Wednesday, May 8, 2013

TAG Interview with Ellen Starr

Ellen Starr's current exhibition at TAG, Parks and Gardens, showcases her love of the outdoors.
We asked her some questions about her work.
Oahu Beach Park, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 17.5 x 21.5"
How do you decide on the places that are the subject matter for your work?
What attracts you to them?

Nature - the great outdoors - is the retreat I turn to when I wish to escape the pressures of every day life.  Whether it's walking in Palisades Park (Santa Monica), hiking in the mountains, or sitting on a beach and contemplating the waves, I find that Nature gives me a lens that puts any problems I may have into perspective.  It's relaxing and it's refreshing.  I like to paint what I love, and Nature gives me endless subject matter.
What is your process? Do you paint en plein air, in studio, or a combination?

How is working with/from photographs different than working from life?  
I used to set up my easel on location, but now I paint mainly in my studio from photographs.  I take my camera to places that intrigue me and capture many pictures of my surroundings - close up and at a distance.  Then I return to my studio and study all the digital images.  I pick the ones that really appeal to me, the ones that I can manipulate and play with in Photoshop.  I may combine parts of different shots, such as adding figures to a scene or altering the placement of certain landscape elements to suit my sense of balance.  When I am finally satisfied with a composition, I print out a copy at least as large as the canvas I plan to use.  I tape the print to a stiff backing, set it up on a stand in my studio, and make believe that I am once again viewing the original scene.  At this point I start to paint.  Obviously, it is not the same as actually being at the landscape site. But...the light does not keep changing; the wind does not jiggle my canvas and I don't have to deal with pesky insects.  Also, the time it takes me to paint in the extremely detailed style that I favor would never allow me to finish a painting on location, at least not in one sitting.

Tell us about your studio -- where do you create?

May we have a peek?
My studio is in my home.  This has both advantages and disadvantages.  It is easy to get to work, no distance involved, so I can paint for short periods of time and that's perfectly practical.  But....there are also numerous distractions.  I time share with the washing machine and dryer and find it very difficult to ignore the telephone when it rings.  Even so, I wouldn't change my set up.  I have everything I need easily accessible plus the companionship of two "studio poodles."

What is the biggest challenge that you face as an artist?
At the moment it's that I think I'm getting stuck in a rut.  I'm painting the same way I've been painting for the past several years.  I want to do something entirely different, but I haven't yet decided exactly what that is.  Several years ago I transitioned from primarily printmaking and drawing to painting with acrylics.  I think my next change may be in the area of subject matter.  I won't give up Nature entirely, but I'm definitely going to try something new.  I'll still focus on detail and the intricacies of composition, but it won't be landscape.

Ellen's work is on view at TAG until May 18

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