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artist spotlight: ellis o'connor

Can you tell us a little about the most recent works that you have on display here at the gallery? Was there any particular inspiration behind these pieces?

The works that I currently have on display in the gallery are inspired by my experience of the winter here on North Uist. It’s been a hard winter with relentless storms, ever-changing elements and turbulent seas, and for these works I wanted to capture that sense of darkness and brooding yet incredible atmosphere that is felt on the darkest of winter days. It is my way of capturing the power and beauty of the winter when faced with the full front of the Atlantic.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

My process begins by working outside in a small sketchbook in some of my favourite dramatic locations on the island, particularly on days when the wind is howling and the seas are frantic with energy. I take a limited amount of materials with me and begin by loosely sketching the marks and horizons that I see. This is to capture the energy and ways in which I felt at the time. I then go back to my studio where I tend to work on large canvasses and start by putting a ground on the canvas to create texture, marking out the darker areas and then starting to build up the first layer of oil paint. I never tend to use visuals for my oil paintings, my work is much more about a feeling and remembering how I felt when I was immersed in a landscape. My work is chaotic, turbulent and I never know what is going to appear on the canvas until I start painting, and that works well with my expressive mark making!

Where do you prefer to work and why?  

I love working outdoors, but because it tends to be windy most of the time on North Uist I can’t work big and struggle working outdoors with oil paints, so my studio is where I get the majority of my work done. I absolutely love having all of my materials spread out around me and being in that flow state of making.

What are you working on at the moment, or what will you be working on next? 

The piece I am working on at the moment was started before the covid-19 situation. I had been out, up in one of the local rural passes. I love this size canvas, and larger, to work on at the moment. I am making a series of these larger pieces to hopefully go on exhibition later this year. I have found it important to keep my inspiration going over this time, even if it’s a short while in the day. It is a good source of sustenance for me, nourishes my eye and my soul.

See more by ellis o'connor here.

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