Portraits: Live Friday at the Ashmolean Museum

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, press

Last Friday night I took a suitcase of hats and picture frames to the

LIVE FRIDAY: FRAMED at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford…

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The event was themed around Andy Warhol and having equipped myself with appropriate colours, and dressed up for the museums historical element…

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I settled down beneath some 15th Century Dutch paintings (including a rather scary portrait of Rembrandt’s mother), put out my hats for public perusal and invited the evenings visitors to sit for their portrait wearing the headdress of their choice…


Photo credit to Ian Wallman / IWPhotographic & The Ashmolean

All together they create a multi-coloured portrait patchwork..

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I was even lucky enough to have my own portrait done at the end of the evening by the wonderful Dot and Maya….

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It was a really great night so thanks to the Ashmolean, the Live Friday team and to all the excellent models that passed my way on Friday! Especially 10 year old Max who stood in as both model and critic…

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If you would like the original of your portrait from the event please email me at blancheelllis@gmail.com

Portrait - 8

Photo credit to Jessica Harvey

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Article: Anatomy and Distortion.


I wrote this post after giving a talk on anatomy,

and why I am fascinated by human distortion….

distortion egon shiele

“Distortion of the body is the most emotional thing you can depict. Because everyone has a body they know how it feels to be in one, this is why I find it so fascinating to draw the body past the edge of comfort or possibility whilst keeping it recognizable, and therefore, relatable. “


Read the full article here 



India: Travels and Drawings – Part V – Final!


The last of this trip and this sketchbook….

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We left Bagru for Jaipur and had a marvellous welcome by a tuktuk driver called ‘Lucky’ and his friend. We played guitar in the back as they sped through the streets and we got safely to our hostel.


Jaipur Literature Festival



The best thing about the visit to Jaipur, apart from Tem getting a 50p haircut in the backstreets of the pink city, was finding the Jaipur Literature Festival that we’d heard so much about. It was fantastic and we saw some great events and speakers including Atul Gawande who gave the Reith lectures a couple of years ago…


…and Stephen Fry who is one of the few famous faces in the world that could truly star-strike me. I really enjoyed his talk on Oscar Wilde.


Sketching in Mr Fry’s talk…


We recorded some of the talks on the second day for our own satisfaction (possibly having withdrawal symptoms from all the work we did on the Jagriti Yatra train)


The Pink City


Then we took off into the pink city where Tem got her hair cut, we found a shop that only sold gold fabric and thread (which Tem bought reels and reels of) and we stopped along the way to draw the fantastically colourful sari shops.


Returning to Mumbai

On our final train of this trip we kept tradition and travelled overnight. It was an interesting journey.

On our part of the train was a large group of women. I tried to surreptitiously draw them at one stage and failed spectacularly.  They cottoned on and all came flooding across the carriage to look at my sketchbook. I tried to draw one woman who had a lot of attitude and she posed regally for about 5 minutes then began to fidget and look very unimpressed that I wasn’t finished. I looked down at my drawing, and when I looked back up she was standing over me surveying the unfinished work with all the other women around her. I tried to explain it wasn’t finished but they overwhelmed me and began to riffle delightedly through my sketchbook.


Later that night Tem and I played a song to each other before bed and the women, first observing us with interest, followed it with one of their own. We continued swapping songs for nearly 2 hours before finally falling asleep.



Back in Mumbai

I spend my birthday, the day before travelling home, staying with some friends from the Yatra just outside Mumbai, it’s mostly buildings in all directions but in this little park I found some lovely vegetation to draw.


And then i traveled home and filled up the last few page of this journey with thoughts and portraits of people back home.


The journey started with the Jagriti Yatra which was inspired by the train journey that Gandhi took around India 100 years ago, learning about the conditions, culture, changes and challenges of India. So, this sketchbook ends with his face, on a 100 rupee note.


And then…… at last…..the sketchbook…


was done.

