Ellen Starr Lyon

commited to creating art while being a full-time working mom



The 2016 Bloomington Open Studios Tour is over and I have so many to thank for a great weekend! A huge shout out goes to all my visitors and supporters. My parents came for a second year in a row to help me ready for the event (including providing the snacks), my husband and son got out of “Dodge” to create space, my friend Ceci covered the dog-watching and my daughter stuck around to clean and greet guests.The threat of thunderstorms made for a slow start but the visitors came in a steady stream afterwards.

In the days leading up and directly afterwards, I had 100+ visitors and sold work to new and experienced art collectors. Many took advantage of my once-a-year sale on “littles”, the 4″ x 4″ oil on canvas works created solely for this event. It is my way to insure than anyone that has the desire, can own an original piece of art. Buying from a local artist is the best way to start your collection and to support your local creative community. Who wants to live in a place where there’s no art being made? If making it is not your thing, you can still be an important part of the process. See below, shining examples of community art supporters! If you’ve ever bought a painting from me and don’t mind sharing a photo of you with your painting, please send me a copy at ellenstarrlyon@gmail.com. I will be creating a scrapbook on my blog to track the happy homes that my “children” have gone to. Many thanks in advance!!

For recent images of what’s happening in my studio, follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ellenstarrlyonfromthestudio and on Instagram @ellenstarrlyon or contact me for a private studio tour.



Wed Nite Art Show with Saffron at Pygmalion’s Art Supplies


The title refers to annual event at Pygmalion’s Art Supplies in Bloomington. Here is a description of the event from their website:

Announcing our Wednesday Night Art Show: Wednesday, April 20, from 5:00-9:00, right here at Pygmalion’s! Each year we invite everyone to buy a tube of our Custom Color, use it in a work of art, and enter the work in our one night art show and party. We hang the work all around the store, and offer a delicious buffet of gourmet food prepared by Pygmalion’s owner John Wilson.

For photos from last year’s Custom Color Art Show and Party, please visit our Cat’s Tail page and scroll to the bottom of the page.

This year’s deadline for submitting artwork with Saffron is Monday, April 18 at 6:00. At least $600 in prizes will be awarded by juror Heidi Gealt, Director Emeritus of the IU Art Museum.

Whether or not you have submitted work, we hope you will come see the show, and enjoy some delicious food, on Wednesday, April 20th!

I try to always buy the special color especially because all proceeds from the sales benefit a charity; this year it is Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County. I’m not sure if the painting I started (above) will be what I enter but I do like to show process shots. These photos show the roughing in of a composition over another painting. Who doesn’t want to see a drawing over a gravity defying bowl of fruit? This painting is inspired by two USA ceramic pieces I was given by my mom on Easter. Thanks, ma! Check back to see the evolution of this work or to see if I choose another to highlight this years’ color.

Leave a comment

FROM THE GROUND UP. And in this case, a Venetian Red ground.

My most recent exhibition, Grown Compositions,  just opened last Friday at Gather in Bloomington, Indiana. The opening reception was three fantastic hours of greeting friends and family but also meeting the many art lovers in our town. I missed seeing my first buyer, so this is for her! S.P. here is your painting. I thought you might (and everyone else) enjoy seeing the underlying layers of it. It is a good example of my technique. I almost always start with a colored ground and then sketch in my composition- you can see the sketch in the first image. In larger paintings, this sketch is often altered, sometimes significantly but for smaller works, the sketching stage involves more planning. Next I will add the darkest areas and then the lightest, seen in image 2 and 3. This helps me to balance the composition and allows for the final glazing layers. Image number 4 shows the addition of the mid-tones- in this particular painting, the mid-tones were comprised of many different close shades of green. The final image shows what I think of as the “body colors”, the solid non-transparent colors. I had intended on taking another pass but the softness and velvety depth was already asserting itself and my deadline had come! So, S.P. enjoy your small plant portrait of Vinca Major and let me know if you have any questions.

Vinca Major 1 Vinca Major 2 Vinca Major 3 Vinca Major 4 Vinca Major 5

Leave a comment

Stay Tuned for More Leaves.

