Art & Music Reception

Stephen Ellis art

Main Library – Saturday, Feb. 11. This month’s artist is Stephen B. Ellis. Music provided by Live jazz with Michael Mayo. 

Born in Manhattan and raised in Maplewood, Ellis’s Caribbean culture and upbringing heavily influenced his artistic abilities. His parents, Lance and Marlene not only wanted their children to embrace their heritage and culture, but also to be educated and well-rounded in the visual and performing arts. His earliest medium was the dough his father would give him to mold into fried dumpling sculptures; which along with, ackee and saltfish were a Sunday morning breakfast staple in the Ellis’ Jamaican home.

Ellis enjoyed painting as a youth, but was lured to music while in the third grade. He inherited his older brother’s saxophone and found the gritty, sexy sound all too alluring. While attending high school, Ellis began to make the music and art connection by drawing and painting while listening to rhythm and blues artists. The sultry melodies transformed his work and influenced his style. Ellis often creates his work late into the night while listening to Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Kim Waters, and Boney James.

The music served as a catalyst to evoke feelings of passion and sensuality in his work. Ellis soon found himself creating a unique style, integrating bold lines with subtle layers of color He feels he has matured as an artist since his undergraduate years when his instructors would question his work ethic and mindset, when he would do just enough to get by. He soon realized he would have to become his own toughest critic. One of his teachers said to him, “Do not do things halfheartedly”. This profound yet simple statement made him realize that if he ever desired to become a successful artist, he must put all of his heart and soul into all of his work.

Ellis enjoys the works of Leroy Campbell, LaShun Beal, Frank Morrison, Alonzo Adams, Poncho Brown and sculptor Woodrow Nash. Their contributions to the arts have allowed doors to open and opportunities to flow his way. He has participated in selected group and solo exhibitions and has displayed his works in several galleries. Ellis feels he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential as an artist and is eager to challenge himself in his ongoing journey.