Artist's Insights,  COLUMNS,  Draw the Line - Mobile Art as an Expression

Mobile Photography & Art – Artist’s Insights #1 – James Ellis

James Ellis is a Merge Maestro. To say he combines photos is quite an inadequate description of his work, as you will find out as you enjoy being privy to some of his approaches and techniques. And James loves line, employs it constantly, even though his subtlety of technique does not make that obvious. Over to James…

My Work Is About Conveying  Emotion

When I work on my art I work to convey emotion. That’s the first place I start… “How am I feeling”. I also try to tell a story to get the viewer into my headspace. I may be influenced by a song… I sometimes even get a song running through my head so much it can be excised out until I create something based on that song.

And sometimes I just create something, because I have to, and afterwards I think what does this remind me of… to get the title I eventually give the piece… Kind of a chicken and egg scenario.

Other times I am inspired by a movie or television show. But I always try to take people down the rabbit hole with Alice… or sometimes Hunter S. Thompson.

Double Exposure Technique

I begin with the face. I like to find a model that shows off his/her full face. Hair short or pulled back. Smiles don’t usually work… But sometimes do. And don’t let the hands get in the way… I break all these rules all the time though. The expression on the face is what draws a person in. The eyes pull people into the picture… Even if I erase one or both of them in the finished product… And that brings us to the second part of the picture scene.

In the Scene 

I like to use roads and electric poles and anything in the way of lines to show perspective. You can erase an entire eye if you point the viewer to the void. You are not trying to show off the model… You are trying to convey your emotion… your story. To make the model work for you. Always position your blended scene so that you direct the story. Never reduce the opacity by half and say you’re done (unless that works). Always erase into your pictures with the opacity brush turned way low. Reveal only what you want to. Hide the things that don’t work. Cut. Chop. Breakdown. Leave the emotion or feelings that you create and let the model and what you saw initially in him or her bleed through.

Before you add extra lines and textures, work your picture. This is where I bring out the HDR, The EQ, the Adjust, The Vibrance, The Levels, The Channels,The Coherence, etc… Don’t overwork your picture. Use opacity liberally in your creation. I use the iColorama app for most of my edits and I can always tell when someone has turned Coherence or Flow up to 11.

HIDE WHAT YOU DO. You want someone to see what you have created and think “how did they get those effects?” Not “Oh that’s lighten, and coherence, and flow”. The follow up rule is if someone asks how to do something… tell them… show them… teach them… and maybe one day you can learn from them too.

When you have your colors and features the way you want them, now is the time to texturize your work. Add Lines. Draw. And play.

I’ll start with lines… I love lines. You can create lines with a black back ground in Triangle (icolorama). You can create a black background in procreate… reduce the opacity… create a second layer… draw on top of it. The object is to see your created picture, see the dark background, and see what you are drawing. Drop the dark background from time to time and just look at your picture with the lines you have created.

Then raise the dark background to full black with your lines on top and export it to Procreate. Why the black background, you ask? Because you are going to blend your dark lined creation into the picture you’ve already created. Blend it on lighten or screen… brush your work with a masking brush low opacity. Reveal the lines you want to show.

A lot of times I will invert textures into pictures and just lightly reveal only the things I want to show. When you blend textures into your work… If textures don’t stick to your white page, create a vignette and stick them to that… When blending textures I always start at 30-50 percent opacity… and I always brush away unwanted textures with a masking brush. 

I may blur an image… but then I mask away a lot of the blur… There are some artists that blur their images so much you can just make out vague shapes… or that may just be my vision… I may need to make an appointment with the eye doctor.

The idea is to see your work as three dimensional and you are working on a block of granite and chiseling away to reveal what you want your audience to see. Where can you get textures?… Everywhere. I shoot the taillights of cars (lovely lines there too)… I shoot black boards with chalk dust… I shoot rusted metal… and don’t get me started on water spots…

I want my art to be organic, to have a flow. I want people to see the face… see the scene… see the story… but the layers have to flow into each other and be seamless for me… I don’t always achieve my desired results but sometimes I get something better and sometimes I get something worse…

Sometimes I will create something and think its great… Wonderful… the best thing I’ve ever done… I post it everywhere… Then I look at it an hour later and say “well that sucks… What was I thinking.”…

But I just keep creating… and posting… You won’t know what may inspire someone else. No matter what you create, you can always learn from your mistakes.

The important part of art for me is to have fun doing it… to exercise my soul… to be creative… to create.


About James Ellis

James Ellis was born in Bangkok Thailand but has lived most of his life in the United States specifically Kentucky with a brief but albeit beautiful stint in Honolulu Hawaii.

He graduated with a graphics art degree from Kentucky Tech, which due to computer advancements became obsolete five months after graduation, but if you need someone to run a Hiedelburge Press he’s your man.

He works with flowers in the summertime and heavy machines in the winter. He has sold book covers; commissioned pieces of art; and displays at galleries. You can find his art @badgrowshop on Instagram or follow him on Facebook.


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One Comment

  • Carol Wiebe

    I love The work of James Ellis. It is always attractive to the eye, but looking deeper one is rewarded by allusions, humour, doorways into whole new worlds.