Art quotes

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

Joel F. Ellis Interprets Autumn

Glory Ridge 14x18  oil on board
       The Seasons in Michigan do change we keep telling ourselves after a very long and hot summer that we thought would never end. Color is in the trees. For those of us who enjoy the seasons, this is a glorious time of year and can inspire us to really see the beauty all around us. All regions of this beautiful blue planet have their own special times for us to take in the beauty and be nourished and blessed making our lives richer.

       For me this seasonal display excites and invigorates the passion to interpret this glorious time, yes my palate overflows with yellows and reds and waning green into brown. The local weather reporters add to the interest by showing us the daily color changes and the best time to see the peak color show.

       If you are on one of those beautiful seasonal tours in Michigan, stop in to some of the magnificent art venues and see how artists are inspired by the profusion of autumn colors. All paintings in this blog are from the Joel F. Ellis art inventory.
Enjoy our special planetary gift,
Hamlin Lake  18x24  oil on linen

       P.S.  If you are in Lansing Michigan this autumn, be sure to check the Michigan Economic Development Commission (MEDC) corridor for a dozen touchable paintings by Joel F. Ellis. We are happy to announce that the show has been extended until the end of the year.  

       Where is the MEDC you ask? – while you are in Lansing Michigan, enjoying the many venues in art and sundries on the Washington Ave. walking mall, walk north toward Lansing Community College. MEDC, 300 N. Washington is on the east side of the street, home to Pure Michigan offices, just walk in 9 to 5 weekdays free to view the live paintings of Joel’s beloved Lake Michigan dunes.
Autumn  12x16  watercolor on paper

        If you have an interest in any Joel F. Ellis paintings that you see out and about or online, please inquire with Joel or Helene (major assistant number 1) at 517-256-3277 or e-mail
Joel F. Ellis

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Endurance and Faith to Reach the Goal

       When we face challenges we often have doubts and, well ok maybe fear of the effort we put out and a hope for satisfactory outcome. Along with the angst we have to throw in the mix a bit of faith. I’m referring to the enormous amount of planning and hard work to put together two quality art shows back to back in just a few weeks. 
Cooling of the Dunes, 24x20, award winner
now on display at
Michigan Economic Development Corporation

       The effort reminded me of one very pleasant summer day when we had the joy of taking our four-year-old grandson fishing, fishing his way. Mom, Karla, gave us this itty bitty butterfly net that Simon wanted to use. Who are we to refuse a four-year-old his dream?  Here’s where the faith part comes in. He was sure he would catch a fish, his fish. We took him to a local beloved park with a dock and plenty of hungry swimmers. He brought a bag of stale bread to enhance the task. You see, he was fearless and had faith in his adventure.
        The dock was floating about two feet above the water, so Helene hovered inches from the excited confident child. He flung a chunk of bread and watched the surface churn into froth of water and sparkling scales. The net came out as he leaned toward the edge of the deck scooping this way and that each time coming up empty. The process was repeated over and over with his confidence still in tack. The stale bread was coming to an end but the little person kept dipping his tiny net into the water where a few fish lingered. Time went by. We worried. How would we let him experience, well defeat? Nervously we watched his continuing attempts. Suddenly a shout of joy vibrated across the lake, “I caught one!”
Caught eating a piece of bread.
 Little hands eagerly revealed a surprised shiny little guy laying in the net. After carefully touching the squirming fish and showing his prize to people on the dock he gently placed the beautiful wiggler back into the water saying, “There you go, mister.” 

       We need such a joyful outlook on life; his four year world is void of doubt and bolstered by his child like faith in catching that elusive fish. We too have to know that through steady endurance we have done what we could to bring to life the challenging art shows. We need to have the faith of the little beauty on the dock dipping and dipping, confident in his expected outcome.
Red Bluff, Joel F. Ellis signature painting
Currently on display at Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Lascaux Nights, homage to cave artists of Lascaux, France
36x48 acrylic on display at Cycling Salamander, Charlevoix MI

Gravity, 16x20, on display at Cycling Salamander
        Thirty six paintings from Joel Ellis Art can be seen at two worthy venues in Michigan this Summer – Twelve impressions of Michigan’s glorious dunes are exhibited Monday through Friday 8 to 5 at  Michigan Economic Development Corporation) 300 S. Washington, downtown Lansing, Michigan.
On Hold, 16x20, impression of boats caught frozen in Michigan waters
Currently on display at Cycling Salamander, Charlevoix, MI
       If you are enjoying Michigan’s beautiful “Up North” near Charlevoix, you may want to check the house gallery of  Cycling Salamander fine arts on U.S. 31 for 24 abstract expressionistic Joel Ellis works on display through September, 10 to 6 daily, Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday 12 to 4.

