Few sights spark childish delight like the view through a kaleidoscope. Young and old alike gaze in wonder as the world they know evolves into choreographed panes of content, color and light. It’s a concept that Art-A-Fair’s Elinor Sethman applies to her mixed media works – with spectacular results. The 15-year Art-A-Fair veteran has an uncanny ability to capture a traditional view of reality and offset the scene within the framework of a kaleidoscopic pattern. And, her skillful use of shading further reinforces the effect of viewing the world through kaleidoscopic glass panes.
Elinor, who goes by “Ellie”, works primarily in watercolor embellished with colored pencil. Her detail-rich compositions frequently feature New England scenes, chickens and roosters, African animals, and various still life content. In addition to her signature kaleidoscopic works, Ellie also excels at painting miniatures – some as small as 2″x3″ in size. She is an “A-to-Z” artist who plans out and executes each phase of artwork production herself – from drawing and painting, matting, and framing, to printing and scoring notecards and shipping her artwork to out-of-area clients. And, she does it all in the large studio area she maintains in the Corona home she shares with husband Arvin.
According to Ellie, fine artwork starts with the finest materials. She uses only top-quality paints, papers and brushes, Prismacolor pencils and acid-free mats. The journey from concept to completion is both cerebral and creative, requiring significant thought and planning. Despite their skillfully-engineered appearance, however, Ellie’s works are not based on mathematics. In fact, she’s quick to note that math is hardly her strong suit; Ellie frequently got in trouble during her school years for drawing during math class!
Challenges posed by her technique are plenty – but, this artist enjoys a good puzzle. She starts by committing the overall kaleidoscopic pattern to the page. She then sketches out the scene and begins to work up each segment, calculating the visual offset of objects that overlap multiple panes. Ellie also analyzes the scene to determine the degree of shading necessary to make one pane visually “advance” (appear to be in front of the others) and another pane “recede” (appear to be behind the others). Subtle shading makes all the difference.
The artist also invests a lot of thought in expressing her themed compositions. Most are imaginary compilations created from a variety of sources. Although some of her subjects originate from photographs, she never uses a projector nor feels the need to reproduce an entire photo. She often holds a figurine or small reference object in one hand while applying paint to the page with the other. And, although her work is carefully thought out, she often makes changes along the way – such as adding a new object from an unrelated source, or creating a colored shape if it’s needed for balance or visual interest.
Her kaleidoscopic technique has taken a few twists and turns over the years, but one would expect the process to evolve over time. The unique and very personalized nature of Ellie’s work has led to a number of unusual commissions – including one featuring a man taking an eye exam, with a carrot in his pocket!
Ellie will be returning to Art-A-Fair for the 2016 season where you’ll frequently find her painting in her booth. Make sure to visit Ellie and purchase some of her work this summer as part of Art-A-Fair’s 50th year of fine art!