Shady Ladies

Latest work, Shadows Series (aka Shady Ladies)

The latest and current series I’ve been working on is my shadows series, affectionately nicknamed “shady ladies.”  There’s a new gallery page up, under the artwork drop down menu, where they can all be viewed.  As I add more to this series, I will continue to update.  I’m also fortunate to have sold some works from this series; the sold paintings will be denoted in the comments of each image.

This series was a fun challenge, to examine how the shadows from the hand distort across the face.  It was also an exercise in simplicity, how much detail do you give the viewer to understand the image, but without compromising simplicity.  Working on wood helps me to whittle (pun intended) the image down just to its most important parts; I know I want to leave some of the background exposed, so that enables me to make some key decisions ahead of time.  The most challenging part is trusting my hand and line work.  If I mess something up, there’s no painting it back to wood.  As fas as the concept behind the series, there are examinations of exposed parts and hidden parts, and also something about being overshadowed or kept in the shadows.

New series – the 3″ by 9″s

I was looking to start a new series and was inspired by comic books.  The concept was to work with wood panels to represent a single pane in a comic book page; my goal was to tell only a moment of the story, letting the viewer decide what happened before and after the image.  I found these 3″ x 9″ canvasses and their shape helped me choose what kinds of objects to incorporate with the women subjects.

For the first painting, I chose to work with a woman looking through blinds.  The challenge for me, as with the rest of the series, was to be able to tell enough of a story in such a small space.  I’ve entitled this painting, “She Peek.”  Thanks for looking.

Day Thirty-One – The Grand Finale!

Often, the toughest part of a mini-series is ending it.  I chose the wisdom of Obi-wan, who said, “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”  This is also why I entitled this one as “Buzzkill;”  way to take it there, Obi-Wan. Perhaps a better quote, from another fictional character, would be Batman’s Two Face who said, “Sometimes you make your own luck.”

This series was certainly a lot of fun to create and it was interesting to learn about good luck symbols from all over the world.  Regardless of how little or how much luck and superstition plays into your daily life, the history behind these notions is fascinating.  Thanks so much for looking.

Day Twenty-Seven – Break a Leg!

This is one of the weirder “good luck” expressions, as generally speaking, breaking any bone isn’t so lucky.  In my super limited research, this notion comes from the expression “lucky break,” meaning not a literal break, but more like an awesome opportunity.  Now onto the drawing bit.  The first thing I thought of for this drawing was C-3PO and his broken leg, especially because it is not so gruesome to illustrate.  Additionally, I was flying on a plane, en route to visit my pal, Val, in Oakland, and too cheap to pay for Wi-Fi…and like a dummy, I didn’t keep any reference images on my phone of our gilded friend.  I wound up drawing 90% of this from memory, and then making some adjustments once I could confirm what the droid actually looked like.  Thankfully, being a nerd and giant star wars fan, made this task not too awful.

Day Twenty-Five – Lucky…bird poop

Have you ever heard that it is lucky if it rains on someone’s wedding day? I think this notion of lucky bird poop is similar; it’s about trying to make a negative into a positive.  Sure a good attitude can go a long way, but I would prefer my luck without the excrement.  In today’s drawing, we see our favorite obnoxious beach bird delivering his luck to the unsuspecting.  Luck out, below!

 

Day Twenty-Four – Shooting Star!

The funny bit about shooting stars or falling stars is that they are not actually stars at all.  They are actually meteoroids falling into Earth’s atmosphere and burning up.  The trail of light is called a meteor, and if any space debris makes it to the ground without burning up, it is called a meteorite.  The reason they were probably thought to be a star is because when burning up, they emit a similar light level.

Day Twenty-Three – The luck of the keys

And no, I’m not talking about Florida.  I learned a lot about different lucky charms while working on this mini-series.  Prior to this, I had no idea keys were considered lucky, but given their symbolism , it certainly makes sense.  Keys open doors and give people access to otherwise restricted areas, including such notions as the key to one’s heart.  For these reasons, keys have been seen as lucky in various parts of the world.

Day 18 – A Kiss for Luck!

As an avid Star Wars fan, I had to make sure this image snuck in the Buena Suerte Series.  In this scene, Luke has just freed Princess Leia from her cell, and they are trying to escape the Death Star.  En route to their ship, they need to swing across a giant crevasse to the other side, with Stormtroopers in hot pursuit.  Right before they make the leap, Leia kisses Luke on the cheek and says “For Luck!”

