Tell us about yourself.
My husband and I have been living in NY for 27 years but I will always feel rooted to where I grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. My family moved around a bit, to Pennsylvania and then here. It’s the proximity of the city that brought us to Westchester.
Besides making art, what do you do, do you have a day job?
I got my BFA at Carnegie Mellon. I worked at the local public television station as a production assistant and worked my way up through props and became a scenic artist for television, theater and film. It was a great beginning for a watercolor painter, I had to mix gallons of colors, work from a designers thumbnail and blow it all up to a 60′ canvas. I did this for 12 years until we started our family. I then went directly into painting at home.
Where does your inspiration come from? Is there anything you are looking at that particularly speaks to you?
I go to museums and galleries,and I love looking through my collection of art books. This time of year the garden is a huge inspiration as are textiles, water, reflections, clouds and the sky. There is such a visual variety out there to energize my work.
Has any advice influenced you?
As a scenic artist, the best advice was use the biggest brush you can hold. Sargent said draw everything. Never stop. It’s a great way of learning things. I keep a sketchbook with me and I’m constantly drawing and ideas evolve from that.
How would you describe your creative process?
I’m very dedicated. I make a point of working every day. Either here in the studio or going out someplace. I find that if I haven’t had a chance to draw or paint, something is missing, a lost opportunity.
How do you get out of your creative blocks?
I will go down to the river, or look out my window at the new view of the sky, or look at the garden. A good source is my sketchbooks which I have kept for years and there are always ideas I like to revisit. I like to go through older work and recognize my hand in the work I’ve done and see where I’ve gone since then.
What is the most positive and inspirational thing about being an artist for you?
The gratitude I have that I am destined to do this. Also when children say, Oh look at that sky. It’s something you should paint! To foster that kind of awareness is great.
What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you handle them?
Watercolor is very challenging and I strive to do things that I think I can’t do, and I’m usually right, there are a lot of failures along the way. But it’s amazing to just press the boundary.
If you could visit the studio of any artist or designer, who would it be?
I would visit Emile Nolde, a German Expressionist who did watercolor landscapes and flowers. He did it the way very few others people did. I’d also love to see Sargent paint watercolor.
Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?
If you want to do it, you need to be passionate about it. You have to develop great work ethic, you have to do it daily, you have to work. Once you do and you find your satisfaction in it, you are one of the most fortunate people going. To have that something touch deep down within you that not everyone gets to express is so very lucky.
What are your main goals for 2012?
I’d like to improve my website. I want to continue painting and get better at it.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I hope that I will have a barn!
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I love to work in series. I’ve gone back to cloud and sky paintings. We lost a huge tree in the yard which opened up a vast sky. I really grieved for that tree, it was protection, shade, beauty and housed all those squirrels and birds. After it fell over it took a while but now I just see this huge expanse.. constantly changing beauty of the skies.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
I have a show in August and September at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie lgny.org
My website is EllenHopkinsFountain.com
Ellen will be on the RiverArts studio tour April 28-29. for more info go to riverarts.org