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Interview with Artist Ellen Cramer

Interview with Artist Ellen Cramer

Today in our Friends of Fallbrook Artist Highlight, we interview local artist, Ellen Cramer

Please tell us a bit about yourself!

We moved to Encinitas from Kansas in 1975.  When our three kids played sports in high school, Fallbrook was in the same league which meant we traveled to Fallbrook quite often for all of the different sports and we fell in love with Fallbrook.  We loved the small town charm and the people were all so friendly and said someday we would move.  In 1998, that “someday” happened and we have not regretted a minute of it.

We have seven grand-kids, all of them born after the move, so this is the Grandma and Grandpa’s home they all know and love as much as we do.

We are big fans of yours!  Starting out, what was your main focus as an artist?  How has that evolved over time?

When we decided to move to Fallbrook in 1998, I contacted an interior decorator.  She told me during one of our meetings that she was taking art lessons from someone in Oceanside and it sounded interesting.  I had never taken an art class so had no idea if I even had talent to paint so when I called the gallery, I asked if they had ever kicked anyone out for lack of talent and she said “no”.  I replied “please sign me up!”  

The instructor taught photo realism and for a period of time I was happy learning that.  One thing she did teach me is that “it’s only paint!” — a good lesson to remember.  But then I realized that there was more to painting than photo realism and I started searching for other instructors.  A friend suggested I contact Rich Stergulz who is now co-owner of “The Green Art House“.  I have been studying with him for years and have learned so much.  He inspires and teaches all elements of art from portraits to landscapes to modern.  There is no limit to what he can teach and what I can learn.

What challenges have you faced? 

Not too long ago I seemed to hit a wall.  I couldn’t decide what to paint and couldn’t find anything that interested me enough to paint.  I talked with Rich about it.  He said when that happens (as it apparently often does) to go to a museum and just look at everything.  I didn’t get to a museum but I did go to a local gallery and (actually joined it) and I’m inspired again…I make it sound easy but it actually wasn’t.  I needed to find things I was interested in…I had done a series of cows (which I loved doing) but I wanted to do something else.  So now I’m doing landscapes of places that I love.  

Tell us why you love what you do?

One thing I have started doing recently is painting on wood–no canvas, just wood.  I love the feel as the brush goes over the wood and some of the results that happen.  Several pieces in the cow series were done that way.  And just recently I started painting on wine corks.  The results have been interesting to say the least.

I love the fact that you can use just about anything and do just about anything with art, but what I really love is to paint mood.  I love to draw the viewer into my painting so that they can picture themselves in that scene.  For example, I just finished a scene of a bench by a lake at sunset.  The viewer can put himself on that bench, enjoy the view and just breathe a sigh of relief.

If you could do it differently, would you? 

I’m not sure I would do things any differently.  As our children were growing up, I had my own bookkeeping business which afforded me the time to be with them as they needed and not just when a nine to five job allowed me to be.  And while it is certainly different, a spreadsheet can be its own artistic creation but with numbers. 

When we moved to Fallbrook, I ended my business and with the children grown, I had plenty of time to pursue other things and I have been completely happy with my choice.  I’ve had time to pursue all kinds of art but I always come back to painting and mostly with oils.

Who or what inspires you?

I look at scenes and wonder how I can capture the mood of the picture and if I can bring the viewer into the picture.  Certain clouds, sunlight, either at dawn or dusk, or other things can emit a peacefulness or anxiety and I try to capture that.  Also I love painting on dark canvases so that I can capture the light.  Michael Flohr painted scenes like that and they are so dramatic.  Rich has also inspired me in so many ways, not only to try different subjects but different methods and styles of painting.  That’s how the cork painting started.

Please list a few rules that you try to live by?

I try to remember not to judge anyone’s work no matter what kind of art it is.  While it may not be my preference or liking, I believe that there is an artist inside of everyone and they can explore it as long as it doesn’t hurt others.  

Patience is another thing I try to remember.  Sometimes a painting isn’t going the way I would like and it takes patience to bring out what I’m trying to achieve.  Wisdom is also a very valuable rule.  The wisdom to know when it’s not going to work and to just start over with something else.

If you could give advice to an aspiring artist, what would it be?

The best advice I’ve been given is that it takes practice.  One must keep doing the art again and again.  Most people cannot just pick up a brush or whatever tool you use and just do it right from the beginning.  The only way to achieve anything is to practice.

What’s next for you?

Unfortunately or fortunately, I don’t know.  I want to keep painting because I love it.  I will see what God decides and take it from there.

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