Happy August, Joel

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dog Days on Hot Michigan Dunes

       We are in the dog days of summer, twenty days before and twenty days after cirrus the Dog Star rises at the same time as the sun. Now that we got 
Sylvie's Beach 24x36
Google search out of the way let’s just say it is hot. We tried a trip to Lake Michigan for a sand dune refresher but the sand and sun was way too hot even with a breeze. After a few hours of roasting in the sun and being dusted with sand we got the dune photos we needed. Looking back to the beauty of The Lake as we were leaving, even in the heat, is a good day.
        The usual question viewers of my paintings often ask is do I paint out in nature. From the above summer heat experience I can reflect on Van Gogh, dune, sand, bugs, and twig scratches all inflecting damage on his fresh paintings and from the safety of my studio, I can say with a firsthand experience, I prefer the studio.

But just go and paint out-of-doors on the spot itself! Then all kinds of things happen; for instance, I had to wipe off at least a hundred or more flies from the four paints you will receive, not counting the dust and sand, not counting that when one carries them across the heath and through the hedges for
Blush 20x24
several hours, some thorns will scratch them, etc. Not counting that when one arrives on the heath after some hours’ walk in this weather, one is tired and exhausted from the heat. Not counting that the figures do not stand still like professional models, and that the effects one wants to catch change with the progressing day.
    W.H. Auden’s  VanGogh  A self-portrait

        Using photos that I captured puts me back in the environment to be able to convey the moment and the experience has deeper importance.  For all the artists that paint out of doors, or plein air, I can only offer my congratulations for your efforts in overcoming the challenges nature may have hurled your way.  
        And for the dog days of summer, well let’s remember Winter and try to carry on.
        As you enjoy travels in these summer days please consider a stop to enjoy art – the creations from the artists’ soul. There are two shows for Joel F. Ellis art this summer: In mid-Michigan, downtown Lansing, I have over a dozen paintings at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, 300 S. Washington, Lansing, Michigan. And wouldn’t you know it, these are all expressions of dunes. I love dunes.
Spring Marsh Song  36x36
       The second show goes up this Sunday, August 7, at Cycling Salamander fine arts gallery on US 31 just seven miles south of Charlevoix Michigan. The gallery owner asked for more abstract paintings and some large ones. What a good opportunity to share these colorful expressions. We hope you will get a chance to visit these exhibits through September. All the work is original, of course.

Enjoy your art this summer, 
Nautilus  24x24 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This Is Michigan at MEDC

       As guests at a recent art walk we were overheard saying how much we liked a particularly beautiful art piece of paper layers. The artist, AmyWellington who did the work, generously explained the process.

Blush 20x24 
       As the conversation continued she explained how she also develops art shows for groups all over the state through Michigan ArtShare. I described my work, gave her a card and mentioned that one area of my work comes from a love of dunes. She asked us to put together a proposal for an art show emphasizing dunes that would go up in a few weeks at the Michigan EconomicDevelopment Corporation (MEDC). We did, she accepted and we were very quickly on to the next stages of building an art exhibition. 

       Each stage includes many steps before its presentation to the public.
The first stage is planning availability of the physical space. So we took a little trip to downtown Lansing, Michigan with the map provided in materials from Michigan ArtShare. The space for the art is in a good sized corridor adjacent to the lobby of the MEDC which also shares building space with other appropriate sources including Pure Michigan
Sylvie's Beach 24x36

       After we got a good vison of the size requirements we set to work finding the paintings in my inventory that would accomplish the theme of Michigan dunes. The title for the show came, after many attempts on our part, when “Mom” wisely said just keep it simple, This Is Michigan.

