In Austin, I’ve been attending an Illustration critique group with some amazingly talented artists. A while ago we thought it would be fun to conduct interviews with each other. It was my privilege to interview member Ellen Murray.
Dallion: Hi Ellen, thanks for participating in this interview. For my first question I’d like you to describe your earliest memory of being artistic. What made you want to illustrate children’s books?
Ellen: Illustrating children’s book is a combination of my love of good stories and my love of art. My mom has always encouraged me to be creative and to make art from my early childhood to the present day. Art making has been a life-long passion. My love of stories may have come from my dad, who usually would read aloud to me and my siblings before bed. I remember him reading aloud works by C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Who are your favorite children’s authors/illustrators?
Authors: J.M. Barrie, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien
Illustrators: Edmund Dulac, E.H. Shephard, N.C. Wyeth, Peter de Seve
These are certainly not all, but they are definitely noteworthy.
You’ve created many pattens involving plants and posted them to your blog. What’s up with that?
Plants are very inspiring to me. One day I realized that they keep creeping into my artwork, so I decided to be very intentional about it. At the same time, I decided that I would also like to experiment with pattern-making and questioning the perception of different plants. What makes a plant desirable? Why are some plants overlooked and labeled as weeds? My project aimed to bring attention to the interesting and beautiful patterns of common, native Texas plants.
Can you describe your workspace at home? Do you set aside time to create art, or do you wait until you’re in the mood?
Typically, I work digitally in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet at my PC desktop or with a pencil in my sketchbook. I don’t have a set time to make art at the moment, although I have made set times in the past. I like to bring my sketchbook around with me to fill extra time, especially in airports and coffeehouses.
On your website you display a combination of “traditional” and digital work. Which medium do you prefer and why?
I like to experiment with all mediums, so that I can choose the appropriate medium for a specific project. I do lean towards oil, pastel, and charcoal. When I paint digitally in Photoshop, I use a very similar approach and process as I would with oil paint and pastel. My traditional experience informs my digital work.
In ten years, when you’re a famous and wildly successful illustrator, what will you be known for?
I have no idea, but I hope it’s for beautiful, inspiring, and honest work.
If you had to live someone else’s life, who would you choose?
That’s really hard to say; I’m really thankful for the life I’ve been given. If I could just travel the world and paint, that would be pretty fabulous.
What’s next on your artistic horizon?
My next project will be to finish writing and illustrating my children’s book entitled Leopoldo The Frog. Leopoldo is an operatic green tree frog living in a Florida swamp. He is praised as the best singer in the swamp until another talented frog moves in and turns his world upside down. You can find more illustrations of Leopoldo at my website: www.ellenmurray.net.
The rest of our group’s interviews can be seen here: