shaped by the bigger art world. We started discussing the works of Tunis Ponsen, a Michigan native originally from Muskegon. Tunis Ponsen is a fine mid-century oil and water colorist. Roy Saper of Saper Gallery holds a number of Ponsen beautiful works for sale. There were several fine works by other Michigan artists in the gallery. The work of an artist friend, Barbara McCleary, was its usual top form and a real treat so see in such a
Cooling of the Dunes, 20x24 oil on canvas, currently at T.I.C.
magnificent gallery setting.

       While we were having our local art adventure in East Lansing, the activity pace in town was picking up as 180 artists were moving in for the 51st East Lansing Art Festival. This should be a fun weekend. We hope some university students come back to see their city in its best artsy party mode.
Look about you for some fine art,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Peggy Guggenheim Winter Companions

Winter is almost over, spring will be short and summer will be here soon. As I was looking back over my winter reading, (yes, I should have been painting, but it was a long cold winter), I found that the reading list was quite interesting and gave me a better background to this fun and crazy world of art. The main standouts were Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, LeeKrasner and Peggy Guggenheim. The biographies all had a same theme and general geography, New York. We artists, not in N. Y., often think what would our chances be of making it big in The Big Apple. Austin Kleon’s latest book ShowYour Work points out that the new technologies such as what you are reading right now put us all in touch, artists and patrons, all over the world…. So hello world!!!
June Morning  16x20  acrylic on linen

Cosmic Spin  20x24   acrylic on linen
There were some new paintings completed this winter; one can be seen on the latest website (, We Are Stardust. The other paintings on the website are on display around the capital city area, Michigan.

Tech advisors also say to blog and blog often and show your works in progress. Maybe I’ll try to show work in progress but, but, but that sounds like a big studio clean up session.
Enjoy the Spring flowers.

Iris Window  16x20   acrylic on linen

Peace   20x24   acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Imagination in the Technology Innovation Center East Lansing

Helene's Cosmos 16x20 watercolor
When we get started talking about the artist’s process of creating that masterpiece, the phrase, you have a lot of imagination, often comes up. If an artist looks at a vase of flowers and paints what is seen, the rendering is much like the vase of flowers, but if the flowers “spark” to the artist, a creative flow begins to takes over and a deeper meaning of flowers is revealed. The result is a piece replete with imagination. That spark is the energy that fuels the imagination for the creator and the viewer, we have completed the circle. 

We can say the art piece spoke to us, and so the circle is completed. The artist has made contact with the mysterious part of our being and we are moved.

Flowers are a source of universal beauty, but what about the painting that does not have a clear  object, that splash of colors and swirling shapes that we like to look at and try to make the canvas-dance speak to us. The artist is inspired to find an avenue of expression through the creative imagination. Another level of experience is added to take the viewer on a deeper journey. If for some reason we, the viewers, have subtle reason to resist the higher level of exploration, we might slide past the work and mutter, interesting or nice try or I don’t get it.
Eleven Wonders 16x20 acrylic on linen

Imagination can be for everyone.  We have all heard folks with their hands to their face say to no one in particular, “I guess I’m not creative enough,” or “Where do they come up with stuff.” With the non-object view of the art, the artist is trying to take us on a deeper journey to enhance the enjoyment and beauty all around us. The simple things in life take on a more significant place in our environment. We can absorb the artist’s “spark” and enjoy the experience of the creative flow.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. – Henry Ward Beecher

Flowers are coming, just imagine!

Post Script:
If you are out Sunday, March 9, and in or around East Lansing, you may want to enjoy some good music and snacks and fine art for the Miscellany exhibit at the Technology Innovation Center, 1 to 3 pm. upstairs of the old Barnes and Noble building. Use the walkway on the second floor from the parking structure.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Getting Started in 2014

      The January thaw has come and gone and we didn't fully appreciate the warmer weather. On the positive side we do have a real winter this year with lots of snow and school closings.  Oops, there I go again, must stay positive. The New Year usually means time to make goals we hope to work on and find new paths to carry us into other directions.
       After a few weeks off, the studio needed its usual new start of cleaning and restocking painting supplies. That done, it is now time for pleasant music, a good cup of tea, and inspiration with that wonderful feeling of starting the new season. Sounds idyllic, but the first few starts this year were, well, not so good. Never fear, with a little repainting and, dare I say a little luck, new works are coming.
We are stardust 36 x 36 acrylic on canvas
       Last year I had the honor of making a presentation to the Jackson Civic Art Association. I brought the tools used in my style of moving paint over a surface. Some of the kind folks in the audience were surprised to see the ways paint can be applied. Yes I do use the traditional paint brush, but there are also many interesting and novel/daring ways to apply paint.
       After a little dumpster-diving a new tool was found - a wide vertical window shade section. The result
might have been accomplished with a painting knife but maybe not. The size and flexibility of the new tool worked well with the viscosity and volume of paint. The resulting work rendered in this challenging manner means a lot to the creator and I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did creating it.
       Hope those of you in the northern climes stay warm during these wintry days.