Illustration, Textile Design, Work In Progress

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion.

I decided to try out at a tutorial on how to make kaleidoscopic patterns in Photoshop. I used one of my earlier illustrations for reference. See how much fun you can have with your drawings!

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Series 1: For the love of biology. For the love of fashion (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

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Illustration, Life Lessons, Textile Design, Work In Progress

So this is what my subconscious comes up with after listening to Alan Watts lecture about our brains, the universe, reality, God…

Inspired by eastern art and philosophy…

Just an internal conversation…

Converse Neuronal Bling (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Converse Neuronal Bling (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

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Science, Work In Progress

Let’s make this dream job happen universe!

Favorite Albert Einstein Quote

“I’m applying for a social media job that will pay me to make people care about science. Considering that I’m already obsessed with fulfilling that goal, I think it’s an awesome fit. Wish me luck! P.S. Universe, let’s make this happen.”

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Illustration, Life Lessons, Marketing and Branding, Science, Work In Progress

I’m a generalist, in other words I’m going to starve!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve realized that I need to reevaluate how I’m branding myself and my company, Organic Lyricism.  Although my friends and family are very familiar about my passion for art and science, I have a nagging feeling that my passion is not resonating online.

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

A couple of days ago I reread one of my favorite books on branding, The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier. In the book, Neumeier forces you to answer these THREE LITTLE QUESTIONS:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

Over the upcoming week, I will try my best to answer these questions. In the meanwhile, this is what I am now…

Arlene Ellis Overview, September 2013

Arlene Ellis Overview, September 2013

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I’ve been told that I’m stubborn. I stubbornly disagree, of course. I’d like to think I’m open to alternative approaches, provided I respect your reasoning. Let’s see, what else have I been told?

  1. “You need to focus, focus, focus!”
  2. “You think too much!”
  3. “You over analyze everything.”
  4. “Well, you’re just interested in everything. Aren’t you?”
  5. “Your illustrations are really out there! Are you sure you don’t take psychedelics?”
  6. “You’re too uptight, logical and practical. Relax a little!”
  7. “You’re definitely a Type A!”
  8. “You have a good heart, but you have to censor your ideas.”
  9. “You’re brave for pursuing your art.”
  10. “You’re naïve for pursuing art.”
  11. “You need to be more humble.”
  12. “You need to be more confident!”
  13. “You’re smart, but how can you help me?”
  14. “You need to stop caring what people think!”
  15. “I admire your passion and idealism, but you’re going to stave.”
  16. “Good luck with your dreams. You’ll need it.”
  17. “Why be anti-corporate, you’re not going to change anything.”
  18. “Stop being so practical!”
  19. “Start being more practical!”
  20. “It’s admirable that you care about human and animal rights, but nothing’s going to change.”

How I could be perceived as both too pragmatic and not pragmatic enough, is beyond me! I can’t get too annoyed by all the concerned opinions people throw my way. Most of the people who tell me these things care genuinely about my survival.  I don’t think I’m that unfocused. Nor do I think I’m interested in everything:

Main Interests Over the Years
Ages 6-14:
Fashion and Visual Arts
Ages 15-17: Biology
Age 18: Fashion and Visual Arts
Age 19: Visual Arts and Writing
Age 20: Biology
Age 21-22: Neuroscience and Visual Arts
Age 23: Medicine and Graphical Arts
Age 24: Graphical Arts and Medical Marketing
Ages 25-27: Medical Marketing and Medical Copywriting
Age 28-29: Medical Copywriting, Visual Arts and Fashion
Age 30: Visual Arts, Fashion, Biology

Call me crazy, but this list of interests does not seem to include “everything.” It looks to me like I’ve always been interested in art, fashion and biology. Over the past few years, I’ve been advised to pursue graduate degrees in these professions. “Have you thought about earning an MFA? Why not pursue a degree in fashion or textile design? You should get your Ph.D. in biology.”

A generalist species is able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources… A specialist species can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions or has a limited diet. Most organisms do not all fit neatly into either group, however. -Wikipedia

As of now, I’m not interested in pursuing graduate degrees in the visual arts, fashion or biology. Why? Because I would be miserable. I understand the need for specialists;  however, I also think generalists are vital too. Generalists are the people who can mine useful insights buried across multiple disciplines.  Many writers are generalists. I suppose one could argue that writers have specialized in the craft of writing, but the craft is a merely a means to an end.

