Conservation Biology, Illustration

Ivory on her throne

Blessed are those who conquer the natural world.

"Ivory on her throne" (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

“Ivory on her throne” (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Cynthia Moss, who runs the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, in Kenya, has been studying and protecting elephants since 1968. She says she’s “heard these same arguments forever…”

Moss sees firsthand the impact a death of an elephant has on the survivors, especially the death of a female. “The killing of a female is probably more devastating for other individual elephants because they live in tight knit families. In Amboseli, you’ll see a family of 20 individuals—grandmothers, mothers, nieces, cousins, sisters. They stay in the family their whole lives and are very bonded.”

When a female is killed, the repercussions can last a very long time, Moss says. If the mother of a three- or four-year-old calf is killed, the calf will die. The survival rate of elephants up to 20 years old is even compromised if their mother is hunted. And if a matriarch is shot, “it’s absolutely devastating. It will have ramifications for years.”

Moss says that over her decades of work she has never once been persuaded by any of the arguments in favor of sport hunting. “The loss of an elephant is a tragedy,” she says. “And killing an elephant or any other animal for fun is abhorrent.” 

-National Geographic

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Illustration

I’m this week’s guest designer on Tombow USA’s blog

I’m also their first ever weeklong guest designer. I’m not sure how I pulled that off, but I’m thrilled nonetheless. I’ll be drawing a different illustration everyday this week using their dual brush pens. Below is the first illustration I completed for the blog. Go to the original posting to see the progress photos!

"Domestic and Global Restlessness" (Arlene Ellis, 2014

“Domestic and Global Restlessness” (Arlene Ellis, 2014

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Illustration, Science

Lastest Illustration: Botanical Infused Pyrrhuloxia

Sorry I haven’t shown any new art recently. It’s difficult to be the artist, designer, marketer, copywriter, salesperson, finance person, public relations person, brand strategist, web designer and social media person all at once. In fact it can be overwhelming and leaves little time to create art! Over the last couple of weeks I have been focusing on a business plan for Organic Lyricism. I will be launching an exciting crowd funding campaign next month. Hopefully it will help me achieve the goal of this brand, which is to fund conservation efforts. In the meanwhile, check out this illustration I created for a friend today. It was inspired by the Pyrrhuloxia songbird.

Songbird Muse: Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus)
Relation: Northern Cardinal
Habitat: American Southwest and Northern Mexico

Learn more about this beautiful songbird here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/pyrrhuloxia/id

“Botanical Infused Pyrrhuloxia” (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

PI1_Botanical-Infused-Pyrrhuloxia

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Botanical--Infused-Pyrrhuloxia_PP2

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Visit www.ArleneEllis.com to see more of my illustrations!

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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

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.27.59 AM

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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Life Lessons, Quotes, Uncategorized

How deep is your well of moments?

Paul Bowles Quote

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.”
― Paul Bowles

My heart is in the right place, but sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. Over the past few years, I’ve offered to draw something for three different people who experienced tragedies. I’m not the best at articulating my love, but I know how to draw it—that is until my ego gets in the way. Within hours of offering the gifts, I began to panic, “What am I supposed to draw? It must be really memorable and fit the occasion. It should inspire them every time they look at it. I can’t just draw anything?!” This is when the chronic guilt begins. “Why did I offer? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to disappoint this person.” The guilt stalks me for days, which turn into weeks, then into months and sadly enough, the months turn into years.

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

I promised the above illustration to a bereaved friend two years ago. Actually, she requested that I draw something different , which was perfectly reasonable considering I asked her what she wanted illustrated. This friend had helped me cope through a tragedy and I wanted to repay her. The trouble was that what she wanted drawn didn’t resonate with me. Should that have mattered? I don’t think it should have and yet it did. Drawing to help someone cope with a tragedy can be emotionally tolling. It’s not a commission, since I’m usually offering, and it doesn’t feel like a physical offering; it’s me expressing  a love too deep to explain in words. It was’t her fault and I should have clarified things, but I didn’t. Instead I drew nothing and thought about her illustration almost every day throughout those two years.

"WIP 1 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP 1 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

If the offering stemmed from love, then why did my ego come into play? My ego was really my fear. I was afraid that she would underestimate the degree with which I cared. Of course this was irrational because the mere gesture indicated that I cared.  But unfortunately I’ve spent so many years building up walls that I have often misunderstood my own capacity for love. I’ve spent just as many years trying to deconstruct these walls using logical reasoning. This didn’t get me very far. Objectively, I understood why I had erected the walls, but this didn’t give me enough strength to remove them. Then I began drawing again and brick by brick the walls have begun to come down.  I haven’t given up on logical reasoning because it grounds me. I’ve just decided to complement it with my emotional intelligence.

"WIP 2 Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013).

“WIP2 Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird.

Why did I decide to finally draw this illustration for my bereaved friend? On Sunday night, I had a deep conversation with another friend about overcoming fears and the illusion of plentiful moments. He said that we behave as if we have an unlimited well of moments from which to drink, so we rarely take the time to savor each one. This made me think of my bereaved friend. What if I never have the moment to give her the illustration? I instantly knew that I needed to start drawing.

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What moments are you waiting to happen to you?

"Homecoming" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Homecoming” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013). Inspired by the Wine-throated hummingbird. (Detailed features)

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Life Lessons, Quotes

Friend-ship. A friend is someone who helps you on your journey.

"Seedy-self-portrait V3" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

“Seedy-self-portrait V3” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Last night I remembered why it’s so vital to have supportive friends.  My friend Bob (name changed for privacy reasons) has a knack for helping me  pinpoint my irrational fears. Last night while we spoke on the phone, I told him that recently I created a project timeline for someone. I couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to think strategically about helping this person overcome her obstacles, yet I had such a difficult time doing that for myself. “Why?!” I shouted, “I mean I have project management experience for goodness sakes!

Chess Player Syndrome

Bob said that I suffered from “chess player syndrome.” FYI I’m not sure if this phrase exists outside of our conversation. “What’s chess player syndrome?” I asked. He explained that it’s when you’re able to look over a chess player’s shoulder and visualize the moves he needs to make to win the game; you can see things objectively. But when you’re playing the game, you become so mired in your anxiety that you’re unable to see the big picture. Boom! Diagnoses. Bob recommended that I create a similar timeline for myself.

"Seedy-self-portrait Vs" (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013; Original photo by Boris Poletaev )

“Seedy-self-portrait Vs” (Illustrated by Arlene Ellis, 2013; Original photo by Boris Poletaev)

Wearing a Coat of Fear

Bob then began questioning me about the specific thoughts that mired by objective lens. I explained it was the usual, a fear of failure. Then he asked me to visualize myself without this fear. I couldn’t.  So he said, “Imagine your fear is like a snug coat. You’re comforted feeling its texture press up against your skin. It’s so close to your body that it silences the sound of your heart beating and the murmuring in your guts. Now imagine yourself taking that coat off tomorrow. What would you do differently?” My stomach immediately knotted up. (In fact my stomach is knotting up right now while writing about this.) I knew he was right and the simplicity of it all made me sick.

Friend-Ship

As my conversation with Bob winded down, he suddenly had an epiphany,”I finally get it!”

“Get what?”

“Friend-ship. A friend is someone who helps you on your journey.”

Yes and I’m grateful for the company 🙂

Old Greenwich Beach (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

Old Greenwich Beach (Arlene Ellis, 2013)

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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).
8×6

 

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