Ken Elliott began his career in the arts in framing, and later moving on to work alongside an art restorer, and then became an art dealer. After about 15 years in the industry, he began to draw and paint, inspired by landscape elements like trees, skies, and lakes, landing on his current simplifications and exaggerations of nature. We spoke with Ken, who is based in Colorado, about his art, his process, and took a look inside his studio.
Where are you from originally and where are you located now?
From Houston, TX and now residing in Castle Rock, Colorado, just south of Denver.
How would you describe your work?
Contemporary landscapes with an emphasis on color.
How did you get started with your current subject and medium?
I like the calmness of the landscapes as I choose to represent them and it always is the most comfortable genre for me. I try to stay away from cliché scenes and use the landscapes, clouds and water to explore different compositions and fragments of larger views. That allows me to focus on what is the most interesting part of the view and of course, to emphasize the color.
If you use more than one medium, do you ever find you prefer one over the other?
I find that each enhances and informs the other. I began with pastels and then worked with printmaking and collage. Now I mostly work in oils but there will be more pastels soon and I expect that both mediums will see improvements.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
I may start with a photograph, cropped down, or it could be a previous work, reformatted or imagined in some new way. The idea is to continue to grow and improve as an artist. Doing a series of things – I do like trees – gets me beyond trying to illustrate the thing. Being free from that, the more artistic concerns come forward. How can this be more compelling? Can the color or contrast be pushed to create more power? Can I add more movement to this composition? There are endless reason and opportunities to revisit those motifs. Monet gave me permission.
You use very rich, unique colors in your landscape artwork. Is your palette always inspired directly by nature, or do you ever add or exaggerate your palette? How do you decide when?
It is the exaggeration that makes it all more interesting. Remember those photos we would pick up from the developer at the drugstore? All the greens came out the same and even the autumn photos were muted. I like what James Whistler said, “I am always improving on nature.” Nature is a good place to start because everything you need is there - take that and make make something more interesting.
Where do you like or tend to work?
In the studio, and I also push ideas around on the computer to see what if?
What is your favorite part of your creative process?
Going to a new place, getting into trouble and finding a solution that works. Even the failures are informative and can be used on other works. It is a continuous learning process and sometimes, you get the successful rewards that bring you back to try and push some more.
Is there ever a particularly challenging part of that process?
Going into the studio to work. Trying something new. Problem solving. The unknown. It took some time, but I’m over the fear of failure. That is a very big block for people.
Are there any artists who have inspired you or your work?
Many, in particular in our time, Wolf Kahn and Forrest Moses.
In 5 words or less, what is your goal as an artist?
Thrill me and the viewer.
What do you do in your free time aside from making art?
I wrote an Amazon best-selling book Manifesting 1, 2, 3 and you don’t need #3. It is part of what I do in service to others. There are hundreds of success stories from readers of the book.