It’s not about writing, painting, sewing, drawing, etc. These are modes of communication. It’s about the idea. Ideas are what change the world.

My illustrations are not simply about depicting natural phenomena through a decorative lens. They are about revealing the interconnectedness among all species. They are intended to inspire an appreciation and hopefully a desire to protect our natural world.

My bird Illustrations over the years (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

I’m not sure when I developed a thing for birds, but apparently I’ve been drawing them since 2010! I thought it would be interesting it to see how my illustration skills have evolved over the last three years.

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Illustration, Science, Work In Progress

What inspires a drawing?

"Chronic Ambitions" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Chronic Ambitions” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).
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What inspires a drawing? For me, it usually begins with a need to release some baggage that threatens to slow down my day. First a voice whispers, “I must draw something.” Then an objection arises, “but what are you going to draw?” And finally a stubborn retort, “I don’t know! But if I don’t, the desire will stalk my thoughts. I will see sinuous lines where no lines exist, shadows where there should be highlights, reds where you know there should be greens!” Then I dive into a sea of images, images that seem to infect the wallpapers lining my dreams. I bring them into focus. I introduce them to each other and let them mingle. Finally, I set the mood with some music and record them dancing.

"WIP Chronic Ambitions" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“WIP Chronic Ambitions” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).
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"WIP Chronic Ambitions" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“WIP Chronic Ambitions” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).
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“The venom of the lionfish, delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins, is purely defensive. It relies on camouflage and lightning-fast reflexes to capture prey, mainly fish and shrimp. A sting from a lionfish is extremely painful to humans and can cause nausea and breathing difficulties, but is rarely fatal.” -National Geographic

"Chronic Ambitions" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Chronic Ambitions” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).
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"Chronic Ambitions" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Chronic Ambitions” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).
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Conservation Biology, Quotes, Sustainable Design, Work In Progress

How a bad illustration can inspire something deeper

The Cape Perrot Plants an Idea (WIP illustration, Arlene Ellis, 2013)

What you’re seeing above is a fashion illustration gone wrong. I had a completely different vision in my head. Initially I used a vintage fashion illustration to inspire the pose and silhouette.  In this case I was more concerned about drawing the textiles than the construction of the garments.

The Cape Perrot Plants an Idea (Sketch, Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Half-way through the drawing I thought to use a bird’s head instead of a human head, so I googled “parrots, National Geographic.” One of the first results was a National Geographic article about the endangered green and gold Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Cape parrots are endemic to South Africa and are on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss. They usually eat yellowwood fruits but because the yellowwood forests are being cut down for agriculture the birds no longer have a steady food supply and are becoming malnourished, which makes them more susceptible to infections.

After I read the National Geographic article I replaced the human head with a Cape parrot head. Then I infused the textile with elements of the parrot’s life: the colors of its feathers, the shapes of the yellowwood fruit, the color of  vasculature to hint at infection and finally the color of the sky. Still not satisfied with the illustration I tried to salvage it digitally. Needless to say, things didn’t turn out well :).

dali-quote

So why am I explaining all this? I’m terrible at maintaining journals or even sketchbooks because I’m my own worst critic. When drawing or writing for myself, I can’t help but rip apart everything I’ve created (not literally). However, because my blog is public it offers an audience and weirdly enough I feel more compelled to create for an audience than just for myself. In the end though, the main audience member I’m speaking to is my future self. The future me who will have accomplished her dream of becoming a successful fashion designer. The future me who will ask, “How did I get here?” She will look back on these posts and chuckle about how seriously I took myself and my mistakes.

After I finished this fashion illustration, I watched a video of conservation biologists Steve Boyes discuss his dedication to saving the Cape parrot. I was so moved by the plight of these beautiful birds, that I realized I wanted to help them. Yes the first illustration the birds inspired was crap, but it has inspired me to dig deeper.

“Just two weeks ago, I was in the Okavango Delta…but when you’ve come to this place it’s not a wilderness area anymore. We’ve changed it too much. We’ve lost too much of it. And now we must give back.” -Steve Boyes

The main reason I started Organic Lyricism is to instill an appreciation of the natural world in other people. I was growing frustrated by how so many of us take from nature but don’t care to protect it. People like Steve Boyes inspire me to keep making mistakes because there is a greater goal beyond satisfying my ego. If I can harness my talent to create something that people will buy to help protect a species like the Cape parrot, then I’ll keep taking risks.

By the way, if you’re interested in art designed to give back then I invite you to check out my limited edition posters. I hope you have a great day!

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