See previous ‘chapters’ of this sketchbook-journey here:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

And look out for the completed Jagriti Yatra artwork that will be going up online soon and hopefully emerge in an exhibition in all its 15 meter glory in London sometime soon.

pano-yatra Low Res

I’ll have to  way toput this up in sections so it can be seen!


Dancers in Pushkar

India: Travels and Drawings – Part IV

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, folktale, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Painting, reportage, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

Well, It was a while ago now and London has me swept up in all it’s fever again so this latest instalment of the India trip has taken a little while to come through but here it is.

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With the last few pages of my sketchbook and some of the work I did with Tem and the Jagriti Yatra and the last two weeks of our journey in the wake of the train ride, reeling from the intensity of our experience on the rails we made our way back up north…. to Rajasthan.. on one more long train.



This was on the train North from Mumbai towards Pushkar. Tem made friends with family sharing our overnight compartment and taught the father origami. I painted his wife who was perpetually amused and always bursting into laughter. They bought some fruit from a lady with a basket on the platform at a station and offered us some. They were good. At each station people got off to wander, stretch their legs and buy stuff, only getting back on again once the train had started to grind lazily out of the station, walking or running alongside and jumping back in the doors.

Pushkar – Kite Festival


This was undoubtedly one of the most joyful things I saw in India, and perhaps have ever seen – every man woman and child standing on their roofs in beautiful pushkar flying colourful paper kites that hung in proud tatters from trees and buildings and telephone wires for a long time afterwards.

You could get kites from 3 rupees and they were flown from dawn till dusk for days.


Tem and I also met up with Anna who, marvellously, had a banjo with her. We spent some time together.

The Blue City…

In Jodphur the streets are narrow and the buildings blue, and found ourselves a wonderful guesthouse that felt like an Indian Fawlty Towers. Highlights were Sunni, the father of the family coming into our room to sweep a dead pigeon out from under the old wooden sofa on the second morning – he had just remembered it was there – and finding the newspaper clippings of the cast of Darjeeling LTD who seem to have stayed there during filming.


At the fort we found this couple with their baby singing songs, all of which were beautiful and apparently meant, roughly translated, ‘Welcome to Rajasthan’. We sang them ‘How am I doing’ or ‘Twee Twa Twoo’, the Mountain Man version in return.

Next – to Bagru… The Home of Block Printing

We took up the invitation of a fellow Yatri and visited Davis Cutter in Bagru where we saw the amazing production of the block printing techniques that are rooted there.


The long fabrics are laid out in the ‘Fields of Colour’ throughout the village, it’s an exceptionally strange and beautiful sight at sunset, especially when the fabric is collected and the earth where they were laid is stained strange tints and colours.


I had meant this to be the final post but must leave now so i will save the last of the trip for one final post!

Find previous posts on my sketchbook travels in India:

Here – Part I

Here – Part II

And Here! – Part III

Jagriti Yatra & India travels 2015-16

India: Travels and Drawings – Part III


Third update on the India sketchbook…. the new books is bound and running ahead now – I got geeky and made another paper index.



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We were gradually coming to the end of the train ride, and our work with the Jagriti Yatra…thumb_IMG_5952_1024

We had a dance party at sundown at the Gram Vikas school on the final evening of 2015. Kids of all ages (up to and including people with more than a handful of decades) jumped around and played volleyball…

I did something unusual for me and went straight into watercolour to catch the movement of the crowd. Really satisfying, something I want to do more often.


They had a House of Imagination – full of the kids art which was honestly so impressive. They had made these intricately cut out layered paper artworks that you put a light behind. The way the light filtered through the paper reminded me so much of the haze that I saw morning and night in india. In the city or the countryside the haze was so strong that items at different distances were set, just like cardboard cut outs, stepping back in layers of opacity.

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This style of cut out….