I find myself drawn to depicting plants. As I worked on this portrait of my begonia I tried to distill the reason why. It’s not news or unusual that I love to garden. I love the new foliage, the bright juicy colors, the delicate flowers. I love the feel of dirt and enter a happy trance while I weed. I value having something living in my space, especially through the dark cold months. For these reasons and a hundred more, planting and tending are a part of me. That, however, is not why I paint them so often. It is always the same three things that drive my work: abstraction, light, and negative space. I do use objects that I have an affinity for but only as tools to create fascinating (to me) passages, niches, nooks and transparencies. The end product is a naturalistic portrayal but that really is secondary or tertiary to me. Perhaps in the future I’ll allow that to fall away and paint what I love without the context. For right now, stay tuned for more leaves.IMAG5657IMAG5824IMAG5661IMAG5672

Leave a comment

2014 Kinsey Juried Art Show @ The Grunwald Gallery of Art. Go see it even though my entry didn’t make it in.

I’ve wanted to submit a work of mine into this show since it’s inception and have loved the Kinsey Institute much longer. You see, I interned with the curator of the art collection while in college at IU.  I got to see all the wonderful, beautiful, weird images etc. that made their way to the institute to be protected. It is so important to have a safe place for the study of sexuality; it is such a big part of being human and shouldn’t have to be a secret but treated with respect, care, and knowledge. Who better to represent all facets of our sexual lives, but artists? I am so grateful to live in a time when I am free to paint about what affects me without fear of reprisal, at least legally. My youngest child has just turned 10. This ends a major chapter in my life. I no longer have babies. I no longer diaper, dress or even brush their teeth. Both of my children are becoming more and more independaent every day. I relish this. This painting is a celebration of this- of having my body back. As a mother, my body was LITERALLY taken over for years. It’s primary purpose became creating, giving birth to and nursing two brand new humans. It was hard work but it was also magical. Though, when contemplating what I would create to enter, I saw the recent birthday as heralding a new stage in motherhood- one that did not require my body in the same way. Hence, the title “The Reclamation”. My painting did not get accpeted into the show but there’s always next year and it was important to me to create it.

The Reclamation

The Reclamation

THe Reclamation - sketch

THe Reclamation – sketch


Oh yeah, I’m a mom…………

A terrible photo of a new painting.

A terrible photo of a new painting.

Okay, so what kind of art thrives in chaos? Not exciting, mysterious chaos, but run of the mill everyday, every family type of chaos? I started this art blog to inspire myself to keep on keepin’ on and to just vent. I really just need one other mother to nod her head while she reads this.

Yesterday, I decided to use my free-time (ha!) to work a little on a new painting; when what I really wanted to do was flop on the couch under a blanket and watch an episode of Friday Night Lights. Well, FNL has moved into TV-14 territory and I’m at home with my 8-year-old sponge, Odessa. Free time you ask?, here is how Tuesday broke down: help get everyone ready to catch the bus, race to get to work (10 minutes late) for the next 9 hours. At five I head home and usually have to walk the dog right away but have switched jobs with my son and am now free to chat with my husband and grab a snack before taking my daughter to gymnastics by 5:30. Last week I ran during this hour by yesterday I chose to sit in an uncomfortable chair to read and catch glimpses of my daughter on the mat. We’re home by 6:45 and sit down to eat a meal I didn’t make! My son and husband have already eaten and are about to go to the YMCA, as Finn has a martial arts class and my hubbie will hit the elliptical. So viola!- here I am with an hour to myself (almost) and so the deer-in-headlights feeling strikes. What very important, fulfilling activity can I do to take advantage of this precious, precious time?! The pressure is immense. I could just hang with my girl but she’s got dinner to finish and a shower to take before the guys return. This doesn’t sound like much but tonight is dessert night and so vegetables MUST be eaten- therefore this could take a while. Then it hits me, “Oh yeah, I’m an artist…” I’ve eaten my veggies so I make a beeline for the studio, knowing the clock is ticking. Enter the parenthood wrinkle, 8-year-old must eat vegetables and must be supervised so that the eating of said veggies is verified by the only parent around, moi. I can handle this, so after a brief, irritated “No, you can’t sit in that chair in front of my easel!” , I’ve got girl and plate settled. Picture sand through the hour-glass, I hurry to start Pandora playing and turn on the space heater at my feet. The next 30 minutes are a combination of an exhausted push to create more depth and just the right shade for the foreground mixed with intense negotiations over the now cold vegetables. There were tears (hers) and sighs (mine) leading to a mostly empty plate and the next hurdle, a shower.

Sure, I moved paint around. I improved a shadow and focused on the black rim of the left bowl. But it is really tough not to think this is impossible, like trying to breathe mud instead of air. How can I incorporate more art making into my life? With time to focus and to think about the next brush stroke and what I really hope for the end product to be and say? Then it hits me, “Oh yeah, I’m a mom…” Isn’t it said that “Women can do it all, just not at the same time.”? So as I sat there, trying my best not to be frustrated, I thought this- I may not be achieving all that I want, but I still work towards my goals and how many kids grow up negotiating dinner while their mother sits at her easel?