Lee Ellis is a British multi-media artist based in Bristol. His insatiable desire to create brings him to embrace different artistic mediums, from printmaking to drawing and painting. The artist has an expressive and bold style, immediately striking with his unusual juxtaposition of bright colours and dark subjects. Lee’s paintings in particular convey an emotional and visceral angst within his figures. From humans to animals, the artist never fails to depict the inner turmoil of his characters. He achieves this effect by employing heavy, raw and expressive brushstrokes that make his painting style poignant and immediately affecting.
1) Which art movement do you consider most influential on your practice?
Oh that’s a tough one. Where to begin?! The expressionists certainly incredibly influential to my work, but then so are the neo-expressionists, cubism, realism. I’ve taken snippets of inspiration from so many different movements that it’s too difficult to pinpoint a single one. I could name a handful of artists who have specifically had a long lasting affect on my work – Franics Bacon being the dominant one, but also Lucian Freud, Picasso, Arnulf Reiner, Frank Auerbach, Antony Micallef and Adam Neate to name a few.
2) Where do you go and when to make your best art?
I work almost solely in my studio that I built at the end of my garden. It’s always the place I create the work, but the inspiration comes from the world around me outside of the studio. I take what I see and paint how it affects me and how I see it affecting others. I work all varying times too. Sometimes I find I’m most productive in the morning, other times late at night.
3) How do you describe your 'creative process'?
Manic. Energetic. Chaotic. Destructive. I throw myself at my work using whatever I can find to move paint around and work in the moment. It’s not the most relaxing thing to watch as it’s fast and destructive.
4) Which artist, living or deceased, is the greatest inspiration to you?
Francis Bacon. Without a doubt. His manipulation of the human form and his own destructive qualities resonate with me.
5) If you weren't an artist, what would you do?
I already split my time between being an artist and a freelance creative. If painting didn’t work out I’d be doing more design work. I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than creative work.
6) What do you listen to for inspiration?
It varies massively. Sometimes nothing at all. Just the ambient sounds from outside and other times music or podcasts. It really depends on my mood. If music, it’s pretty eclectic from Tom Waits to classical, jazz and metal. Also, a sucker for some pop music too. I often flit between genres throughout studio sessions.
7) If you could own one artwork, and money was no object, which piece would you acquire?
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.
8) If your dream museum or collection owner came calling, which would it be?
Not a clue. I love the idea of being in the Tate Modern in London, but I’m happy to have my work in collections anywhere. Does that sound needy?
9) What is your key piece of advice for artists embarking on a fine art or creative degree today?
Work, work, work. If you want to succeed in your chosen practice you need to do it all of the time. Enjoy everything about it. Embrace mistakes and failures as they’re super helpful to learn from. Choose what critique to listen to and ignore, after all you are the only person who knows what you want to achieve. Less talking about the thing you want to do and more doing it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, it’ll get you nowhere. Focus on yourself and your work.
10) What is your favorite book of all time (fiction or non fiction)?
I’m reading all of the time. I couldn’t give a favourite any more as there are so many books read and left to read.
11) If you could hang or place your artwork in one non traditional art setting, where would that be?
I would most likely want to reproduce an entire series on a huge scale and completely wrap an entire street with the works. Or reproduce them on rooves of a city and make them only visible from the sky. Just to be awkward really.
12) What was the biggest lesson your university course or time studying taught you?
Unfortunately I spent most of my time pissing about the days, so I didn’t learn anything important until I started working. That’s where the focus and grit came into play.
13) And finally, if we were to fast forward 10 years, where would we find you?
Hhhmmmm.... Me - probably still painting in my studio (wherever that will be) My work – In collections around the world.
Learn more about Lee and discover his collection of paintings.