Art and Sustainability

"Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings." –William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

“Instrumental Lines” by Ellen Borison January 5, 2011

Filed under: Ellen Borison,pen on paper,shows — Becky @ 8:28 pm
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Detail of 030425.24 darrel scott, gel pen on brown paper 8.2" x 8.2" by Ellen Borison

With our tenth show in the “Art & Sustainability” series now on view at Sightline Institute in downtown Seattle through the end of February, we go back to the very basics of creating art: making marks and making music. Issaquah artist Ellen Borison elegantly (in scientific terms) combines the two in “Instrumental Lines,” a raw collection of 30 figure drawings on brown paper. This series of line drawings captures both the simplicity and the complexity of accomplished acoustic musicians performing live in concert, mostly in the genres of Americana, bluegrass, and blues. She says:

I have discovered that I listen better while drawing and draw better while listening.

The most interesting thing about drawing musicians is that they move. Rather than trying to draw impressions quickly, I draw deliberately using a modified blind contour line, often adding detail to faces . . . I often capture multiple superimposed views, giving the drawing dimensionality and dynamism.

In this body of work, Ellen juxtaposes the natural brown paper with the modern-day gel pen, which she likes because “the ink is saturated, and [she] can get strong lights on toned paper.” The results are drawings full of movement and energy.

Though both Ellen’s academic and occupational backgrounds are in computer science, she has been drawing most of her life. Most of her work is figurative and based on observation.

An active member of artEAST, Issaquah’s non-profit arts organization, she and fellow member Gretchen Van Dyke, have curated figure drawing shows the past four years, including one where participating artists drew from a model on the walls of the gallery. Ellen will also be facilitating open studio figure drawing sessions there, as well as teaching an expressive figure drawing class. For the past five years, she has also had her work included in Unclad: The Fine Art of the Figure, an annual international juried art show at Gallery by the Bay in Stanwood, Washington.

Formerly from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ellen currently resides in Issaquah with her husband and cats. See cat drawings here.

To view Ellen’s lines (literally) of line drawings at Sightline during January and February, visit the office between 10am and 3pm on weekdays. All works are available for purchase. Contact Ellen directly at ellen.borison (at) gmail (dot) com with sales inquiries.

Sightline Institute
1402 Third Ave,
Fifth Floor, Suite 500
Seattle, WA
206-447-1880 ext. 100

What thoughts about sustainability are inspired by Ellen’s art (and by art in general)? Share yours in a comment.

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5 Responses to ““Instrumental Lines” by Ellen Borison”

  1. Mieko Van Kirk Says:

    Ellen’s art has been a joy to have in our office. Her lines capture the subtle movement of music performance and the postures of the musicians. The drawings are almost animated. They’re great!

  2. Alan Durning Says:

    Ellen’s playful works _feel_ like the organic, improvisational music they portray. We’ve been honored to work around the buzzing hive of their playful energy these past several weeks!

  3. Anna Fahey Says:

    I’ve enjoyed living with (working in the midst of) this show. I like it from concept to execution to presentation. There’s something really raw about the drawings at the same time that each individual mark and line can be quite refined. I guess that’s the way I feel listening to live music sometimes, there’s a jagged emotional tension between the physical exertion of the musicians and the coherent melody of the music. The outpouring of emotion can feel raw and open. But each note is skillfully delivered, telling a story that only you know. And the whole thing can sweep you away to a different state of mind. I felt like these drawings really captured their subjects and the sounds that filled the spaces where they were made. Thanks for letting us borrow them!

  4. Migee Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your art with us! We feel very lucky to have had it in our space.

  5. It’s stunning what she can do with nothing but lines. Gorgeous stuff!


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