THE INTERVIEW WITH
"I always secretly thought of myself as an artist, but for some reason I was quite shy about telling anyone. It’s the sort of thing I felt seemed unreal and perhaps not taken seriously..."
Wanna intro yourself?
My name is Lee Ellis and I’m one of those creative types from Bristol, UK.
Well, hi Lee. Can you tell us, how did it all begin…
As with most people, it all started as a child scribbling away on scrap bits of paper. Fire engines, people, fire engines, a dog, a cat, fire engines - that sort of thing. I just so happened to keep drawing as the years went on and focussed on creativity.
I went to art college and then Uni to study graphic design. After I graduated I spent all of my free time learning to paint and drawing constantly. I started to create a huge menagerie of paintings in my flat. So much so, I slept at my girlfriend’s (now my wife) house, sold my bed and turned my bedroom into a studio. It was an interesting time. With all of the works I created I decided to try and sell them. I used to carry them down to the Harbourside in the city centre and sell them there. Sitting in the freezing cold and selling to anyone who was interested. It gave me the taste for selling and I decided to pursue it further - all while working full time as a graphic designer.
So, when did you first start to think of yourself as an artist?
I always secretly thought of myself as an artist, but for some reason I was quite shy about telling anyone. It’s the sort of thing I felt seemed unreal and perhaps not taken seriously. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was selling lots more pieces and working with a variety of galleries that I started outwardly referring to myself as an artist.
The ever terrible question - who is your favourite artist over time?
Not terrible at all. I quite like it and so far my answer has never changed.
All time - Francis Bacon. Without a doubt. His manipulation of the human form and his own destructive qualities resonate with me. Current living artist - Adam Neate. HIs use of form, colour, mediums and ever evolving style is awe inspiring. He pushes boundaries in ways no other artist is doing. He’s paving the way for other artists to follow suit.
Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
I think I balance in the middle with a slight inclination towards introverts. I like to see people (and that’s something I discovered the importance of during the pandemic), but also am happy in my own company and can quite easily not speak to another human being for days.
And how does this affect your work?
Being able to shut myself off helps with productivity, but for inspiration I need to see people as I can document what / who I see and take notes for further paintings. A fair few of my titles come from snippets of overheard conversations that when taken out of context are surreal and rather funny.
Where do you get inspiration from?
People from all walks of life. Comics, books, music. All the usual places really.
And If you should learn something new what would it be?
Pottery or sculpture. It would always be another creative outlet.
What is your favorite tool?
Oh there are too many. The obvious would be my hands as I can’t use any of the others without them. Also my imagination as there would be no paintings without it.
You can’t go wrong with a brush, but I also really enjoy making marks and moving paint using a hand saw. Basically, if there is something lying around that I think I could push paint around with, I’ll throw it at the canvas to see what happens. Everything is a tool.
Do you usually plan your working sessions ahead of time or are you more of a spontaneous artist?
Bit of both. I plan pieces for exhibitions in my sketchbook beforehand, but the painting sessions themselves are whenever I get a free moment to jump in the studio. The work I create just for fun (which is most of it), I create spontaneously without planning. I walk into the studio and see how I feel.
I balance my working week between freelance design and painting. Last year was a nice even split. Eventually I’ll be able to just paint every single day. That’s the dream.
When did you know that art was your calling - when it was not just a hobby?
I always knew I wanted to be a creative of some sorts. It wasn’t until after graduating from a design degree that I caught the painting bug. That was 2006 and I’ve painted almost every single day since. I think it has always been a passion over a hobby. Hobbies you do, but can leave or chop and change with other activities, but painting I can’t leave it or walk away. It’s what I want to do all of the time.
And how would you like to be remembered?
As a kind person who also happened to be a great artist. I’m working on the great artist bit currently.
What’s your best or worst memory from youth?
I can’t pin down a single memory bad or good. My childhood memories are mostly pretty lovely. I remember my dad turning up to my primary school when I was in the first year (so 6 years old) and doing a demonstration with a fire engine (he was a fireman for around 20 years) and spraying the headmasters car. It was hilarious as a child and all the other kids were loving it. What an absolute hero.
So - the world needs more of… and less of…
More kindness, less rubbish art supplies.
And the grand final. Which question we should have asked you? And what would be your answer.
The question you should have asked -
“If you could own one work of art what would it be?”
Any Francis Bacon. Possibly the “Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion, 1944” that are currently in the Tate Britain. I’ve stood staring at those pieces so many times. Or, Arnulf Reiners “Red Wine Crucifix” which is one of my earliest memories of a painting that made me want to be an artist.