Looking back, and forwards….

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Exhibition, folktale, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, Market Stall, portrait, Prints, reportage, sketchbook, text and image

So, I hear it is a new year. I thought, seeing as I’m sitting in bed with the flu, I’d use the time to reflect on a few things that happened this last year, and where I’m going next….

Jagriti Yatra

This last year that has had me drawing on windows in high rise buildings, sketching at festivals, partaking in several exhibitions and starting new series’ and collaborations…. began, what feels like a long time ago, on a train.

I was traveling the width and breadth of India with the Jagriti Yatra, a charity for young social entrepreneurs. Working with with my colleague and good friend Temujen Gunewardena we captured the two week train ride in a 15 meter long illustration….

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and all the while I kept a personal sketchbook of our travels…

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Mythologies Series

In the late spring I made a call out for an author to create written illustrations for this series of over 40 drawings and their myriad cast of eccentric characters.

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Since then I have been working in collaboration with the Ines Ferreira a visual artist, maker of art-books and author of humorous, strange and serious, magic-realist worlds. I entrusted Inez with my Mythologies family and have loved reading the stories that have emerged. The concept, of creating a book or exhibition from this combined work, continues to develop in response to the work.

I cannot wait to read more and find the full shape of this series but I am also enjoying the slow pace. The project has a staying power,  I so often quickly abandon finished work for the next project, it a great practice to keep returning to pull more threads from the initial fibre.

Portraits At The Ashmolean

I spent a great evening in the spring at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford as ‘The Wandering Portrait Artist’, creating colourful portraits of the guests at the museum’s Andy Warhol inspired Portraits night.

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Black and White

My usual palette is fresh, bright and bold, full of citrus, sun and luminous shadows. The Ashmolean project pushed my colours to pop-art saturation… but, in the autumn, I had a brief period of black and white.

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This series was twice as unusual because I was not only working predominantly in black and white, I was working from photographs rather than from life, or from my mind. The effect was rather like collage, taking elements from my own photographs and other images and interweaving them to create cryptic narrative scenes. This series was exhibited at the Creative Connections studios in East London in November.

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Various Guises EP

November saw the launch of the Tide Take Him EP by the folk duo, Various Guises, myself and Maya McCourt. I was able to bring my art and music together in artwork for the EP and in song illustrations. I curated an exhibition at the launch and exhibited the EP artwork alongside the work of other artists on the theme.

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Etsy Shop

Having clambered onto the social media of Instagram the year before I forged even further into the world of zero’s and ones this year by opening an ETSY shop… currently it is stocked with prints and framed work and I look forward to putting more original work up.

Believe it or not – it seems to be working, I have so far sold prints in the UK, Austria, Australia and the USA !

Colourful Nudes

As December grew darker and greyer, I began a new series of delightfully colourful, naked ladies with extremely strange hair.

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 The Christmas Market

In December I also returned, almost by surprise, to Christmas Markets for the first time in 3 years, and had a fantastic time. It’s that lovely feeling of selling your work to someone personally, knowing where it is going to and what kind of home it may have…

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I sold a lot of original work including two members of the Strange Familiar’s, another series that mixes text and image in a short story, or mysterious narrative, style. The rest of the Strange Familiar family may be found in exhibition in 2017

and last but by no means least…

Crisis

I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Crisis this year as a volunteer, making portraits of the guests, giving drawing classes and helping in any other (totally unrelated) way I could. There is something in a portrait, that means you have been seen, and recognised. There is also a connection that is made by sitting face to face with someone for ten minutes, completely aware of one another without having to talk, only letting conversation come of its own accord. Many guests kept the portraits, others sent them to family, to their kids or mothers. I don’t think could use ink, paint or graphite in a better way. I’m very grateful for the experience.

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What next?