Near Deoria I saw an old man cycling along the edge of a field in the distance, he looked like cut out figure, pulled along by a string that ran below the rushes, in the delicately layered, cut-out theatre of dawn.


And onwards we travelled – 450 strong – 600 with the full train crew. Somehow managing to alight at each place and return to our train intact…. during some Loooooong waits on the platform we started song circles.

And we drew….


Our 10 meter long drawing growing and growing….


Meanwhile, in my personal sketchbook…


I got to draw this lovely lady on a very bumpy bus… she had the most beautiful face.

And I realised, at about this point on the journey, that I would forever miss being rocked to sleep by a train when the journey ended and I was living back on solid, steady ground, rather than rails.

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In the next part we travel to Rajasthan….


Find the first two parts of the sketchbook-journey:

Here – Part I

And here – Part II

India travels 2015-16.


More artwork from this and other projects:



Interview with The LondonY

art, Camden, drawing, Drawing in Public, Drawing in Public, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, London Underground, press, reportage, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

I really enjoyed this interview with Nastasia of The LondonY. Effectively someone else asking many of the questions I should ask of myself and causing me to have a good look at what’s going on in my art, life and music.

What I do, and why,

and how.

Don’t know about ‘upcoming’, but wherever I’m at, I’m happy here for now : )

Blanche Ellis talks art, folk and how to portray people on the train without getting noticed.

Read the full interview on the LONDONY website here

studio blanche

India: Travels and Drawings – Part II

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, metamorphosis, Painting, portrait, sketchbook, Sketchnotes

For the first 15 days in India this was our mad itinerary,

 travel by night…

new place each day….

except for when we travelled for up to 42 hours without stopping.


In all the different places Tem and I met projects and role models for social entrepreneurship and took graphic notes, on walls, and floors, and trains…. all over India


And in the meantime I kept my personal sketchbook going…

Instalment II of India Sketchbook follows:

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We visited Gram Vikas and heard about their work in community health particularly their surrounding water and sanitation in rural areas. We visited the village pictured above. It was beautiful, particularly the amount of care that went into decorating each home and the hand-painted entrances and doors… but also very strange to be 450+ outsiders walking through a small village, looking at peoples homes.


Mohit from the School of Social Entrepreneurs  – on the left was our bunk mate and a great host (despite being a guest himself on the train.) He never looked that glum in reality.


At the amazing stone carved and brightly coloured temple in Madurai I experienced a ‘blessing’ form a ‘boff’ on the head from an elephants trunk.  It felt a bit like a head hug.

We ran drawing workshops in our compartment on the train some evenings and the lovely Kinjal was a great model! Amazing bone structure and poise. It was great to facilitate other peoples artwork, come up with games and do a little teaching along the way. It’s something I really enjoy.


I occasionally had a moment in my own mind and came out with the strangenesses therein… and drew the cities flying by the train window.


More strangeness from my head, after having an allergic reaction to UV light (which is a problem I have with sunny places). I thought about how even when bodies are broken, failing, somehow undermining their own purpose… still they’re strangely fascinating and beautiful things. Maybe this is one reason I’m so drawn to the image of the twisted body. I doubt anyone does, but I certainly don’t know what it is to have a ‘perfect’ body. The imagery that I relate to, internally, that comforts me, and that which fascinates me, is not the ‘ideal’ but the fragile, twisted Egon-Shiele-like bodies. They are so alive, not in spite of their defects and distortions, but because of them.

Their tension is their life.

distortion egon shiele

In contrast to this, is the watercolour on the right hand page above.

On new years day, for the first time, I used the UV filter film that I have recently discovered. I put it on a window, and sitting at my train seat, with my sketchbook, curtained off from the rest of the world I sat with the sun on my face for the first time in some years. It was beautiful. And I watched the sun come up through the haze, a blood-orange rag in a haze-cotton sky, and watched it sink, grey and purple into the black.


Sunlight Spills From My Window Sill 01/16


India travels 2015-16.


