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artist in focus: sally ellis

How do you describe your work?

I would say my paintings are abstracted familiarity. Each has an unknown narrative evoked by the viewer however I know my narrative, it develops with the painting and not before. I never sketch or plan, whatever evolves is entirely intuitive.

What would you say are your greatest influences?

I spent years feeling my way of creating wasn’t acceptable in the artworld, until I found the watercolour artist Shirley Trevena and the late Mary Fedden RA. Their books, writing and paintings gave me the permission to break rules and do it however I chose. I am greatly influenced by Feddon’s story telling and her gift of happiness that comes through her work

Who do you have in mind when you create your work?

I have me in mind initially. As I’m creating something spontaneously, I have to be in love with whatever I paint. I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about what a buyer would love, but it’s more a case of wondering what stories or memories might be evoked. I’m curious to know what they would feel when they see my work; would it make them think about a person and what would their narrative be? 

What makes your art different, special and irresistible?

My paintings have both textural and emotional depth. There are many layers of paint and each is sanded and scraped away to reveal the beautiful elements that spark the beginnings of the composition. Each layer leaves behind some part or mark or edge. I like to leave evidence of my process and let it draw you in to wonder what went before. I often rework old paintings and leave bits that become entwined in the new iteration, so the sunflower that became a fish, or the tree that became a vase. In my work I can create whatever I want and the history is as important as the outcome

I think my work is special because of the mark making, the limited palette that I use - usually 3 colours plus black and white, and the emotion each piece evokes in the viewer

What do people say when they see your collection / portfolio? How does your art make them feel?

People often tell me that they feel my paintings were painted just for them, that they know ‘this table’ or they know ‘that thing’. They’ve sat there. It’s familiar. They say my work makes them feel at home. I love this. They usually say that seeing the work in real life is so much better - they thought it was heavily textured and rough and it’s not - it’s totally smooth and finished with wax. This is always a surprise! 

What do you think motivates people to buy your art? How does it appeal to the heart?

I was told by a collector that he buys my work because he has the perverse knowledge that no one else can ever decide the narrative, that he now owns the story. I have sold work to buyers whose mother worked for Hornsea pottery, had a tiny herb pot like this or she loved snowdrops in tiny vases. I've had collectors buy because the hellebores reminded them of home, or they drank wine together on a table like that on their first date. There is always a story that connects them, then they start to notice the colour, the use of paint, mark making and texture which draws them in further

Who have you sold your work to before?

I’ve sold to middle aged men, older women, young couples, single, married and bereaved. I notice that a lot of my work is purchased by men as gifts for women in their lives, gifts from parents to adult children, romantic gifts and young couples for their home. The paintings make perfect wedding presents and 50+ women treating themselves

Who responds to your work and why do they connect with what you make?

Most of my followers seem to be middle aged women who connect with my social media presence and honesty in my posts. My paintings are an expression of how I'm doing and I think they understand this. They give them a sense of safety and happiness, familiarity and contentment. People who enjoy still life see more in my work; it’s not just a piece work for the wall that goes with the sofa, more that they feel connected to the process as I share a lot of this online

I love that one buyer said that my painting hugs her each day

Sally Ellis - part of Collection Nine at Katherine Richards Art Gallery

Irene Marot - Katherine Richards Art Gallery - Sussex


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