Monday, April 7, 2014

Behind the Painting

I've recently been reminded of the phrase, 'You'll know when things are about to get better - it's when you feel like you've reached your breaking point.'  Not terribly comforting I admit, but it's usually true.  At least I hope so for the sake of me and those around me.

My husband and I were talking with our neighbors across the street about an accident that had just happened down the street from us.  As we were watching the firetrucks and police cars block the road from traffic my neighbor asked if I knew the neighbors directly to the right of us.  I replied that because of our 6 month hibernation from the brutal winter, we hadn't had much of a chance to make small talk.  She said, 'Well, their dog keeps getting loose and runs all over the neighborhood. I keep telling them that they need to fix their fence before someone gets hurt.'

Not more than 30 seconds after she finished that sentence, our next door neighbors opened their front door to step outside.  The dog squeezed between their legs and started running toward the street.  Within seconds we witnessed the dog as he was struck by a passing vehicle.  I remember hearing a long, wailing sound, thinking it was the dog; it wasn't.  That scream was coming from me.
The vehicle stopped and the driver stepped out, the look of disbelief on his face.   My husband and the neighbors across the street rushed to come to the aid of the dog and owner who, by that time was knelt down in the street next to his companion.  As for me, I suddenly felt like I was going to crumble to my knees.  When I finally willed my legs to move, I headed straight for the house where I broke down and sobbed.

I was upset for the dog, most certainly. Heartbroken for the owner, definitely.  But the majority of my uncontrollable crying came from deep within.  I was having flashbacks of being at my mother's side after being struck by a car a few years ago.

The accident involving the dog (whom died within 5 minutes of being struck) caused me to come to terms with certain things about myself that are likely to remain for a long time to come.  No longer am I able to watch the News.  Reports of sad or depressing stories seem to wound me deeply.  Shocking photos or videos in my Facebook newsfeed are quickly eliminated from my view, for once I allow my mind to accept what my eyes are seeing I find myself grieving for days.  Even movies with too serious a storyline are off limits.

It's been a week since the unfortunate accident with the dog but I am still having flashbacks.  If I allowed myself, I could easily use those feelings and make them tangible in the form of new artwork.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to explore that part of myself within the safety of my studio, but for now I distract myself with images that bring peace, happiness and love to my mind.  This latest piece is a result of that place in my mind which I reserve for beauty and comfort.  My place of solace:



Title:  Serenity of Spring

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Art and Poetry

I received a request from a poet who wanted to use one of my paintings to accompany a poem that she'd written.
Beautifully written and they pair together very well.  This is indeed one of the joys of connecting with other creatives.
You can read Brenda's poem here.    Be sure to check out her other musings as well while you're there.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The brilliant colors of Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay India Inks

My subjects lately have been all about Spring. Likely because I'm not seeing it yet and keep hoping that if I keep painting spring-inspired subjects maybe, just maybe Mother Nature will start cooperating. My Etsy listing for my latest painting start with a description of my latest painting which reads: After a long, harsh winter, Mother Nature's flower garden is bursting forth with color. ...yeah, well - at least on paper it is. I am loving my mixed media paintings. Seriously loving them. I'd forgotten how creative one can get with the freedom of using nearly anything and everything you can think of to add to the design of an image. It's kind of like putting together a puzzle. You just keep trying pieces until something 'fits'. My latest mixed media painting is titled

"Into The Wild Blue".

The flowers in her dress were painted on layer after layer, and as an added touch I painted, cut and adhered more flowers to the base of the dress to give the painting a more three dimensional quality. The scarf she is holding has been embossed in an intricate iridescent gold lace pattern. And then there is the sky - that beautiful, deeply rich, lovely sky...all thanks to liquid acrylics and Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay India Inks.  Seriously, I need a set of these more than I need groceries for next week. That's how much I love them.



You can find a good sized image of her on Etsy and as always, can follow the progress of all my paintings right here: Ellen Brenneman Studio on Facebook

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Time Lapse Video of Mother Earth painting

I have been loving me some mixed media, lately.  The textures, the 3-D effect.  Seriously love the end result.

Since this has been such a rough winter here in Indiana I have had Spring on the brain.  Sometimes I just sit and look out my studio window and try to remember the last time I saw the grass.  It's literally been months.  Still, because it is mid-March, the ducks and cardinals are out a courtin' one another -Mother Nature carries on.

This inspired my latest series of paintings, featuring Mother Earth.  She will be depicted during the four seasons - Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring.

...ah, Spring.  Working on this made me deliriously happy.

You can see detailed photos of my progress on this painting on my Facebook Fan Page.  Here though, I want to share a time lapse video of my progress on her.  I've just started doing these and hope you enjoy.

Title:  Mother Earth - Spring Rain

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Visual Diary of a Self Portrait

It’s been years, decades maybe – since I’ve painted a self portrait.  I recall completing one in college somewhere around my second year while taking a drawing class. It was a non-expressive version of me staring at a goldfish bowl.


I don’t remember exactly what was happening in my life while drawing this image of myself but it’s likely a psych major would have eagerly volunteered to write a paper on it.  In fact, nearly every attempt to do a self portrait has produced an expression of, at the very least – a sense of awkwardness.  The unveiling of a self portrait in high school prompted my art teacher to suggest that I perhaps needed to ‘seek a bit of psychotherapy.’  I’ve always chuckled at that statement.  The art student is called out because she has bravely bared her soul for all to see when, if forced, wouldn’t nearly every other 17 year old high school student produce a familiar representation of his or herself? I mean, what teenager doesn’t feel uncomfortable in their own skin?