More artwork from this and other projects:


INDIA: Travels and Drawings

art, Drawing in Public, exhibiton, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Painting, reportage, Sketchnotes

The Jagriti Yatra.

 Jagriti = Awareness
Yatra = Journey

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This charity runs a yearly train journey around India. It is inspired by the journey Gandhi took after returning from South Africa 100 years ago. It takes over 400 young Indian social entrepreneurs to meet role models and experience the diversity of their own country from the biggest cities to its most rural outposts. They examine the strengths, weaknesses and challenges their country faces, and explore and discuss avenues for positive social change through entrepreneurship. Working in partnership with Temujen Gunawardena I lived on the train will the Yatri’s and created a 10 metre long illustration capturing the content and experience of the journey. We plan to exhibit the piece in London in 2016 before returning it to the Jagriti Yatra team in Mumbai.


Working on the JY train…..

More images will follow but below is one detail of the 10 metre long drawing that Tem and I made to document the journey, life on the train and the sights we saw, the experiences we shared and the talks and ideas discussed along the way.


During the travels I naturally kept my own sketchbook journal. The first book I have bound from scratch and the orange cover of which is now scratched, scuffed, stained and filthy, the binding knocked out of all shape. And it is full of colour on the inside too. Here are some experiences from the book…….. It is so long I may have to put it up in instalments.

India Sketchbook: Episode 1:

The book begins:

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A book I newly bound.

Now a worn and frayed old friend.


A portrait of myself by the lost and found artist Sharath Koona.

The start of a new journey.


The opening ceremony for the Jagriti Yatra – Gauri Sharma Tripathi teaches us all how to do the Jagriti Yatra dance that we will perform almost every one of the next 15 days, often multiple times! I see an explosion of colour and fabrics. Over the travels, glancing out of train windows, I see the people of India pass as we whirl 8000km around the country from Mumbai to the South, to the East, North and then back down to Mumbai. I capture the impressions and moments of the people, I would say passers by, but being on the train, I was the passer by. They are waiting on platforms, heaving luggage and walking alongside the track.

In the city, Mumbai, on arrival one of my first thoughts, rushing through the city in a taxi, seeing the shops, the cards, bikes, buildings and millions of wares for sale:

Everything is leaning… there are no ‘right’ angles here.


My traveling companion and partner in line and colour – Tem – experiencing jet-lag in the restaurant we ate our first dinner in. Oh delicious dosa with coconut yum. You are the best.


The Yatra begins. It involves talking, listening, learning, dancing, good food, exploration and glances out of train windows at fleeting figures on train platforms… This old lady’s dress was a magnetic magenta shade above the yellow dust and blue shadow.

More to come in…


India travels 2015-16.


More artwork from this and other projects on Instagram and Twitter @blancheellisart


Next sketchbook is under construction.


ArtRabbit – Frontpage

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, Painting, press, Prints

Happily a friend just found my artwork featured on the front page of ArtRabbit,

My self portrait etching is front-centre below.


Nice to see my artwork getting around. I do always feel like it’s got a life of it’s own, especially when I release the image into the world, material or virtual.

Find out about the exhibition this Friday 18th December through the ArtRabbit article,

or the FB Event,

and come down – it’s going to be lovely 

Drawing Intensive Exhibition – Friday 18th

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, press, Prints

I am excited to say some of my etchings – including the series of musicians, will be in the Drawing Intensive exhibition at Mercer and Chance gallery in Hoxton (details below) this weekend 18th-20th December.


The opening of the show is from 6-9pm on Friday 18th. There will be wine, art and wonderful people. Everyone is welcome!

golden banjo girl blancheellis.wordpress.com

Sing Yourself – Etching.



Drawing Intensive: Exhibition

Mercer and Chance gallery





I haven’t posted much here lately as I have become a firm convert to Instagram for posting my new work/work in progress. If you’d like to see some of those things then look for @blancheellisart