Instagram: @ellingson_art

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I was raised in Buffalo, MN, a small suburb in the cornfields west of Minneapolis. My dad’s father taught printmaking at a university further north, and a lot of the drawing supplies I grew up with came from him. My childhood was filled with art and books—my sister is a musician and a big reader, and my mother writes, draws, and makes textile art. I studied writing and philosophy in college and wrote fiction for a while after, before returning to drawing a few years ago.

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I like clean lines, muted colors, and a somewhat flattened sense of perspective. Lately I’ve been lifting a lot of elements from retro sci-fi art, Belgian comics, abstract painting, and architectural drawing in the pursuit of something colorful, surreal, and a little geometric.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

I work with microns, paper, a scanner, and digital color. I’m intense about my inking and get really amped up about the poise and flow of executing each line. I favor a solid graphic finish to my drawings, and so my coloring process is pretty fast and involves a sort of pigeon-like trance of pecking around in photoshop. I like my medium for its speed and simplicity—I dislike feeling cooped up in a single drawing for too long. 

4. What is your artistic process like?

I keep a journal of thumbnail sketches, many of which are illegible and lend an unwanted sense of mystery to my process. When the time comes to expand on a thumbnail, I either move to a sheet of newsprint or bristol for my pencil layer. This is where I sketch out large shapes and work my way in, using reference images here and there in case I’m unsure how a sleeve would crease or what kind of roof a lighthouse has. If I do my penciling on newsprint, I head to my lightboard and overlay a piece of bristol for the inking. If I pencil on bristol, I ink directly then erase the underdrawing. Lastly I scan and color in photoshop, a step I call “the clicking.” 

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

I like to browse art on Pinterest or Artsy until something grabs me. It’s usually a composition or a concept, some new possibility that serves as a contact point for whatever emotion I might bring to a drawing. And once that takes hold and I go down a rabbit hole of thumbnails, I usually end up a long ways out from the piece that inspired me.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

Drawing turns energy outward that I might otherwise spend picking myself apart. Generally art makes me happy about the world, knowing that smart and bighearted people are pouring effort and memory into art—I tend to be thrilled with their results.

7. Where did you study?

I earned my BA in English and Philosophy from Saint John’s University, a small liberal arts school in Minnesota. Currently I’m pursuing graduate work in illustration in Baltimore, at the Maryland Institute College of Art. I’m just starting work on a thesis, a monograph of large-scale surreal drawings. 

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d like to find ways to travel and make art. I see myself living in Brooklyn with my partner and a cat or small dog, making time to write short stories again.

9. What about in ten?

To look back on the last five and feel that things were going well. 

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

To keep exploring new themes and aesthetics with a sense of depth and excitement. Sometimes drawing seems like an excavation, a dig site of the mind, and I’m using a comb to tediously unearth the skeleton of what I feel and remember and how I want to draw. 

11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

My favorite thing to cook is a grilled kabob featuring chicken, kielbasa, bell pepper, onion, pineapple, and cajun spices. Over rice. It’s the food pyramid on a stick.

12. Favourite book?

Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme. 

13. Favourite genre of music? 

I’ve been in a dream-pop rut for . . . [counts fingers, toes] years.

14. What are your hobbies? 

I don’t skateboard as much as I used to, but following the progress of the skateboarding world is still a substantial and emotional hobby. If I weren’t busy with school I’d be reading fiction more. And cooking is definitely a hobby, or at least supports my hobby of eating.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

If I weren’t drawing or writing, I’d like to be some kind of lone carpenter. I’ve built a few bookshelves, skateboard ramps, and coffee tables over the years and really enjoy the planning and execution of it, the tools and geometry. I always walk past houses under renovation and think they’d make really peaceful workplaces. Like little temples of patience and sawdust.