Ingrid Ellison's work always pops out at me when scrolling through my Instagram feed. The vibrant colors that are somehow at the same time so calming always catch my attention. She goes by the name of "Painting in the Barn" on Instagram, because that's exactly what she does. In a small coastal town in Maine, Ingrid spends her days painting and creating in an old barn converted into her studio. The vaulted ceilings and large skylights flood the room with light, and the white walls create the perfect conditions for Ingrid to create her work.
I spent a morning with Ingrid recently, talking and watching her work. She's very methodical with her mixing and painting, and at the same time so free and easy with it. Her use of blues capture the serene Maine coastline and it's easy to see how Maine has subtly influenced her work.
Read below for Ingrid's Q&A for more information about her life and beautiful work!
How would you describe your work?
I think making art is in the details of observation and about sharing that vision. What I notice, where I find inspiration in and about the world is unique to me as it is for all of us. Right now i think my work describes the mood, colors and imagery of the Maine coast. Of course the way the paintings are made is equally important to me. The surfaces are built with layers and marks and color and varying viscosities of paint. Their construction is as important to me as what ignites the initial mark. My paintings reflect how I interpret all these looking and making experiences and repackage them in a new form to share them with the viewer.
Were you creative as a child? Did you come from a creative family?
My parents both worked in health care, but are also each musically talented- my mom is a concert bassoonist, so we took instrument lessons as kids- I was terrible at practicing. I also took a lot of dance classes and I always loved the idea of moving through space with grace and ease. But what I really liked to do when I was little was figuring out how to make things; making those dioramas for school, learning to cook or sew doll’s clothes or knit or make little villages with mud and sticks in the back yard. Of course I always loved my art classes in school, but that feeling exploded when in the 8th or 9th grade a family friend brought me to NYC and we visited galleries and artist’s lofts for a weekend. I felt as if I had seen a way of life I never new existed. WOW.
Have you ever worked in other mediums? Or have you always been a painter?
Most of my art experience has remained in a two dimensional world. I am well versed in printmaking, and though I am not currently making any prints, I do often think in terms of layers when I am making a painting- much as a printmaker would use multiple plates in constructing an image. I dabble in the idea of working sculpturally, but so far I have just constructed some wire type forms which correspond to the marks I am making in any paintings…
You mentioned that you have been working in a lot of blues lately…
It's true, blue seems to be this year's color, and I do love the depth that a deep blue implies. Right now I like to explore the full range of colors that can still be considered blue. So I spend a lot of time mixing paint. I can sit at my palette and and mix bits of color for hours- it's quite meditative, until I come up with a full range that I am ready to use on a panel.
How does Maine influence your work? You mentioned you've moved around a lot in the past.
Before moving to Maine about 9 years ago I had spent my fair share of time living in busier urban environments. I often had the sense that I wasn't going as fast as the world around me. I just love the quiet up here and feel like there is time to slow down and observe the subtleties of the seasons. I love the fact that in this part of Maine I am surrounded by both the raw beauty of the coast to the east and the protective hills behind me. I never tire of it. I think this sense of well being helps me to make space for a creative life.
What are the best choices you have made for your career?
I think one of the best things I did for myself was begin to paint solely for myself. Any time I tried to constrain my work into something I thought someone else might like or buy, the result fell short of its meaning for me. I still have to remind myself of this from time to time. I also really like my time connecting with others and sharing what I do, so I guess holding workshops throughout the year has a great ongoing experience for me.
What are the top three places you look for inspiration outside of the art world?
Sometimes I find inspiration in the strangest things. For instance I came across a photo of a pile of newspapers and that became the inspiration for so many of the wave shapes in my last series of paintings. Finding details in the landscape- dew drops on a spider web, a pile of washed up fishing line on the beach, cast shadows on interior walls- I take photos of these things to remind me of shapes or colors or line. And lastly, words and phrases have an impact on my work and I will make note of these in my journal. Often these phrases from books, or lyrics from songs will find their way into my titles or they just percolate in my head while I am working on a piece.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
I think the biggest challenge for me is how I measure success and that can come in so many forms- productivity, recognition, exhibiting, sales, making connections with other artists, etc. I try to set goals for myself and my paintings and work towards making them all come into fruition, but it's a big job. Really, going into the studio and making the work is the easy part, the best part. Even on a ‘bad” day, if I put some paint on something in the studio I feel like I’ve made a mark. But those other measures are the things that folks will ask you about, and if things aren't 'headlining' in the moment, you can feel a little derailed. Those successes do come from time to time and I think the important thing is to fully enjoy them in that moment, and let that carry you through when you are just back in the studio making your work.