Spoiler alert: It worked!

Day Fourteen – Lucky Penny

“Find a penny, pick it up.  All day long you’ll have good luck!”

Not all good luck charms have their own little rhyme, so I suppose the penny is extra lucky.  That, and my sister loves Abraham Lincoln.  From what I have read on the subject, the luck of picking up coins comes long before the penny’s existence.  In ancient times when coins were used as currency, finding loose change on the ground was considered a gift from the gods!  The extra layer of superstition with the penny depends on whether the coin is found heads up or heads down.  Apparently, you can also turn a heads down penny over, to let the next finder collect the luck – it is only considered bad luck if you take it with you.  You know, if you believe that sort of stuff.

Day Thirteen – Black Cat

When I started this series, my Irish stepmother was quick to point out that black cats are considered lucky in Ireland.  When I was plotting out what I would draw for each day, Friday the 13th seemed like the best choice – a mix of good and bad luck!  This black cat is extra special; it is of the Manx breed, originally hailing from the Isle of Mann.  The Manx cats come in two main types: Rumpy and Stumpy, which signifies how short their tail is.  Here the Manx is shown with the coat of arms from the Isle of Man, featuring the triskelion (3 legs) with the quote in latin that translates to “Whichever way you throw it, it will stand.”

Day Twelve-Lucky Bamboo & Goldfish

Lucky Bamboo is kind of a misnomer; it doesn’t actually belong to the bamboo family. However, it is considered good luck and believed to bring happiness and prosperity.  As the legend goes, placing the “bamboo” stalks in groupings of 3, 5 or 7, will bring about the most luck.

Goldfish have been considered lucky all the way back to the time of ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks. In both cultures, goldfish were seen as lucky omens and kept as pets in homes.

Day Nine – Lucky Piggies

Working on this series required a little bit of research.  I looked into all different kinds of good luck charms from all over the world, and I even kept a list going in my phone to keep it all organized.  It was certainly challenging to come up with 31 ideas, but also quite educational.  For example, today’s drawing is of a pig, and apparently, I learned that pigs are very lucky in Germany.  Good to know!  I figured any old pig wouldn’t do, so this one is quite the dapper gentleman.

Day Eight – Knock on Wood!

I’m totally guilty of this superstition…I even knock on my own head in the absence of wood.  This is exactly why I chose to use my wooden artist’s figure to illustrate my goofiness.  In addition, I figured the use of the Infinity Gauntlet (usually worn by Thanos, long time foe of the Avengers in the Marvel comics) would really support the goofiness as well as the nerdiness. The real question, I wonder, is if the luck granting will still work now that I’ve brought it up…

Day Seven – Lucky Break

Today’s drawing for the Buena Suerte mini-series is of a wishbone. As the tradition goes, the wish gets granted to whomever gets the larger half in the break.  Also, this is where we get the expression, “lucky break!”  However, when I was growing up, there was little to no luck involved as to who would win the larger half.  My Mom would choke up on her side, unbeknownst to me, and win every time.

Day Five: Scarab Beetle

Official genus and species of the sacred Egyptian beetle is Scarabaeus sacer, and it is the latest drawing in my Buena Suerte series.  The scarab beetle managed to do two things that mirrored or coordinated with what two of the Egyptian gods did.  Firstly, the beetle rolling a ball of dung across the ground, was similar to behavior of the sun god, Ra, who was believed to roll the sun across the sky everyday.  Secondly, the Egyptians saw baby beetles emerging from a ball of dung, and they mistook to mean that the male scarab could reproduce by himself.  This unusual trait was also shared by their god, Atum, was able to father children alone.  Fascinating stuff, especially for a dung beetle!

Day Four: Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

Two things I’m quite fond of are the movie “In the Line of Fire” and animals.  When I was thinking of lucky charms,  of course the rabbit’s foot came to mind, even though i’m not sure it was at all lucky for the rabbit.  I was also reminded of the scene from “In the Line of Fire,” where John Malkovich’s character sneaks bullets through a metal detector inside a lucky rabbit’s foot keychain.  Artistic and poetic license allows me to combine the two, to make up a fake quote by the actor and to discourage the use of rabbits feet for luck.

