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.

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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


Smokebush: evolution of a painting

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How does one become inspired? If you are like me, inspiration comes in a variety of ways but with different voices. Unfortunately, some are too easy to ignore. Beautiful moments, ideas and relationships stand out frequently; it is my way of seeing the world. But to take that next step to create art from these moments is a big one. (Please keep in mind this blog was started so that I could speak freely about my experience as a full-time working mom who is still making art- my little overwhelmed niche.) So, to follow through with an idea it has to stick, not be forgotten from point A to point B. So many things pop up between point A and B: a full work day, homework, baseball, negotiations over screen time, dinner, showers, Dr. Who episodes, dog-walking, 99 questions and just as many altercations. If I’m lucky enough to have remembered this inspiring item, to secure a good spot my priority list, there has to be a “why”. Most often it is an upcoming event or show. With this painting my “why” is decomposition. Yep, you heard correctly.

We planted a smokebush tree in our front yard a few years ago. With this mild summer, it sent up 6 foot shoots and looked like a Dr. Suess creation. On a whim one night, mostly because we couldn’t get the screws out of our license plate to change it, I called out for gardening tools and my husband and I pruned the smokebush instead. These discarded shoots were amazing. My daughter grabbed an armload and stood them up around her room and two outside her door as sentries. I picked up the remainder and couldn’t bring myself to put them in the compost. Instead I brought them inside and put them into a large yellow glass vase I’ve had since the before-time. The before-time used to mean before I met my husband but now it means before we had children. I cannot believe this cheap, thin-glass vase has survived! As I stood back admiring my leafy goodness, it hit me that it would not last. The light  behind them, the compostion the many leaves created, the pockets of negative space and the glowing yellow glass was something I did not want to part with. Well, good news, I didn’t have to. Painting makes it permanent. The clock is ticking. As I write this, the leaves are beginning to dry. As they dry, they curl and change color. It is thrilling and scary to have to work this quickly and on such a large-for-me surface. Above are poor photographs of the evolution of my pruning inspired image.

Enjoy! Soon I will post the finished product.

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The Art of Chocolate Gala 2013! Yum…………..

Week of Chocolate 2013

Week of Chocolate 2013

Thank you everyone who came to see my recent exhibition at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana. The support was overwhelming and much appreciated. That show led to the sale of 5 paintings!

Three paintings from that show were recently juried into the “Art of Chocolate”, a fundraiser for LifeDesigns as a part of The Week of Chocolate, http://www.weekofchocolate.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3 , a very popular annual group of events in Bloomington. The art will be auctioned on eBay starting now until February 1st, 2013. On February 2nd, the art will be on display at Fountain Square Mall, downtown.

Of these juried works, 15 were selected to be exhibited at the Art of Chocolate Gala taking place in the atrium of the Indiana University Art Museum  on January 27th, 2013. One of mine, “Red Ribbon”, was chosen for this special exhibit. Please consider visiting the auction site and biding on art, buying a ticket for the Gala or viewing the juried art on February 2nd– all for a worthy cause.

IU Art Museum Atrium

IU Art Museum Atrium



Post Show!

Well, the Opening Reception has come and gone. I felt prepared and was excited to see who might come. Around 4 pm the rain arrived…..and it poured and poured for hours. The reception was to be 5-8 pm. Despite the weather, so many people came! It was humbling to have concrete proof of the support of my friends, co-workers and family. It’s not very often that all the people I love line up to congratulate me for a solid 3 hours- felt like I’d just gotten married! What became clear that not matter what they felt about my artwork, they all recognize the sacrifice and effort it takes to pursue creation in the face of modern life. My “modern life” being a full-time working mother of two etc etc. I know that I find it incredibly inspiring to meet an artist that continues in the face of their own art-making obstacles, whatever they may be.

It was fantastic to be an artist for a night; to stand back and see the fruition of my efforts. It is tough to allow others to take a look and now that not everyone will like it or react to it in any way. Though enough had a smile or needed to stop to take in a small detail- that makes it all worth it. But, nothing beats being able to say I sold something on opening night- Thanks Margaret!


My Space- My Studio

In my studio

In my studio

My space- my studio……well that is the idea but not the reality. This space tends to be a high traffic area at times. Let’s see: one painter(me), one husband, two kids, one brother, cousins, one dog, three cats, neighborhood kids- you get the idea. In fact, my daughter (who should be in bed) just interrupted that last sentence. But, she’s also the one who caught me on “film” with paintbrush in hand and behind my shoulder is a portrait I painted of her; Odessa my almost 8 year-old beauty. Back to the reality of my studio. My husband is also an artist, he gets to color comic books for a living! We have always shared a studio space and after 12+ years of marriage would have it no other way. Sometimes we chat or not but we seem to be able to compromise on the music played and are content to create and to just be in the same room. It tends to be pretty homey. On the floor there’s half of an apple core that my son gave to the dog, beautiful rugs (covered in said dog hair) and a futon in the corner for the above mentioned brother. With all that, it is a place for art. Nothing gets put away when I’m done. The still life set ups stay set up, paint tubes live out in the open and paintings in progress stay out to be ogled until they’re up again for the next round. Batter up!