Gracie Ellison-Shortridge // Painter // Portland OR
Gracie Ellison, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, has been illustrating faces her whole life; painting portraits on canvas for only a few years. She has no formal training or education, her art has always been instinctual for her and learned through years of studying the art surrounding her. Gracie almost exclusively paints busts of surly faced women; within that realm she likes to explore with color, patterns, texture, and imperfections. While her creative process is somewhat whimsical, Gracie strives for her subjects to be commanding and impactful.
1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?
Social media is how this all started for me, how I make the vast majority of my artistic connections, and how almost all of my paintings are sold. I started posting some of my paintings on Instagram just to share them, then people asked about buying them; it was a tool I sort of stumbled into. It may be because my website is lacking (I’m working on it, okay!), but most of my client base contacts me through Instagram. Social media has been crucial for any and all achievements I’ve made so far!
2. Where do you find inspiration for your work? In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?
I am constantly stumbling upon inspiration; it usually takes odd shapes like a textile, stranger’s nose, color combination in an outfit. Seldom am I looking for inspiration, more often I see something and scramble to take a photo or screenshot. On a more traditional note, I love to look at the work of other artists, of course. My mom is an artist and I grew up in a house full of art books so I often look back to artists I grew up on: Matisse, Gauguin, Lautrec, etc. When it comes to finding contemporary artists, social media is key for me. I can spend hours going down a rabbit hole of artists on Instagram, saving dozens of photos along the way.
3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?
My art was a result of my creative voice. I have always had a visual mind and clear point of view, my paintings are honestly just a way to focus and express that energy. My voice is, of course, always morphing and I find myself questioning it at times, but that creative voice is often the easiest part of painting for me. When it comes to refining that point of view and translating it to canvas, I do sometimes struggle. I’ll look back on a painting or series of paintings and wonder what I was thinking and not recognize myself in them. That’s when it’s time to take a break and reassess what I want my work to say!
4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?
I haven’t, thank goodness!
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?
I still am an aspiring artist! If there’s any advice I’m qualified to give it’s to always trust your gut. Listen to advice or criticism and learn from it but never shape your work based on anyone’s opinion. It’s probably cliche advice, I just think an artist’s intuition is their most valuable asset.
6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?
I have too many to list! Off the top of my head:
Nationale— a small gallery here in Portland that is perfectly curated and always giving me new artists to stalk on Instagram.
Nyssa Sharp—a visual artist I’m obsessed with. She does a lot of line figures but also paints insane oil portraits every once in a while.
Ace & Jig—a Portland-based clothing line—their textiles and colors are so inspirational.
All images provided by the arrtist