Day Three: Dream Catcher

The Dream Catcher originated with the Ojibwa people.  According to their legend, the dream catcher was made to  collect any harm that might be in the air.  This was the reason for the spiderweb-like netting within the hoop, as spiderwebs “catch” anything that comes in contact with them.   Often they would also include certain sacred items like specific feathers or beads, to help catch anything that might cause harm.

Buena Suerte! A drawing a day challenge for January 2017

There’s something auspicious about a new year, whether it be positive changes, breaking of bad habits, or just plain superstition.  I’ve chosen to explore the latter for the month of January and create daily drawings of good luck symbols, icons or things.  This hopefully will kick off the year on a lucky streak.  I’ve chosen the name “Buena Suerte” for the series because it means “good luck” in Spanish.  Here is Day One: a Lucky Cat who happens to be a fortune teller.  Let’s hope that brings double luck!

She Shattered

For this piece, I liked the contrast of the woman really happy, with shards of glass in her mind.  When things deconstruct in life, it is seldom pleasant.  However, the good thing is that you can rebuild on your own terms, and perhaps that’s something to smile about :)

She Timed

A girl so nice, I painted her twice.  Both my parents are artists and I’ve been encouraged to draw and create from a really young age.  While I was always a patient kid (a hobby of mine was building card houses?!), when it came to drawing hair, I usually rushed through it.  In more recent years, and perhaps because a friend of mine is a hairdresser, I’ve come to appreciate hair more and more.  With that being said, I loved the hair so much on the prior model, that I’ve used her again for this work, and I feel it pairs well with the other painting.  This version shows a lady, deep in contemplation and reflection, as the cracked hourglass pours out the sands of time.

She Burned

Oh, she burned.  Expressions stick around because generally they offer some sound advice.  One of my favorites, and a reoccurring theme of late is “Don’t burn bridges.”  This phrase loosely means when relationship ends, it is wise to not end it in a sour way or “burn a bridge.”

I grew up in New Jersey, a mere 20 minutes from New York City, land of bridges and tunnels.  As a nod to this, I chose to use the Hell’s Gate Bridge that crosses the East River as my reference for this painting.  Enjoy!

She Crazy

This piece is dedicated to all the women out there who seem like they have it all together on the outside, but internally feel very, very different.  Also, I dedicate this artwork to women who love fine jewelry and cuckoo clocks.

She Snapped

Ever have a memory so vivid you could recall it in your mind, the same way you look at a photograph?  That’s what this piece is about.   My mom and I joke with one another about the things “your brain takes a picture of.”  Those moments, regardless of how long ago, are stuck with you – both good and bad.  Even while you’re doing something as mundane as brushing your hair ;)

She Overhead

I happen to be a big fan of antiquated things.  I like looking at things that used to be the latest and greatest, but are now basically reduced to objects, no longer serving their original function.  Case in point, the overhead projector, which has since been replaced by sleeker, smaller, ceiling-mounted projectors that connect to computers.  When I was a kid, I was fascinated how you could photocopy onto a clear piece of paper and enlarge that image so that the whole classroom could see it all at once.   The light bulb was so strong that it would illuminate every spec of dust that blew by, which was both cool and gross at the same time.   So here’s to you, Overhead projector, forever honored in this piece.

She Dig

Ever hear Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt?”  That is the same concept I explored in this piece, and is a reoccurring theme in this series.  We all have things locked away in our minds; memories, experiences, things we want to remember, or things we’d rather forget are all buried deep in our minds.  Regardless what is going on with her superficially, she’s doing some digging – the kind that requires an excavator.  Fun Fact: I was originally calling the construction equipment a “backhoe,” but was promptly corrected by friends with kids that love trucks that it is in fact an excavator.   Always nice when 3 year olds can correct you and keep you on point. ;)

 

She sunk.

When I started this painting, I said to my husband,”Is there something wrong with me?  Lots of people paint happy things, like landscapes or a still life.”  He assured me that there wasn’t.  I suppose there are lot of different emotions thatmake up the human experience, and I suppose I find the melancholy ones the most interesting to paint.

Anyway, this little painting comes in at 8″ square and is entitled “She sunk.”

 

She twisted.

The latest in my “Perspectives” Series, this little 6″x12″ painting is entitled “She twisted.”  Suffering from either an intentional or unintentional blindness, this little lady shows us what’s going on inside her stomach.

