Emily Ellis is an artist with an unusual wish list: she regrets that she was not born with gills.
"I have always wished I had fins; I love water," said Ellis.
Ellis got in touch with her primal roots at an early age when she first began painting and created an almost imaginary friend that has wings and appendages.
Ellis's first grade teacher noticed that the budding artist's paintings were different and called a conference with her parents.
"She told them that my paintings were just different. She didn't know if they were bad different or good different, but just that they were different," she recalls.
So, at age 9, Ellis's parents enrolled her in art classes in her hometown of Enterprise, Ala., and during her high school years, the school created classes for her.
"I was so young and my parents were so encouraging," she said. "I am lucky to have a supportive family."
Ellis went on to earn a degree in fine art from Auburn University, where her teachers tried to sway her toward commercial art, telling her that was the only genre in which to earn money with an art degree. But Ellis found herself miserable in commercial art classes and switched back to fine art and photography.
Through the years she has continued with her initial gut feelings in creating artwork and continues to paint mostly animals she sees in magazines. Her primal friend has stuck around through the years also, but it has evolved to take on a more human and up-right form.
Ellis is the featured artist of the month at Coastal Branch Library this month in a solo exhibit she calls "Decadal Evolution," as a tip of the hat to the show's content.
The exhibit is made up of 25 of Ellis's works that span through four decades of Ellis's adventure in establishing herself as an artist, including some of her very early work created during her high school years.
Ellis's subject matter continues to revolve around the natural world, which she sees as abstract and organic.
She prefers to paint the world she sees in neutral shades.
She also prefers to do large paintings, which she began doing in grad school, and has begun working with free form. She describes free form as having a straight top edge with a bottom shredded edge of form and canvas.
And as for her fondness of alien creatures, she says her more recent works are more realistic, and she has begun collecting photos of animal eyes in various media.
"Sometimes I take parts and pieces of different work and then put them back together in a new creation. Itís all kind of abstract. And I have no problem with people seeing what they want in my artwork," said Ellis.
Several pieces of her artwork have won awards.
One piece's inspiration was a narrative of a story about a spider and a measuring worm. When she exhibits this painting, she includes the story.
"I function better as a visual individual rather than a verbal one. In many cases my works are visual solutions to verbal problems," she said.
Ellis has made her home on five acres of Lake Powell in Inlet Beach for 20 years. She paints from home in her working/showing/studio gallery with the oils she has always preferred.
"This area is my stomping grounds," says Ellis fondly. "My grandmother used to chaperone dances at Butler Store in the 1920s. I would come down here and airbrush T-shirts for tourists. Creating art is the result of something in me that I've had to do. It has to come out. And, photography is a big inspiration."
This is Ellis's eighth solo show and most pieces are large. She has also exhibited through the Cultural Arts Alliance, in Panama City, in her native Enterprise, and Auburn. Her work is not currently in a gallery.
Ellis's artwork will be on exhibit at Coastal Branch Library through July 31, and viewable Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
For more information email Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.