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Ken Elliott is an abstract landscape artist based in Colorado, whose work is included in private collections internationally. His painting titled Light Moving Across, is on loan with the Art in Embassies program and is on display in an American Embassy abroad. Read our talk when we went Inside the Studio with Ken to chat about his process and influence.
“My involvement in the art business has now spanned over 40 years. I began as a picture framer, then worked alongside an art restorer, became an art dealer, and about 25 years ago, began to draw and paint. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have seen remarkable works of art and met some of the best painters in the field.
My focus is the landscape and its rich store of ideas and inspiration. I am compelled to work from the trees, skies, lakes and streams in their endless variations. I don’t try to recreate nature (even Monet said he never got it right) or attempt storytelling. Instead, the works are simplifications and exaggerations of nature. There was a time when I felt the tyranny of the landscape. That is, I felt limited by making pictures of a place. Now, instead of making pictures, I am free to make paintings - art that comes from nature but is far more reliant on the strategies of making good art objects.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that what some would call mistakes are part of the creative process. So, I try to begin boldly, not worrying about mistakes, using more color than might exist in nature, and varying the types of chroma and marks. During the process, I allow my vision and the inevitable missteps to become a part of the emerging image. Some of these missteps will be eliminated and the more delicious ones are incorporated into the process as unintended surprises.
Painting is not a linear, start to finish process for me. I typically have a number of paintings and pastels in progress in the studio. I welcome interruptions. They are also part of the process. If the phone rings, I’m talking and looking at other paintings, gazing out the window, or at photos in the mail order catalog. Sometimes the very solution I’m seeking is found that way. Otherwise, I might continue to focus on the singular canvas in front of me and miss a chance to make it better. All the paintings and little images in view feed each other, offering solutions and more problems. Those paintings that make it out the door have come to a good but sometimes torturous conclusion.
On occasion, I also do monotypes (unique prints,) etchings and collages as a departure from painting. The monotypes are a great departure from working on canvas. With monotypes I’m painting on plexiglas plates and then the images are run through a press and the image is transferred to paper. The results are unexpected and free. It is exhilarating working under the time pressures of the printer’s studio and I’ve learned a lot from the process. With my collages, I have lately used wine and champagne labels. There is a freedom to making art without the limits of land and sky. With the collage, every edge, color, shape and design is exactly as I want it. The brush and canvas and interlopers here: they change the texture and edges of everything. With the collage, the entire design can be precisely changed by just moving a piece of paper.
Tomorrow in the studio, new oils and pastels will emerge. The fun of it all is that sometimes the pastels become new oils, oils morph into different pastels or prints. All of nature is altered, perfected and abstracted. When I run out of variations to an idea, I’ll go back to nature where all the inspirations and colors for a lifetime are always waiting.”