       There are many unseen decisions that the casual viewer may never consider and we had to learn over the years as we picked up processes from past art shows including labeling, framing consistency, size layout, colors. Each site and expectations are different per site, but the common thread that flows through each exhibition is to help viewers experience the intended message, in this art show that message --- This Is Michigan.

       We encourage everyone who appreciates Michigan’s gift – the Great Lakes and surrounding dunes – to stop by MEDC throughout the summer: 300 S. Washington, in beautiful downtown Lansing, open week days 8 to 5, for a casual view of over a dozen Joel F. Ellis visual art expressions of the dunes.

Happy Summering,

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Arts Night Out in East Lansing

       Lansing and East Lansing Michigan are having a summer arts event called Arts Night Out, a good chance to explore the many art venues in the Michigan capital city area. Our first and very impressive stop was Saper Gallery in downtown East Lansing, a truly fine art gallery. The second stop was at a venue called ArtShare. We had the opportunity to see work from regional artists and for us the star of this show was Amy Wellington who displayed a delicate collage of fine artist papers presenting a sensitive wedding portrait.

       On to the next venue the famed Broad Art Center with its distinctive design and cutting edge art presentations. The building design is a big draw to many annual visitors and the art that is presented is always worth a lot of consideration. The evening visit was not disappointing. On entering the first gallery my reaction was the art display was not completed because there were a lot of unfinished surfaces lying around. A few years ago we visited an art center in Nova Scotia and saw what looked like a remodeling of the building. We looked at it a long time waiting for workers. We never did determine if it was an art installation or construction work in progress.
Activity or The Brain on Art
by Joel F. Ellis

Inside Out by Joel F. Ellis
       In the Broad first gallery I did ask the guard who was watching over the gallery if the display was completed. Her response, delivered in a very sincere manner was –Yes. So we walked over to the pedestal with a name tag entitled Nude something and of course there was nothing on the pedestal.
Trying not to feel left out of the artist’s meaning or attempt at evoking a serious discussion on what-is-art, I approached the guard again and asked if the artist trained her for this assignment. She said she met the artist and was told what to say to folks like me. So we went back and looked like we were actually seeing something on the pedestal. It worked. We actually heard ourselves making the sound and motions that go along with viewing art even though it was not visible.
       I do know how it feels to be, well, let’s say, misunderstood.  I learned a few years ago not to walk behind visitors to a gallery opening who were discussing the changes in my current art direction. To venture from the expected can be a little tenuous at times but a little shake up can do wonders for responses to  art.

       Check out your own regions for such art explorations this summer. You may be surprised how much enjoyment art can bring.
Reprieve by Joel F. Ellis


 Paintings included in this blog by Joel F. Ellis are shake-up projects that rarely get into exhibits.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sleeping Bear Dunes and a Cycling Salamander

An old friend a few years ago said in a very secure succinct manner, bloom where you are planted. Over the years this simple phrase has been a guiding light for me on this perilous journey called life. When we feel discouraged and just plain doubting the choices we have made we contemplate the bloom.

The book, Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, Essays by40 Working Artists, Edited by Sharon Louden, introduces us to artists living and working in all parts of the U.S. The common thread that weaves its way through the book is that place is just one factor in the production and distribution of our creative output. We all know some areas are better known for their concentration of recognition in the arts. To help artists in less fertile art rich communities, the rise of guilds and arts and cultural organizations surround the artists with the energy of a supportive community. Sharon Louden shares with us the wide range of areas where artists are planted and the struggles these artists have endured to bloom.

Greening of the Dune by Joel F. Ellis
26x32 oil
 I like to tell the stories of the Great Lakes, the dunes and water ways and how they impact our lives. As Spring finally opened the skies to sunshine and warmth we recently went on a brief journey from the center of Michigan to the dune coast to find beauty in white Trillium carpeted forests, earthly sounds and astounding quiet nights. We found little communities of people opening their shops and getting ready for a couple of months of festivities.

In Empire, one of the small villages, at the base of Sleeping Bear National Park, we came across Heather Caverly and her exquisite gallery of fine art, Sleeping Bear Gallery. The works here range from realistic to tantalizing contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculpture. The artists in the gallery reflect their own bloom in the great lakes.

