2021 Graduating Student Portfolio Exhibition
Sean Ellis Wells
(Click on the individual image to see each artist's portfolio)
My work consists mostly of drawings and paintings. I use a variety of materials ranging from charcoal to oil paint. I base my works in figure and fantasy concepts. The bulk of my work concentrates on emotional narratives.
Often there are fantastic elements or a sense of the surreal applied to my pieces. I like to embrace indulgent and sensual scenes and unpack the feelings behind them. Intimate interactions fascinate me and I enjoy capturing that energy in images.
The process is often a point of meditation. Lots of vigorous lines and masses built up until the images appear.I enjoy long sessions to work on them and let the strokes come together. Each piece becomes a ritual all on its own, long trances that are hard to come out of.
Growing up I always had a hard time associating with people. I always felt like an outsider and maybe I was. Which is why patterns have always been important to me. I used to draw patterns all over my arms as a coping mechanism when things got stressful in my life. Now that I am older, I still draw patterns but the meaning behind them has changed. For me, I love drawing the most complex patterns; the kind that draw people in for hours. I love making art that people want to touch. I think the artist El Anatsui states it best, “If you touch something you leave a charge on it, and anybody else touching it connects with you, in a way.”
Art has become a way for me to associate with people, to draw them into my world. A world that I don’t completely understand. I like making patterns and layering because I want people to bond with the work and, in an extension, they are connecting with me. For my art is an extension of me, it gets to do all the things I wish I could have the guts as a person to do. It gets to be loud, take many risks and connect with people in a way I still struggle with. Art has become a way of me living out the person I wish and want to be, almost becoming a diary. These patterns are a way for me to live and have become obsession of mine. Being able to use my patterns as a form to bond with people in a way that I could never have given me a whole new appreciation for life.
I’m inspired by the idea of capturing the vitality of a moment in time on a flat, painted surface. A visual representation of shape, color and texture all trapped to share its story. I relate to this because of my love for inner inquiry and how movement and stillness can often be the same thing. Painting is my favorite way to form a fingerprint of this relationship.
Acrylic paint is my favorite medium. Because of its fast drying property, it lends itself to supporting my loose and painterly style. Attaining this liveliness originates from my arm and wrist. I move the palette knife, like a moth fluttering around light, pushing paint over the canvas lending to multiple surface textures and the appearance of motion. I’ll then blend to create content or add brush strokes that relate to how I’m feeling. In an instant the composition is breathing, flourishing, and very much alive.
This body of work demonstrates my process. Some of the paintings started with an abstract underpainting utilizing thick areas of paint, different forms of texture, shape and a variety of color based on how I’m connecting with my feelings. Portions of these moments will remain visible as a functional part of the finished painting. I also use this process to deviate from what is representational. This syntheses of the unexpected nature of the color, shape and texture allows the possibility of vitality.
I have always loved portraiture. I love taking pictures of people and having humans as my main subject in a shot. But with the way things are today, it’s hard to rely on people to commit to a session. So that’s why I decided to make this series self-portraits.
I always am the one behind the camera, never in front of the camera. But to execute the images I wanted it was easiest to rely on myself to do so. I have an interest in editorial fashion portraits which are images that tell a story without text, or images that are in magazines or publications. I added the flowers in because flowers symbolize a lot of things, but for this series specifically, its new growth.
This body of work was for me to push past my creative comfort square and step into something more unique than what I would normally shoot, which is other people. It is nice to push past your limits and see what you are capable of creating, as this was a fun experience for me and seeing how being stuck in a bind I could come up with something so beautiful so quick.
I’ve always found art to be a way of expressing and understanding the complex emotions in myself and those around me. Whether it be in the minor and simple details in nature, or the deeper and core identity of a person, these things can all be expressed universally through art. Throughout all of life, there is the running theme of chaotic pattern and dramatic simplicities. I love the feeling of understanding the identity of a complex structure that I get as I use charcoal or pastel to pull a complex human from the flat paper. These are the elements that I attempt to take from the organic life all around me and redevelop into a structured and unique human form.
Because I always find these themes to be at the core of each piece,I tend to focus on developing these emotions and thoughts into tangible elements with a heavy focus in strong lines and a variety of natural and muted colors, which I then finish with a simple atmospheric background.
To continue on what I began with, everything in life is simultaneously complex and chaotic and simple and intricate all at the same time. Since art is simply a representation of the chaos we all call life, I strive to fully develop these contrasting perspectives into human forms that I can eventually step back from and think,“well, at least it all makes a bit more sense now.”
