Looking back, and forwards….

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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!

INDIA: Travels and Drawings

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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Exhibition and Instagram

New Instagram Fan

Well, after dipping a dubious toe in the waters of social media I have found that Instagram is a perfect language for me. Just pictures. So I have that now @BlancheEllisArt – as a way to share my daily sketches and reflect the way I work.

Exhibition in Vauxhall

Also… I will be part of a group exhibition in Vauxhall Community Centre on September 19th. It will be a mix of artists and of arts from music to sculpture and I’ll be putting in some of the characters who have emerged this summer from my pen, watercolour palette and cut up text. As usual they all appear to be in some stage of distortion or metamorphosis.

I’ll introduce you to a few of the ones currently tacked to the wall of my studio….

things you don't know

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Mr Happy Hormones

Mistakable Bodies – Type

Bodies are constantly emerging into the ‘Mistakable Bodies‘ series… 

Here are two that grew into my sketchbook yesterday.

Mistakable Bodies - Type - Building The Spirit To Come

My sketchbook does feel like a living thing. It’s as though the life of the characters that get drawn into it, from my travels and my mind, seeps through the pages and emerges again, further on, in twists and blooms of colour that have a life of their own.
Mistakeable Bodies - Type - A Stained Medium

These are all sketchbook versions but I have just begun making large drawings of new bodies so, more Mistakeable Bodies to come…

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