Updated: Aug 7, 2020
An interview with Ken Elliott
By Fine Art Today April 29, 2020
"Gold Progressions" Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches Private collection, Michigan
On Landscape Paintings / An interview with Ken Elliott
Over 40 years ago I got a job working in a frame shop and for most of the years since then, I’ve been involved in the art business. More frame shops followed and later, working in and managing art galleries. I had an aptitude for it and enjoyed every aspect of the business: finding the artists and acquiring good works to sell. I came up seeing the arts from a business side and I’m very fortunate for the experience. As an art dealer I was often asked the question, “What should I be painting?” I remember the answer that popped in my mind and stayed with me ever since: Thrill yourself.
I’ve been working as an artist for over 25 years now and it’s easy to succumb to the confusion of what to do, market forces, etc. It’s a difficult path, learning how to make art and simultaneously run a small business.
What is it that businesses basically provide? This is an oversimplification but businesses either provide a service or sell something we have been persuaded to want. Art is not something we have to have, but for many of us we like the feeling of artwork in the home or public spaces. I would offer that we create a need in the viewer’s mind by making compelling artworks and ideas that go beyond the commercial clichés.
“Saccades I,” Oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches Private collection, Denver
In my works I’m not trying to project emotions, tell stories, or represent a scene. Certainly I’ve done these things in the past and they are valuable tools to have, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me. Then I remembered my advice: “thrill yourself.” If the artist is thrilled then many viewers will feel the same.
Some time ago I had a brief conversation with the great landscape artist Forrest Moses. He asked me how my work was going. I replied, “I’m sick of the tyranny of making landscapes.” He wanted to know what I meant by that. I added that I was not happy making pictures of places.
“What do you want to do?” He asked. A phrase quickly came to mind and I told him, “I want to make art objects." So now I am a painter who wants to make thrilling art objects. Think of those impressionist paintings in their decorative frames. Those works are more like art objects than pictures of things. Okay, that’s a simple goal but when I stepped up to that next blank canvas, it made me realize that the bar for making Art had just gone way up.