Farther north in Michigan’s wonder land near Charlevoix, we find the eclectic Cycling Salamander  art gallery where gardens welcome visitors to Nature’s delicate blooms amid whimsical sculptures. Inside the gallery we are amazed at the variety of artist’s expressions. Where we live and the times and events that shape our place are the influences that make the artist’s work meaningful.
Yasmin's Dune 10x20 oil by Joel F. Ellis

As the Michigan motto goes – If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Gem from Art and Fear

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.   She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, You mean they forget?    -Howard Ikemoto

That quote from Art and Fear (David Bayles & Ted Orland, The Image Continuum Press) comes to me each time I am around young children.

Most people feel uncomfortable about others looking at their work and making a judgement about the outcome of their efforts. We folks in the arts put our work out there and we expect feedback and hope that our efforts will be appreciated. The sweet visitor to my studio was our four-year-old grandson. He walked in with confidence and said, Whatcha working on? Need any help?

He watched me for a bit then as he walked around the studio he stared at a recent painting of a favorite lake. Do you want to touch it? I asked. His small fingers gently followed the lines of the trees.  Then with a sure opinion he said, I like it. And he left the room.

Just for fun, or maybe because of a hidden slice of fear, I Googled how to critique artwork and sure enough a lot of important sounding stuff came up, not in four-year-old language, but the dreaded academia talk. The Google search discussion was informative and helpful but not the straight forward honesty of a four-year-old.

In Art and Fear, the authors discuss the role other people’s reaction to our art and how we proceed to on the creative path after critiques. Here is the gem paraphrase a reaction to criticism: when we the artists react negatively to casual critiques, we are giving others a lot of power over our work.

We have to continually evaluate our art at the time we are working in the studio. After a painting session we take an important few moments away from the studio then come back to the piece in progress with a fresh view. We might see it better  if we had the eyes of a four-year-old. 


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Van Gogh Flowers Inspire

       Why would an artist paint or sculpt a subject like flowers if they were using the real deal as the model? You have the beauty sitting right in front of you. Why not snap a photo and be done?
Japanese Iris in a Vase,
16x12 oil on canvas board

       For me studying the flowers in close detail gives me a chance to soak in the emotions of seeing its beauty and express that emotion in my response. Also it’s fun and challenging and at the end of the experience you have preserved that flower for years to come. Just think of all those wilted former sparks of joy and how they are not with us except in our memories.

       Recently I looked through some paintings that needed a little touch-up help and found a painting of a pot of Japanese irises that just might be improved. After several weak attempts I turned to an expert on the subject of flowers, Vincent Van Gogh. His potted flowers are just the inspiration I needed.

       The day that this entry was written Scott Kelly just returned from one year in the international space station. One of his many experiments was growing flowers in space. He remarked that the flowers brought him closer to his home, earth. Most earthlings feel a special wonder to the flowers that  can speak to us saying, I love you, or I’m sorry, or Welcome Spring.

       Here’s to a new season! Be sure to celebrate Arts Advocacy Day, Monday March 7.
Joel Ellis Art,

Three Poppies, 20x24

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dreams of Henri Matisse and Lascaux Cave Artists

     Henri Matisse once said, “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.” We can give two thumbs up to his dream but the real world is full of the stresses of things and events that keep us off track and we question where all the beauty has gone. Yes, I am talking about the evening news and all the human drama.

     As artists we can’t live in a pure and unspoiled world. Some of the most profound art has been created in the some of the most troubling of times. The true test of the creative soul is challenged to the max but great art can and must continue to keep the human spirit alive and looking to a higher level of the human experience.

     When we artists step into our studio or the great outdoor studio of nature we have tricks to push the troubling or depressing subject matters out of our creative environment. For me pleasant music or the perfect tea flavor help to keep the depressing subject at bay.
Lascaux Nights, 36x48 acrylic, by Joel F. Ellis
"I imagined these cave artists working
  with  limited use of tools and light
to impress expressions of their life then, exhausted,
 coming out into the vast starry night." 

     Keeping the creative juices flowing has always been a challenge to artists. Think about the cave dwellers of the Lascaux region in France. The massive painting surface was the home of cave bears that could not have been too happy about the invading dweller/artist living in their former home.  That kind of commotion could really provide the stress of their times, an angry mad bear at the artist’s door.

 Let’s hope we can keep the angry mad bear away from our studio door and create art that has balance, purity and serenity in this New Year.
Best to you,