My work focuses on color and application of paint. I enjoy creating different textures and using the different thicknesses within the paint to add dimension to the individual pieces. I apply the paint in a loose and gestural way so that the viewer can focus on the overall image.
I enjoy paint because it can be more than a flat surface. I use the layers of paint to create a sense of depth. I enjoy painting realistic still lives, but I apply the paint with a palette knife to add texture and to create looser edges and a softer look. The palette knife forces me to see shapes and loosen my hand where in my drawings I focus on detail. When I pay more attention to shapes, I also focus on color, because the color separates the shapes in place of the fine detailing.
Painting still lives is my personal favorite because I must rely on what I see rather than what I imagine the image to look like in my head. The objects I enjoy painting typically are domestic objects I see around the space I am painting in. Choosing vicinal objects allows me to push myself to focus on the objects present rather than trying to create the “perfect painting”. I get to match colors I see in real life which allows me to further my abilities mixing paint. The observation of everyday objects has pushed me further and has allowed me to grow as an artist.
My work is based around the optical effects of shadow and haze, expressed through line and blending. My drawings heavily emphasize line work. I am primarily concerned with the effects of light, and how to capture those effects upon paper.
My work is rendered in charcoal and pastel. The physical properties of these media are unique and cannot be mimicked using other materials. I incorporate smudging and blending into my pictures. The use of the grayscale gives my work a somber and nebulous quality.
The ends to which my work is intended to achieve are twofold; complete understanding of the nature of light, and mastery of the human form. My continuing efforts in these endeavors represent optimism and progress. There is no perfection in this world, but I believe that I am obligated to strive towards such an ideal.
Sean Ellis Wells
When I create my work, I am focused on capturing the visceral, true-to-life moments. The subject of my pieces often involves people experiencing authentic moments in time in settings that feel nostalgic or familiar while incorporating bright and surreal experimentation in color theory. My work also leans more illustrative and gestural as opposed to detailed and traditional by making use of bold lines and impulsive painting and drawing techniques.
The majority of my work is in two-dimensional media, with my paintings done in acrylic, and my drawings done in pastels and/or sharpie. My process involves capturing the gesture and tone of my piece before going in with further refinement. When developing my pieces, I try not to tense up and focus on the smaller details and instead keep the gestural and impulsive qualities that begin my work while paying attention to the overall tone and nature of the art.
My art attempts to make a lens for what we all experience. I believe realism in art goes beyond the techniques used to make highly detailed and accurate work and is more about representing life and situations that we encounter every day. My work also represents my passion for color theory and stretching the limits of how color can be used aesthetically, compositionally. and tonally.
I entered the art world late, in my mid-forties. After elementary school, art ceased to exist except for the occasional museum field trip. In 2009, I found art again and it was like an electrical shock to my system.
I am a painter who uses both oil and acrylics. I love saturated color over lighter colors…the deeper, the darker, the better. I add many colors to a single object because I think that makes it feel more alive, rather than just a flat, two-dimensional thing. In oil painting, it’s slow-drying, but enjoyable because you get to literally push the paint around on the canvas with all kinds of different-sized brushes. Additionally, I double-load my brush with multiple colors. My goal with my plant paintings was to learn how to make realistic-looking leaves. As I practiced drawing on sheets of paper, the size of the paper got bigger and bigger until I was ready to go into the lab and start on the canvas.
Another favorite aspect I love to do is enlargement to the point of abstraction. Finding that one single aspect and zooming in on it helped me understand that not every angle is interesting. You have to figure out, based on composition, what grabs your attention.
I see connections between my canvases. My style is very much organic which I prefer over geometric. There are flowing shapes and patterns in the wood figure, in each onion and all of the plants. I like creating patterns and I try to use as few straight lines as possible while making the brush strokes as visible as possible.
My artwork includes vibrant colors with some sort of manipulation of the human body within the work. I work with a range of dry mediums on a regular basis, but my more recent work has gone into the realm of oil and acrylic paint. Most of my art revolves around a fantasy/abstracted style.
The main connection in this portfolio is the Neo-Expressionistic style I gave in all the pieces. I feel it shows the less uptight side of my style that I do more for my own pleasure than for others to enjoy.
The goal of my art is more thought than meaning, which means your interpretation is more important than what it meant to me. I would like my art to be interesting and unusual enough that people stop and stare. The meaning they themselves find within what I have created is the goal of each piece. Not an idea I used to create.