Ellen Barber


Ellen Barber

"Nobody can take away your inspiration, your love of art, what you can do. Its that important."

How did you start making art seriously?
I did handmade needlepoint canvases. My sister would send me handmade canvases and they were stamped. So I would go and I would get acrylic paint and I would start coloring them. I would reproduce these different prints just the way it was supposed to be in needle point, but in paint.

And then I loved doing black and white photography. Mostly people, human images and animals.

My art teacher was Steven Leznick. He was a very famous artist in Las Vegas at the time. He had a little studio in his house with his wife Dorothy. He would have six or seven of us in his living room doing figure drawings, and that’s where I got it, my love of the form . Models came in, mostly dancers, to our workshop. We had plenty of those in Vegas at the time and they were not self conscious with their bodies. They were just amazing to deal with.  When I started taking figure classes, that was it for me. I couldn’t get away from the figure.  At first we did everything with charcoal, then oil but I would tend to overwork things with oil, so I like acrylics. It agrees with my temperament. I could spend hours just working my palette. I love mixing colors.

Who are your artistic influences?
Steven Leznick, the south west arts materials, Howe and Gorman and Pena, and all of those people. I also enjoy Wyeth, and Turner for his use of light.

What inspires your art in general?
I just love native art and culture. I get a lot of inspiration from Natural Geographic Magazine. Indigenous peoples, tarahumara pots. They’re really amazing to me. I love having a camera around my neck and going out and taking photos of old things. Anything old. I like to see how things age. To me old things have so much more life in them then anything new.

What about your favorite mediums speak to you?
Whatever I start, I always start in charcoal. Grey scale. That’s my language. But I always love to use palette knives with acrylic paints. I like working the surface and building up layers and responding to what I’ve put down and letting things develop that way.

What does making art bring to your life?

Purpose. Especially now my family is grown. An inspiration that came to me one day as I’m sitting in my studio, looking at all the different things that I did, or let go, and maybe I got this from Grandma Moses, she said something like, “No matter how old you get, no matter what happens in your life, your children may go, people you care about may go, your body, your looks, but nobody can take away your inspiration, your love of art, what you can do. It’s that important.”

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