On Friday I leave for Barcelona for a period of self-directed study. Very little is decided except that my oil paints are coming with me and I plan to wrestle the caps off the tubes where they have gummed up and become stuck from lack of use. Drawing will continue, of course… and the rest, is all adventure. The main question is if there will be space for clothes in my suitcase, when all the art materials are in there.

And, of course, the eternal question of wether the gods-that-be will allow my banjo on as hand luggage.

¡Adios!

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Jagriti Yatra Artwork In Full

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

At last I have managed to turn the 15 meter concertina sketchbook that recorded the last Jagriti Yatra journey around India into a digital format!

Jagriti Yatra detail blancheeellis.com 3

“Jagriti Yatra is an ambitious train journey of discovery and transformation that takes hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth, especially those who are from small towns and villages of India on a 15 day, 8000 km national odyssey to meet the role models – social and business entrepreneurs – of the country.

The vision of the Jagriti is ‘Building India Through Enterprise'”

Such an intense journey, living on a train with amazing people and experiences and transformed into this artwork by myself and Temujen Gunawardena

working in all sort of places and situations over a mad 15 days..

Jagriti Yatra detail blancheeellis.com 2

You can see the epic size of our art odessy here…

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So, to make it visible in the world of on-screen formatting I’ve divided it up in the gallery below for you to browse in detail… or…

Click here to see a video of the artwork in motion under the hands of myself and Temujen Gunawardena…

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Click the pictures to browse through the gallery…

Exhibition of the full artwork coming soon….

see previous posts for more drawings from my personal travel sketchbook

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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.

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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

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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.

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

The Blue City…
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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

The start of a new journey.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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India travels 2015-16.

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

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Next sketchbook is under construction.

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Returned from Istanbul

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Illustration, location drawing, location painting, metamorphosis, reportage

I am just returned for the 2nd time in 8 months from Istanbul. When I visited last year, feeling an amazing fondness and love for this city I didn’t expect to be back so soon but my illustration work found me out there just last week!

Of course I stayed on a few more days and had a wonderful time running round and drawing the sights (and buying crazy things like lemon salt!)

Here are some of the places and moments from the trip….

Babel Cafe
Istanbul - Babel Cafe - Last morning

This restaurant we had an amazing dinner, playing backgammon and snap, drinking red wine, eating phenomenal food and dancing round and sharing music with the lovely owner as we left. My friend Tem and I returned on our last morning for the most delicious breakfast dish ‘menemen’.

Late for our flight I didn’t have time to visit the beautiful junk shop pictured on the corner but this view is a familiar one I will return to easily as every road we took in Istanbul seemed to lead us back to the crossroads of the incongruous Pizza Vegas and The Babel Restaurant.

Istanbul - Limonlu - Tem

After the aforementioned evening Tem and I found a hidden away restaurant with a hidden away garden and tortoises wandering around… feeling wobbly we did portraits of each other (mostly without looking at the page) that came out just as wobbly as we were. Sitting on the swing seat and taking up two tables in this rather up-market restaurant, we recovered the will to go out and find the city.

Istanbul Limonlu resturant with hangover and memories of the night before

Sultanahmet  Istanbul - Sultanahmet and crowds

Last time I kept trying to visit the blue mosque, or Sultanahmet, during prayer times and didn’t see it. On this trip timing was better and I got to see inside. I had imagined it being bright turquoise and almost brashly vibrant, but actually the space has a very pale, etherial quality, accented by the blue and turquoise tiles and paint, but also by reds in the windows of the domes.

In contrast to the vast airy chamber surrounding them the crowd milled on a red carpet, every woman in a headscarf of course, even the westerners, and many men wearing the long cloth skirts they hand out as you enter to cover anyone in shorts. The hustle and bustle of the jostling people in their many colours was for me, an integral part of the view. I always find myself watching the watchers.

Elections and Princes Islands

Istanbul - view from ferry

On the eve of the Turkish election, the most important in 30 years which had everyone holding their breath as the Kurds waited to see if they could get enough percentage for representation, we took a trip to one of the Princes Islands. This is the view, leaving Istanbul on the ferry.

