Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ellen Rolli Artist Interview — Boston, MA

Lynette Haggard's Weekly Artist Interview

Black and Blues
40 x 30"
acrylic on canvas

Photo credits: George Lynde

Lynette Haggard (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself?

Ellen: I am a mid-career painter who maintains a full time studio in the SOWA arts district in the south end of Boston. It is my workspace, a gallery, and where I teach one-day painting workshops twice monthly.

LH: Where did you grow up and what (if any) were there any early influences on your work?

Ellen: I grew up in the city of Revere. I was fortunate to have an aunt, (my mom's sister), who was a painter. She was an artistic influence at a young age, and became a mentor as I realized my artistic ability and interest in drawing and painting. I also had two supportive high school art teachers who encouraged me to follow a creative path. My parents were also supportive and didn't try to steer me away from an arts career.

LH: Where do you live now?

Ellen: My husband Frank and I live just north of Boston in the town of Melrose. We have two daughters, Jennifer and Amanda. Melrose has been home for nearly 25 years. It is a wonderful community that helps support the arts in many ways. Melrose hosts an annual arts festival each spring, and showcases a different artists work each month at the historic Beebe Estate. With close access to Rte. 93, I’m only a 15/20-minute drive to my studio in the south end.

LH: Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?
Ellen: I attended Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art. I majored in art education, minored in painting.

Artist Ellen Rolli

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?

Ellen: I knew very early on that fine art would always be important in my life. I remember in middle school making drawings or paintings as gifts for friends. A big Beatle fan then, (and still!), I would sketch portraits of the fab four from their albums.and give those to friends too! One of the best portraits I did when I was in high school was of Bob Dylan. It was a gift for my best pal who was a huge fan of Dylan. It took her years to tell me that she had lost it along the way.

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?

Ellen: Not necessarily. I suppose I’ve always considered my self an artist. Primarily? That’s a tough question! While raising a family, I had to to strike a balance between that and my need to create. Later, while care taking for elders, my art was my refuge. It has always been with me, but now I am able to devote much more time to it.

36 x 48"
acrylic on canvas

LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general.
Ellen: I consider myself a contemporary painter, my work perhaps best described as abstract expressionism.

LH: What is your media?

Ellen: My medium is acrylic and I work on canvas. I have recently introduced some collage and oil stick to some of my paintings.

LH: What is your current work about?

Ellen: I have always loved generous paint application, a sense of freedom with materials and a direct and intuitive approach to painting. My current work is about tapping into interpreting reality and emotion in an abstract way. After a month long painting residency last fall, my work began to shift from abstracted realism to more non-objective work. I needed to take risks, let go, and push to reach the next stage of who I needed to be as a painter. Scary and exhilarating at the same time. I am working much larger then I ever have. Lots of paint and big brushes.

LH: What is your workspace like?

Ellen: My workspace is wonderful. My haven. The building at 450 Harrison Ave. in the south end houses about 80 artists and is a factory building turned artists' studio workspaces. I’m so grateful to be in a building surrounded by other creative people. My space is around 700+ square feet and has three large double windows so there is great natural light. High ceilings allow for great wall space. Because we have open studios once a month, the entry area into my studio serves as a gallery and my work area is closer to the window wall. Beneath the windows is a sitting area. Having a larger space allows my students plenty of space.

30 x 40"
acrylic on canvas

LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?

Ellen: I am in my studio 5 or 6 days a week, painting several hours a day. Having a studio outside of my home has been great for my artist psyche, and truly a dream fulfilled. I enjoy my "work commute" and am disciplined about leaving on time each day. I arrive around 10:30 am and head for my couch with my coffee. I may look at an art book or just listen to music and wait for the muse to visit. If I’m still working on a piece in progress I’ll wait until it tells me what to do next. If I’m about to start a new painting, the "ritual" is similar...I wait for an idea, a feeling, thoughts about a recent experience or place I’ve been, etc. to suggest a "start" and then see where it takes me. I like each painting session to be unique, a new experience. I do not want to envision what it will be, but prefer the discovery as I go along.

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?

Ellen: We all have artists blocks now and then. It’s part of the process and I think getting stuck can be a good thing. Sometimes I push through it by painting. Even if the painting isn't working, I feel as though I am working through it. Just "showing up" can be enough sometimes. I may do studio tasks, prepare canvases,etc. being around my work, in my space can still feed the soul. Other times I know it is more important to walk away and take a needed painting break. Perhaps visit with an artist friend, take a walk, take in a gallery, or read. Often the biggest blocks happen just before a breakthrough, so those blocks should be embraced, not serve to discourage!

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?

Ellen: Yes...I love my art books. You know, the ones with the fabulous color plates! It is so inspirational to look at was has come before and what is in the making now. I also like reading artist biographies...dekooning's was fascinating. I enjoy taking "art field trips" with my artist friends. We might visit a museum or gallery to see a special exhibition or travel together to an artist demo. The art discussions that arise from these get togethers are always exhilarating and inspiring. Often, after parting, we are anxious to get back to our studios! The special connection between fellow artists is an important and valuable support system.

Urban Balance
30 x 40"
acrylic on canvas

LH: What are you currently reading?

Ellen: "So far so good…the first 94 years” Roy Neuberger, an autobiography

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art?

Ellen: I teach. Teaching workshops at my studio started as a means to help pay the rent. I found that I really loved teaching, was good at it, and it became a small business that is still going strong today. I love sharing what I am so passionate about with others. It is truly rewarding! Teaching just twice a month allows me plenty of time for my own work. Over 2 years ago an article about my workshops was published in the American Artist Workshop magazine. I conduct one-day painting workshops twice monthly in my studio, and have been doing that for over 4 years. I also teach a two painting workshop every summer at the North Shore Arts Association in Gloucester. I did painting demos for several years.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?

Ellen: Still painting like crazy. Still evolving, taking risks and making art that feels compelling, true and significant. I hope I will have new gallery representation. Something I am thinking about investigating in the near future. I am in a gallery on the cape and in Vermont, but they represent "pre abstract" work. Right now I am devoted to painting to satisfy my toughest critic—myself.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?

Ellen: Nothing right now. Hopefully down the line another Copley Society solo show. I show new work regularly during the monthly first Fridays at my studio.

Thank you Ellen!

You can see more of Ellen's work at  www.ellenrolli.com

1 comment:

Nancy Natale said...

Lovely work! I particularly like the blue painting at the start of the interview. Congratulations and thanks for a great interview, Ellen and Lynette!