REVEALING MAGIC IN THE ORDINARY WORLD
An interpretive painter of landscape, Ellie Harold’s studio paintings live in a space between abstraction and realism. While treating recognizable subjects for which the artist holds obvious fondness, her use of strong underlying design conveys depths beyond the familiar scene.
Employing unique perspectives, colors pushed to the point of saturation and joyful, loose brushwork, Ellie breaks free from strict representation to convey a sense of spiritual magic within the ordinary world. Her work echoes ideas articulated by Eastern philosopher Chögyam Trungpa — “If we open our minds, if we open our hearts, we will find that this world is a magical place. … Not because it tricks us or changes unexpectedly into something else, but because it can be so vividly and brilliantly.” These vibrant paintings give viewers access to the simple and profound experience of ordinary magic.
Ellie studied with Don Bunse at the University of Montana, Missoula, MT. and has worked with plein air painters R.A. Moseley, Armand Cabrera, Roger Dale Brown, Dee Beard Dean, and Bob Rohm in workshop settings. Influences include Emile Gruppé, Edward Hopper and Wolf Kahn. She teaches outdoor painting workshops and gives individual oil painting instruction in Frankfort, MI and Vieques, PR.
“The island works of talented landscape painter Ellie Harold … are some of the most evocative of their kind on Vieques.” John Marino, Frommer’s: Puerto Rico (2010).
ART AS MEDITATION
Before becoming a professional artist, I spent years as an ordained Unity minister learning how to "be here now." My art is the visual practice of that spiritual imperative. If painting is a meditation, artwork is this inner work made visible.
Grounding myself in a particular place is essential to my painting process. Before I begin an outdoor painting, I explore possible sites, taking as much time as necessary to feel into the place. Once found, I may paint there once, energetically putting down layers of paint in a short time, or, like Monet or Cezanne, return again and again to make fresh studies. I may also transport the place into the studio where imagination and abstraction may bring me even closer to knowing it.
Students frequently inquire about the "how-to" of my loose style. I assure them this not simply painting technique. It's the result of long years of training in the art being present without fear. So many of us get mired in the muck of self-doubt and it's prideful compensations. Trying too hard, we lose touch with inspiration; indeed, we literally forget to breathe and life flees the canvas. I've learned not to terrorize myself excessively with irrelevant concerns. My motto: "Keep your eye on the ball." When I'm simply watching the ball and not trying to manage it, courage comes easily.
I feel I best serve the spirit of Life I love when I do what I can with all my imperfections. In my medium I find the forgiveness which allows Life to unfold itself most freely. With oil, there are no permanent mistakes, only opportunities to do things differently next time. One layer of pigment will almost always accept another, and it can also be scraped off, or incorporated as underpainting.
The work of making a painting is also the making of a life. One informs the other about diligence and discipline as well as the importance of letting go distractions and other unhelpful attachments. The more painting I do, the more Life reveals itself. Each new work is an adventure.
When I am fully present in a landscape, I find myself asking What does the painting want? I try to give that to it. But it's not always what I had in mind. (In practice, hardly ever.) The principle of "less is more" operates more and more in my artwork. Simple designs, limited palette -- I increasingly paint to see what's going to show up. With intuition and heart informing my eyes and hands, an essential image of a sand dune or a palm tree appears as if by magic. It's no illusion, however. Each painting represents a deeply felt experience of an actual place on Earth -- one that I love sharing with others.
-- Ellie Harold