We walked to the top of the island and saw a wild horse, and sat, and sang, and looked at the sea. We returned to feast on meze at the house of our turkish friend and to celebrate the outcome of the election.

When we got on the boat to return ‘home’ to Istanbul and our hostel it was full of people dancing and celebrating and playing music. The atmosphere was incredible. The celebrations lasted the whole time we were there….. huge crowds in the street.

Istanbul – i’ll miss you and your colours, crowds and junk shops, steep streets and fine food, and fine people – I’ll be back again. Soon I hope.

Returned - Renewed

Returned – Renewed

One last memory for which I haven’t a picture – Waseem in the Juice shop – thank you for your sanctuary and sharing in our music in a moment that was needed. And for the token, hanging in my window.

2015 Sketchbook – Drawing In Public – Drawing Public Writing

art, drawing, Drawing in Public, Drawing in Public, Illustration, location drawing, London Underground, metamorphosis, reportage, sketchbook, Sketchnotes, Underground Portraits

Underground Green - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

well – it’s been a short while but i’ve made enough sketches that i thought i’d set them out them by theme for a change…

 

The largest collection is of Travel Portraits, mostly from the London Underground and Overground. So I’ll start with just a few of those. Trying a new – non-gallery format – let me know if you like it better !

 

 

Overground - Watch Your Children - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

I think this is my favourite TFL sketch so far.

It captures hundreds of identical moments I see watching people every day – the commuter all bundled up for winter and tucked into a sensationalist free paper whose headline blares absurdly from the crinkled front page.

 

Underground Portraits - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

The two guys from this page look like they’re from totally different centuries.

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Imagined journey – 

Overground Late Night Portrait - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

Lady on the late train back to Brockley from London Bridge, fellow on a train from Hove to London.
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Underground Portrait - New Look - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

 

Newspaper headlines, brands and names of supermarkets on shopping bags are written all over public space, part of the markings of our world.

 

Sometimes they seem to make a visual point, I can’t always work out what it is, and don’t want to pin it down, but I like to include these things where they strike me as interesting or often, as amusing or absurd in some way.

 

commuters_2_finalA friend also sent me this excellent cartoon about drawing in public – it’s from New York.

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Some other posts coming up will be on exhibitions I’ve been to (Shiele/Turner)…

Egon Shiele Exhibition '14 at Courtold drawings of live music….

Mascara Bar - BlancheEllis.wordpress.com

and a new series that has been emerging in this sketchbook…

‘mistakable bodies’

Mistakable Bodies - Growth - blancheellis.wordpress.com

Published! Drawings from Van Harskamp exhibition at Kunstraum Gallery, September ’14

art, drawing, Exhibition, Illustration, location drawing, press, Quotes, reportage

In September I had the chance to work an a very interesting project created by Nicoline Van Harskamp. A reading of Pygmalion. It was live-translated back from over 14 different languages back into English and recorded. My drawings capture the reading in progress.

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My drawings were then published along with the script in a limited edition book by Onomatopee.

Blanche Ellis Kunstraum Gallery '14 05

Some of my reportage drawings from Nicoline Van Harskamp’s exhibition are showcased by the publishers Onomatopee. A fuller set of my drawings from the days events have been published by Onomatopee in the book which resulted from the reading Nicoline set up at Kunstraum Gallery in Hoxton, London.

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I really enjoy reportage drawing and capturing the mood of the participants and how the marks of the drawings echoed the varied marks of the many written languages in the open books.

Blanche Ellis Kunstraum Gallery '14 01

There was a great humour in some of the phrases as they were re-translated, the process also showed up some fascinating cultural assumptions and differences.

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Blanche Ellis Kunstraum Gallery '14 03

I hope to have the chance to work with this project further as I find the links between text and images and the cultural crossover and divergence fascinating.