A Q&A with Ellen Rice who talks about her painting talents and the featured painting for the South Coastal Health Campus cancer center main lobby.
Being the well-known artist that you are in Sussex County, does this particular project mean anything special to you? Particularly as it is in a healthcare setting and the piece will hang in the building at a premium spot?
This project has a special place in my heart because its purpose is healing and all of my work is about healing and uplifting the spirit. Whether it is of a beautifully illuminated sky over water, a rendition of a spiritual vision I’ve seen in prayer and meditation or even a portrait of a loved one or pet, I pray about each and every painting. I do and I think the feeling of calm and peace I get when doing so comes through in my work. I feel like my work is not of me, but through me, that I am a tool, a willing tool.
Do you try and soothe someone looking at your artwork?
I don’t actively try to soothe anyone with my art. It’s more a matter of letting. Being myself, reaching within and expressing the beauty in life, again, whether it’s nature, a vision or the inner beauty of the human or animal that I’m painting.
Someone who I respected once told me, “Watch what you think when you paint. Perceptive people will pick up on it.” I believe that’s true.
I endeavor to put daily things in my mind away when I paint and be in the moment with my subject. When you are present in the moment you’re in, it is very peaceful. You really “see.” The feelings an artist has come out in the shape and strength of every single brush stroke, sometimes many thousands in one relatively small painting, and those feelings come through.
A radio show host once asked me on the air, “How do you know when a painting is done?” My answer was, “when I feel at peace with it.” I “listen” for balance, harmony, peace.
What can folks expect style-wise for the piece, without giving away all the good secrets? Will it be different than your style at your gallery?
My paintings are part of who I am, honest expressions coming from my heart and soul. I’ve never tried to have a style. My style has developed with no thought to it. I didn’t even realize I had one until people started telling me that they recognized my work when they saw it in different venues.
Art has always been a part of your life, and you’ve noted that observation and expression have been key for you whether that be in your art, writing, or photography. How do you think your life experiences of observation will impact this piece after you had your walk-through?
Technically, regarding observation and expression, I am always endeavoring to improve. I have been since a child. I won my first statewide contest in sixth grade and sold my first painting in high school, have earned many awards, but have always seen room to improve. I try new things relatively often. For a month or so, I’ve been experimenting with a limited palette of only five colors and white and I’ve been pleased with the results. I also watch videos by artists whose work I admire. I’m always learning.
I got a very good feeling from the walk-through. I love the flow of the plans and the soothing natural color schemes that were so carefully chosen for the cancer treatment center waiting area where my 6-foot-by-3-foot painting will hang. I especially like the direction my painting will be facing with indirect north light, and the fact that it faces a nature garden. It will all work together to promote a feeling of calm.
I wasn’t originally going to try to get this commission. I just don’t enter competitions. But when the art advisory committee approached me and told me what the purpose of the painting would be, I knew it was a good fit. Only recently did I realize that at my age, this painting will go on providing light and peace to those in the center long after I am here. That’s a beautiful legacy.
The larger photo of Ellen painting in her new studio on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View. The painting is a 24” x 12” oil that will be called Still Waters.