Historical and haunted, escapist yet fixed in real- life emotions, Carson Ellis’ beautiful illustrations tug at your heartstrings with a bittersweet smile. Immerse yourself in her art–you’ll be whisked away to a place a little left of Where the Wild Things Are, floating through a snowy Siberian landscape with simultaneous views of Hokusai’s Mount Fuji and Portland’s Mount Hood in the distance.
“I started drawing at an early age and picture books were my introduction to art,” says Ellis. “I’ve been drawing avidly and obsessively all my life. I’m surprised that more people aren’t totally obsessed with book illustration. I guess something about that association is potent enough that it’s informed everything I’ve done creatively. Narrative drawing just resonates with me. Conceptual art is almost lost on me completely.”
Carson’s long-term boyfriend is Colin Meloy of The Decemberists; they met while she was studying painting at the University of Montana and Meloy was fronting his previous band Tarkio. Her cover art for Decemberists albums Castaways and Cutouts and Her Majesty the Decemberists exudes a coy playfulness that mirrors the band’s music.
“I feel like the people around me have such eclectic taste in music,” Ellis says. “I guess people are sometimes surprised to find out that I’m a huge Deadhead. I listen to a lot of classic rock but especially the Grateful Dead, and especially live shows from the late ’60s. And I listen to a lot of British hip-hop.”
Following her recent illustrations for The Composer Is Dead (a picture book by Lemony Snicket) and a book of Greek myths by Cynthia Rylant, Ellis is currently preparing for a show in New York at the Werkstatte Gallery in December. As well, she’s illustrating a book called Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson, and being seriously inspired by Colin, and their son Hank. “I think becoming a mother changes a person in deep, indescribable ways,” she says. “It’s certainly inspired me to be more patient, sympathetic, and loving. I’m inspired by tons of tiny things that are constantly changing.”
So, is love all around? “Man, I hope so. It seems to be all around me a lot of the time.”
Favorite Portland Artist:
Ryan Boyle. He is amazing.