It is late afternoon and the sun lands in a slant across my desk. The scarred wood is pitted with a history of paint and ink. Minding the shadows I arrange some treasures I might want to draw: a scrap of patterned fabric, a pearl and rhinestone hat pin, a few dried poppy pods from last summer’s garden. I have a small journal that I carry with me and a larger one for holding paint. I have tins of color, brushes and a jar of fresh water. I have scissors, adhesives and shiny bits of glitter. Turning to a new page, I follow light, thoughts and threads of attention. I invent words, record days, and imagine paintings. This ritual of mine has filled over forty volumes of visual journals. These are the first things I would save in a fire.

Ellison 02 5 1 2x5 1 2 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Ellison 03 8x12 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

ellison 04 8x12 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

There is no hierarchy in the afternoon
Sun floods my old wooden table and touches everything in its wake
A tide that shines from so far away arrives like clockwork at 3pm in February
A bottle of pewter and a new pan of bronze paint
Each have their own unique voice
They swirl together in a porcelain dish

Suspended bits of metallic
Swirling in a watery puddle
Wax and glue and glitter
The shadow cast from a potted succulent I am nursing to life
And the tangled root of an orchid I have let go dry

Scraps of paper, velvet ribbons, frayed pillowcases
Laden with history some mine, some unknown
Once snipped into bars or shapes with a small orange-handled scissor,
They mingle in a corner deep in conversation
There is much to discuss here
As at a crowded dinner table but the volume is turned low
Here we speak in a silent language
Touching the page
Wandering to its edge
Following the long exhale of one laden brush mark
In these small moments of exchange
Let the ink be ink, the glue be sticky and the glitter sparkle

Ellison 05 51 2x51 2 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Ellison 07 8x12 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Ellison 08 51 2X51 2 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

It is thirty three steps from my back door to the studio
And another twenty seven to the place where I last planted squash and beans
I visit the garden in winter and lift away chopped straw to inspect last fall’s planting
And find there is still some stubborn kale in February

Some days if I put my ear to the ground I hear the earth percolating
A mix of ice melt and gasses being released from the soil
While my other ear tuned to the sky hears the scribbled notes of a house wren
Her melody eclipsing the thrum of a diesel engine on route one
And the steady pulse of my own heart

I spend hours in the garden in spring and summer for this
The architectural remains of sunflower stalks
The tangled honeysuckle vine left clinging to a trellis
The gnarled branches of a barren apple tree
And the stark red soldiers of dogwood standing guard in the snow

Winter trusts her timeline of cold moons and dormant landscapes
And has a willingness to burrow deep, holding close her secrets
While coiled below piles of mulch and decaying straw
Seeds are held tight in fists and bulbs guard their stories
Each storing their energy until
We tilt a little closer towards the sun and the layers of frost begin to ease their grip
Softening into a pose and beginning
The full belly breathing of spring

Ellison 09 51 2x51 2 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Snow mounds
Ice crystals
Tiny kaleidoscopes and prisms in the sun
A thin glimmer
And the sky has been bruised for days

Ellison 10 8x12 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Ellison 12 8x12 mixed media copy

Ingrid Ellison, mixed media.

Land and sea inspire my senses
In Spring I turn over and work clods of sticky umber
Wriggling worms churn in the leaf litter
Promises of growth hide within each intentional furrow
I plunge a seed into the earth and trust and believe
Tides turn brackish green clear teal and back again
In the cove the undertow roars with diesel engines and gulls
A briny scent fills my head with childhood memories
Discoveries wash ashore with every cycle of the moon
I gather treasures
Celadon lichen, a rusted scrap of iron, faded teal fishing twine, a worn bit of pale silk
The soft inside of an oyster shell, a blaze of caution tape, a plastic reindeer

It’s all information
It’s all color line and shape
Life percolates underground and undersea as paintings percolate in the studio
Working surfaces are a heap with collections and materials

Brush-filled buckets plugged with paint, pots and tubes of color
Scrapers, squeegees and rags, drawings and scraps of colored paper
I build and piece together my paintings
Winter brings quiet months without interruptions. There is a steadiness in addressing a carefully prepared surface. Within that framework, the possibilities of investigating space, line, and color are endless. I honor the turning of the seasons and tides. I am learning to honor the ebb and flow of my own productivity. When color won’t do I turn to pen and paper. I draw, I write, I use what is at hand. I gather my tools, I clean the studio, I prepare surfaces. I show up. I trust the process.


All work is done either in a 6 x 6 in. hand•book Journal by Speedball Art Products or 8 x 12 in. Clairefontaine Mixed Media Art Journal.

Materials used throughout include but are not limited to: walnut ink, gouache, watercolor, collage, glitter, silver leaf, textiles, tape, ink, ephemera.


Image at top: Ingrid Ellison, Tabletop.