James Ellison

"I am a Symbolic Realist working in both oil and pastel media. Symbolic Realism is the intentional psychological use of color, line, shape and placement of things in the artwork to communicate a subconscious level using basic human understanding and is not subject to cultural or historical limitations."

Peace in Chaos - Oil on canvas 20 x 16 in.

American artist, James Ellison was born in Chicago in 1948. At 4 years old, he was bitten by a Tsetse fly and contracted Encephalitis Lethargica. His fever rose to 108F and James was in a coma for six weeks. The doctors said he would be severely retarded. His parents refused to accept this praying for a full recovery. When his mother brought him home, she became his physical therapist, training him as if he was an infant. He walked into kindergarten six months late. The Downers Grove school district wanted him in a “special school” but his mother demanded full inclusion becoming his tutor. His mother taught him two important things; disability is not an excuse but a reason to try harder and he was spared for a purpose, which God would reveal.

Ellison's first-grade teacher discovered his artistic talent and his parents found a private art teacher. Three influences that shaped him as an artist were: First a visit to the Art Institute. When he walked through a door to the left was a maze of dots. He asked his mother, "What is this mess?" She told him to turn away and walk to the other side of the room then turn around. There before him was Seurat's 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte'. The second was in watching a family friend, Warner Sallman create the pastel painting of 'The Good Shepherd' while talking about faith. The third was living near a 100-acre wood, where he spent time exploring and creating his earliest artwork.

James graduated from high school went on to graduate school becoming an artist, pastor and teacher. Thus, he brings to his artwork a unique blend of aesthetics, theology, psychology and creativity calling himself a Symbolic Realist. As an artist he seeks to communicate the divine will in nature.

 Unfailing Love - Oil on canvas 15 x 30 in.
Into the Desert - Oil on canvas 20 x 10 in.
Seeing Anew - Oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.
An Insignificant Life? - Oil on canvas 16 x 20 in.

This review was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist


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