I heard a story on the radio that there are specific chemicals that live only two places in your body: your brain and your guts.  Interesting to think that your intestines may have something inexplicable in words to do with your conscious thoughts. Is this why we use the expressions “gut reaction,” or “what does your gut say?”

She upstairs.

Here is the latest painting from my “Perspectives” series.  This one is entitled “She upstairs.”  A solemn, poised girl shows the viewer that she is opening up the attic in her mind.

The idea for this painting came when I was up in my attic for the first time, quite literally. Our HVAC was not working, which August in Austin is a terrible time to be without air-conditioning. Being the handy bitch that I am, I wanted to take a look at what was wrong and see if I could fix it in the future.  Aside from learning a lot about condenser lines, I also considered the metaphor of what going up into the attic could look like in terms of a painting.  This painting is pretty small; it’s only 6″ by 12″.

Please enjoy/reflect/ponder the result below.

sheupstairs

She sinks…

 

I finished up this painting about a month ago, but I forgot to post it.  Usually I finish a piece before moving on to the next one, however this one took well over a year to finish.  Between start and completion, I got engaged and married and went on a trip to Peru, so at least I have some great excuses.

She sinks really puzzled me for a while too; it took a long time looking at it to figure out what I wanted the end result to be. I knew the general idea I wanted to convey, but really struggled with getting there.  What’s nice about painting is that you don’t see my earlier renderings of the water, you can only see what’s on top.  Which is great for the both of us.

What’s also funny about this painting was that I unintentionally made it look kinda like my friend, Maki.  She was born on April 15th, which was the same day the Titanic sank.  I knew all of this when I started the painting, so did my brain just decide to make it look like her?  Was my subconscious filling in those blanks when I came up with the subject of a girl nonchalantly drinking tea whilst a ship is sinking inside of her noggin?  Or is it all just a coincidence…

Hey thanks, Skyline!

Just wanted to give a huge thanks to the fine folks at SkylineArtEditions.com for featuring me as their “Artist of the Month” for June!  Pictures are up on their site of my studio & home and they interviewed me as well. In addition, for the entire month, all my fine art prints are 20% off with the code, EllaJune.

Click on the banner below or on this link, http://skylinearteditions.com/ellanilsson/ to check it out!

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I do!

I have to admit I’m a terrible graphic designer.  I’m slow and I don’t know illustrator, so I have to do everything by hand and then in Photoshop.  With that being said, I’m also stubborn and know what I want, so I would hate to be that pain-in-the-ass client to anyone else but myself.  So when it came time to design my save the date and wedding invites,  I could at the very least be realistic and know what I was in for.  The agony of myself.

Our style definitely leans more modern than rustic, but our sentimental venue was totally rustic.  We had to come up with a compromise that fit us as well as the space we were working with.  We also knew that we were working with a super tight budget and most of the decorations were going to be DIY.  Green is our favorite color (I suspect Ryan, my husband, cares a lot less about this than I do) so that seemed like the natural starting point.  In addition, i can get a lot of OSB (oriented strand board) for free from work, as it comes with pallets and we just recycle it.  So that was the starting off point, and then I made an inspiration collage (I loathe the phrase ‘mood board’) to get going.

Wedding inspiration collage

Hooray! Off to a good start!

We knew we wanted to do something a little more sustainable than flowers.  What’s great about the Craspedia (Billy Balls) is that they have this lovely mustard color and look just about the same dried as they do freshly cut.  It also ties in nicely with the natural tones of the wood.  We knew we were not going to ask our bridesmaids to wear matching dresses, simply wear the green dress of their choosing…any shade!  So that helped establish the rest of the colors.  We wanted to work with succulents as the green variations help further the color wave, and they could live on after the appointed day.  Now it seemed like enough to get started on our invites and save the dates, and here, for your viewing pleasure, is the result.

wedding invites

I figured I would share something I learned the hard way.  The size of the envelope is just as important as the weight.  The manilla envelopes I chose were 1/8″ too wide, so that managed to double my postage.  OOF!

We used a lot of rubber stamps, washi tape, and imagination for the result.  A huge thank you to my ladies for helping me assembly line the production of these…you are all handy bitches! :)

She wrecked.

I’ve completed a new painting for your viewing pleasure.  Here we have a seemingly sweet girl with a soft smile, with something far less innocuous going on.  I really appreciate how different people can look at art and think/feel different things.  My favorite two responses from friends have been “The bridge and tunnel crew!” and “Sometimes, you just run out of track.”