Lee Ellis is an expressive figurative painter. His style of contemporary art is created with blurred brush strokes and obsessive mark making. A lot of his work involves using the human form, especially the face. Here, we spend a day in the life of Lee Ellis, from toddler wake-up calls to studio experimentation.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…
My alarm goes off - well my two year old shouts “I’m AWAKE”, climbs out of his bed and runs into our room. This sudden wake up requires one thing, coffee. Mornings consist of breakfast and sorting out the boys, then I get to the studio around 9:00. The studio is at the end of my garden, so the commute isn’t too bad. I never start with a plan for work. I get in and decide what I want to experiment with at the time. Everything is very much impulsive.
HOW I STARTED LIFE AS AN ARTIST…
It’s a bit muddled. I started the year I graduated from a design degree. I started a career as a designer alongside my career as an artist. Luckily I have no hobbies, just creative endeavours. The year I graduated I began painting in my spare time. Design can be quite rigid with briefs and deliverables, so I decided to break free from that with expressive paintings. I sold my bed and other furniture and turned my rented room into a studio, living with my girlfriend (now my wife) and her very forgiving flat mates. I lost the deposit on my flat that year.
I began building up quite the collection of works so started wandering down to the harbour-side in Bristol to sell them. Sitting in the freezing cold trying to attract the attention of passers by with my brightly coloured, but still quite macabre paintings. It was this experience that encouraged me to keep creating and push to make this my career.
MY TYPICAL DAY...
Pre lockdown I would have been spending an entire day in the studio, but since things have changed quite a bit I spend just the mornings in there. I spend the afternoons with my family.
In the studio I will sip a coffee and look around at the work I have and think about what I want to experiment with. I see my practice at the moment as a series of experiments that I hope evolve the process of creation and eventually lead me to an area I’m happy to explore further. It’s because of this desire for experimentation and play that affords me the opportunities to try different mediums. From printmaking to oil paints and everything in between.
MY MOST MEMORABLE ARTISTIC MOMENT…
I have so many. One recent one is my artist hero, Adam Neate sent me a note of praise and encouragement that I had framed and hangs in my studio to look at every day. It started when I did a study of one of his pieces as I wanted one of his works, but could no way afford it. I tagged him in it on instagram and it started a conversation. He sent me an artist proof of his print “deep end” along with the note. That was a great moment.
Another is seeing Arnulf Rainers “red wine crucifix’ at Tate Modern many years ago when at school. It was the first painting I saw that made me want to be an artist. I can’t explain what it is that resonated with me, but it’s still a painting that stays with me.
THE WORST PART OF BEING AN ARTIST…
You never stop being one. That’s also one of the best things about being an artist too. I guess there’s not really a bad thing about it.
THE BEST PART OF BEING AN ARTIST…
I draw and colour in for a living. It can’t get much better than that.
A thing that happened to me today - I made a mega brush
AFTER I CLOSE MY STUDIO DOOR AT THE END OF THE DAY…
I go inside and be with my family. Sometimes I sneak back out as I can’t switch off and am always thinking about my art.
IF I WASN’T AN ARTIST, I WOULD BE….
I’d still be a designer.
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