I didn’t give any thought to what would transpire; I just worked; and worked, and worked. In fact I was so transfixed, I couldn’t take myself away from it. I have never enjoyed the process of a painting as much as I did this.


When I was younger I looked into continuing my education by becoming an art therapist.  Part of me wishes that I’d taken that route; such insight can be gathered by looking at a painting, like stealing a glimpse into the pages of someone’s diary.
The long, flowing hair – certainly not my hair at the present moment.  But does the hair really represent a secret desire for corkscrew curls?  Or, is it that the hair represents a feeling of Growth in the artist’s life, and the beauty of what’s to come?
The eyelashes might not initially cause one to take pause until further study reveals that they were not painted on but carefully cut from paper and detailed with dozens of fuchsia beads.  Added so they’re noticed, hoping not to be forgotten – not unlike me when I force myself to wear bright red lipstick, challenging the inner wallflower to use color to peel herself away from the background and into sight.
The most obvious difference in this portrait is of course, the facial expression. She is smiling perhaps because she is surrounded by vibrant and thrilling color, symbolizing life and all it has to offer.  Or because the little things in life are what makes her happiest: butterflies, hummingbirds, chickadees.
…maybe other things, too.
A quote will accompany this piece, something written to complete the visual representation of this painting:
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, January 3, 2014

Yoga Art, Birds of Prey, Magical Places. An Art Quilt

This morning, at the advice of my friend and fellow artist Kyra, I decided to put together an art quilt of (nearly) every painting I completed in 2013.   As I sat back to admire my handiwork I realized that I was looking at a map of the last 365 days of my life.





As with tendencies to reflect on certain periods in time there were paintings I felt terribly proud of, while others I could have done without.  My proudest moments displayed next to ideas gone flat.  They're all special in their own way though, and I love them all. 
There’s something else; something that brings me comfort.  My skill, my creativity, my technique has improved over the past year – I can see it; and as with anything we practice, if we keep at it long enough we’re sure to get better and better, right?
I look at Life the same way.  I’ve been at it for so long now, you’d think I’d have it mastered by now.  ;)
My resolution/goals for 2014 is to continue to explore my creative side.  I will likely always paint birds but I want to dig a bit deeper this year.  Challenge myself with more human forms and faraway lands.  I want to step outside of my comfort zone a bit and see what else I have to offer.  
Yoga paintings will still be a major focus for me this year, especially now that they're being sold at Downdog Boutique, a very cool one-stop-shop for anything and everything yoga.  I'd like to paint enough of these so that I can offer a 12 month calendar for next year - one image inspiring image per month.  I look forward to this.  
Here's to a wonderful year.  Thanks for being with me every step of the way :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yoga Art: A woman's place is in the Om

 I officially finished my last yoga painting of 2013 several days ago; or, so I thought.  But then on Saturday something happened that is rare for me: I felt a strong urge to get out my acrylics, a large canvas and madly start painting.  Unusual, because I’ve been working exclusively in watercolors for months on end.
Early last year before I had my hysterectomy I was talking with Sue, my friend and yoga instructor.  I mentioned how much I would miss my practice and that I was concerned by how much time would pass before I’d be able to start doing even the simplest of stretches again.  She gave me a piece of advice: “Even if you can’t physically do yoga, it can be extremely beneficial to imagine yourself doing them in your mind.”  I didn’t realize exactly what she meant until after surgery when I could no longer lift to a sitting position without grimacing in pain. I started going through sun salutations in my head, and you know what?  It calmed me; I felt focused and more at peace with myself. Yoga after all, is just as much about mind as it is body, right?
Even though I’m back to my regular yoga routine I still envision myself working through poses; now though, it’s at night before I fall asleep.  It calms my mind by allowing me to focus on something slow and repetitive.  Lately, because I paint every day and always seem to have art on the brain, I picture myself doing these poses as though I’m within one of my paintings. Often, an added benefit to this is that new paintings sometimes emerge from this ritual – that is,  if I can still remember it the next morning!
This happened to me on Friday night.  Just as I was drifting off I kept envisioning myself surrounded by the brightest colors of teal, fuchsia and yellow swirling around in my head.  With it, the phrase: A woman’s place is in the Om.  Clever, right?  Apparently I thought so, because the following evening I was determined to replicate the image that came to me and worked nearly nonstop over the course of Saturday and Sunday while the snow and temperatures fell outside my studio window.
I did finish it and am quite proud, actually. I really pushed beyond my comfort zone with this one as I feel quite intimidated working on the human form:


Very, very different from my usual style, but just as I try to force myself out of my comfort zone in life, so I must do elsewhere.  It’s easy to get comfortable and not want to challenge myself by switching mediums but I realize that if I don’t, just like with anything else – I’ll regress.  In this case I’m so happy that I used acrylics over watercolors because it would have been much more difficult to achieve the bold color I wanted.
This painting by the way, is dedicated to Every Woman who either practices yoga or has the desire to.  Why I have embraced it so, is because it truly is for every BODY.  It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of yoga, believing that only contortionists and gymnastics enthusiasts can do it – but the truth is, it’s not about achieving the hard poses so we can impress others; it’s about the way it connects our body to our mind and spirit that makes it so uniquely special.  Since having strained my back several weeks ago (attempting a twist that I should have known was too difficult for me), I have committed this to mind: We’re meant to practice yoga, not perfect it.  That thought, along with my lesson to never share my mat with my ego, helps keep me humble and in check.