Melissa Ellis Art

A true master of color and texture, Dallas-based artist Melissa Ellis uses palette knives to create stunning and unique sculptural oil paintings on canvas. Often described as “organized chaos,” her work reveals the spontaneous yet highly calculated and meticulous processes she uses to create motion, patterns, texture and depth in her pieces. We caught up with Melissa for the inside scoop on her creative process, favorite Dallas spots , what’s next for Melissa Ellis Art and more. Read on!

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Let’s start at the beginning… What first got you interested in painting? Was there anything specific that shifted your focus to sculptural oil paintings in particular?

I have loved and created art since I was a little girl, but I didn’t pick up a paintbrush until I was 21 years old while attending Louisiana State University.  I did a few pieces here and there, but it wasn’t until 2 years later when I did a tree painting for my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding gift that I started adding texture to my work.  The piece I did for them was nice, but it felt like something was missing.  I decided to add some tiny colorful, impasto flowers to the tree.  It was exactly what the painting needed.  From there I began adding small amounts of texture to my abstracts, playing with different shapes and patterns. 

Over time I have naturally gotten more heavy-handed with my paint, adding more and more texture as the years have gone on.  This has organically led me to discovering so many new and different techniques and applications.  Oil paint is such an exciting and malleable medium with endless possibilities.  I try to stretch myself every day to see what new and unique ideas I can come up with.  I am so grateful that I get to do what I love for a living!

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The texture, movement and complexity of colors you achieve in your work is amazing, unique and I’m betting pretty time-consuming! Can you walk us through the process of creating one of your pieces? 

My paintings are fun and exciting to create, but they are extremely labor-intensive.  I thrive in meticulous settings, though, so I really enjoy the challenge of creating new pieces.  Usually, the bigger and more complex a painting is, the more I enjoy the process. 

They are often like putting a puzzle together.  I start by pulling colors out to see how they work together to create the right palette.  Then I decide on which style I want – individual strokes, mixed strokes, starburst pattern, grouped or individual embellishments, cascades, etc.  After laying out all of my paint (which can take hours at a time because I use so much!), I am off to the races.  I hand-sculpt each individual piece of paint with my knives and then carefully apply them to the canvas.  I do not calculate out the size of my strokes or pattern before I start.  This is how I get a more organic feel to my work and where the puzzling really comes in.  First, I have to eyeball how many strokes will fit perfectly and consistently in a line and repeat this throughout the entire piece.  The hardest part, though, is figuring out what colors go where.  I don’t ever want a color to touch itself, but, instead, be randomly yet evenly distributed across the canvas.  This can get pretty tricky and time consuming, especially in large pieces.  All of the different challenges throughout the process are part of the fun, though!

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We would love to know more about your commission process. How do you collaborate with collectors?

My commission process is actually quite simple and can be done in person or virtually.  When in person, I like for my clients to start at my studio at the ALG Collective (@algcollective) to get a feel for what they are most drawn to and discuss their vision.  Then, I often do an in-home consultation to get a feel for the client’s aesthetic and finalize what size, colors and style work best for their space.  Once we nail down those three things, it is time to begin!  If my client is not able to meet in person, we do all of the same things, just virtually.  We email photos back and forth, talk on the phone to discuss likes and dislikes and can even videochat.  Simple as that! 

Some clients struggle with having a vision of what a piece will look like or they aren’t completely sure what colors they want.  I always offer a sample color palette before beginning the work so my clients can choose the exact colors they want or don’t want in their piece.  And, if we need to go a step further, no problem.  I will create a small sample painting for approval before starting the final piece.  This is a fool-proof way to make sure my clients get exactly what they want!  

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We are OBSESSING over your Embellishment Series. What inspired this latest work?

Thank you!  This Embellishment Series has been a bit of a departure for me.  Prior to this, my work really focused on pattern, mixed color and full coverage of the canvas.  With this series, though, I wanted to explore positive and negative space, have a bold and intentional color story and create the most unique and wild embellishments I could come up with to adorn the canvas, almost like jewelry. 

Each piece tells its own story, and it is whatever the viewer wants it to be.  I have had people tell me that the embellishments look like rocks, bugs, flowers, butterflies, seashells, a garden, leaves and petals, oysters, hearts and so much more.  There is no greater compliment to me than when someone tells me what they see in one of my pieces and how it makes them feel.  This means my artwork has made an impression and taken the viewer back to a specific time, place or memory.  If my work can move someone into that place, then I feel like I have done my job.

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Can you give us the inside scoop as to anything coming down the pipeline soon for Melissa Ellis Art? 

I have been in a season of mostly working on commissions, but I do have a few exciting pieces coming out in the not-too-distant future! 

I am a Curatorial Committee member of Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s Art for Advocacy fundraiser.  I create a custom piece every year for their silent auction and this year I will be donating a 40×40” colorful starburst painting.  It will be available for purchase in September!  And the best part is that 100% of the proceeds will go to support children who have been physically and sexually abused in the Dallas area.

I have also partnered with a very well-known luxury brand to do a custom starburst commission for their boutique location in Legacy West, a beautiful shopping and cultural district in Plano, Texas.  Stay tuned for the big reveal in June!

Do you have any favorite or go-to spots in Dallas?

 Yes!  As a born and bred Dallasite I have WAY too many places to list, but here are a few of my top favs.  Hands down the best pizza and dive bar is Louie’s in East Dallas (order the Caesar salad, too), my favorite Chinese food is Royal Sichuan in Richardson (with Royal China as a very close 2nd) and NorthPark for all things fashion and their world-famous art collection.  Also, starting back soon, is the Third Thursdays Dragon Street Galleries Art Walk (@dragonstreetgalleries).  It is a free monthly art-walk where the galleries on Dragon Street in the Dallas Design District (including the ALG Collective!) stay open late, show their latest exhibits and serve light bites and wine.  It is a must-do event!

Images courtesy of Melissa Ellis Art

Images courtesy of Melissa Ellis Art

 You can view and purchase Melissa’s works on her website – MellisaEllisArt.com. To inquire about commissioning a piece or to schedule a time to visit Melissa at the ALG Collective, call or email today at (972) 740-3252 or [email protected].