“I have worked with many mediums, both in painting and sculpture but for some reason that fact that not many people work in cement/concrete – it interested me more”
Christina Ellis has explored “the storytelling of the human experience” in art for decades. This artist began her career as an illustrator and art director, but later studied sculpture at the University of Alaska where she learned from her professor and favorite artist, Ken Gray. Her work led her to discover and feel passionate about an unpopular material among sculptors: cement.
Ellis has participated in many exhibitions and demonstrations such as the “No Big Heads” show. She is now immersed in her studio in Portland Oregon enjoying the challenges of sculpting busts in cement. She finds inspiration in strangers on the streets and imagines what it would be like to invite them to a dinner party and meet them face-to-face. The result would be hard to predict, just as her cement sculptures.
In this Q&A artist Christina Ellis shares with PoseSpace how she fell in love with cement, why Ken Gray is her favorite artist, her rituals and advice to art students:
When did you first know you wanted to become an artist?
I have always been an artist. If I could find some mud or sticks, I was creating art. There was something about it that made the world feel right for me.
How did you get started with cement?
I have worked with many mediums, both in painting and sculpture but for some reason that fact that not many people work in cement/concrete – it interested me more. While researching concrete one day, I came across a video about a sculptor named Katherine Stanek. Her work was so beautiful and profoundly touching the way she took this blah, messy medium and created visual masterpieces. I was hooked.
How do you start a sculpture— do you have any rituals?
I have a ritual candle infused with herbs and essential oils to awaken creativity, playfulness and imagination. I have it burning whenever I am working in my studio.
Do you have a favorite artist?
My favorite artist was my college art professor, Ken Gray. He was a phenomenal artist and sculptor and a phenomenal teacher. He brought out the creative light in each one of his students. I always had a deep interest in sculpture but had been putting off taking sculpture classes because they were long and hard and dirty. One day, I learned Professor Gray had cancer. I immediately enrolled in every one of his classes. He taught me the joy of sculpting.
What do you think of PoseSpace?
I think PoseSpace is an amazing service for artists. The care and artistry that is put into the photography of each pose is a great resource when you can’t get a live model.
You opened an art school in Southern Oregon, could you tell us more about this project?
I had renovated an old house downtown Medford Oregon and wanted to bring art instruction to a community that was not known for its exposure to the creative world. I had a full school of dedicated students, both young and old. My timing was off though, the next year, 2008, people were forced to choose between groceries and art school tuition. I had to close the doors.
What advice do you have for young artists who have an interest in sculpting?
Allow yourself to be free – play, create, make your own rules.
Christina Ellis’ website: www.cmegallery.com
Interview by Andrea Miliani