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.


Leave a comment

completion of a commission

Last month I was asked by a friend of mine, on behalf of a group, to paint a specific image as a gift. I’ve never completed a commission for a group of people before but was thrilled. The painting is to be a gift based on a metaphor used in a conversation, “We’re definitely the cherry in a basket of apples and oranges!”It seems pretty straightforward and so will the final image, I suspect. But what isn’t are all the decisions made along the way.

Here is a short list of examples: what type of apples, what color and shape, how many of each fruit, what type of surface, what kind of “basket”, to add or not add a textile? The size was predetermined so one piece of the puzzle began it all. I went to the grocery and handpicked my fruit models and then sifted through my collection of bowls, baskets and fabric. Long before a brush touches the canvas, there is set-up. Set-up is composing the still life: adjusting folds, items, lighting and shadows. Then in turn, composing of the painting: balance of objects, light, line and spacing on the actual picture plane. I’ve included a photograph of me painting, it shows both the set-up and the final composition. Sometimes, these are quite different. I have also included a photograph of the first composition which I later abandoned and started over from scratch. It may seem like a small change but was huge to me. The bowl of fruit needed to make a stronger impact and in a practical sense, the star of the show, the cherry, needed to be larger. For me it comes down to what feels right.

Commissions are a great way to partner with an artist whose work you admire but to also add something of yourself, whether it is an idea for an image or an object that has significant meaning. I know that I am happy to participate and judging from the big smiles above, the result can hit just the right note.

If interested in commissioning a painting, large or small, please contact me at ellenstarrlyon@gmail.com . 





Ceramic Gift, oil on canvas 2016 11″ x 14″

I thought you might enjoy an update on the painting I will be submitting to the Pygmalion’s Wed Night Art Show with Saffron. I’ve got my tube of Saffron, do you? Again, all proceeds from sales of Saffron benefit Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County. I am quickly running out of time so final decisions need to be made. What will I focus on? I can choose to highlight the design and texture of the red satin pillow case, I can add the myriad on reflections and colors on the three ceramic pieces or can geek out on the natural wood grain of the surface the objects are on. Who knows but hopefully you’ll be able to discern my choices when you stop by to see the final piece!


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

Still Life Show @ The Evelyn E. Jorgenson Gallery in Missouri

The Evelyn E. Jorgenson Gallery presents

Still Lifes: Perceptions of Inanimate Objects

October 1- November 12, 2015

An international curated exhibition exploring the still life theme. Including works from: Laura Aish, Pamela Delaura, Joseph Holsapple, Steven Hughes, Christina Kerns, Ellen Starr Lyon, Sarah Malakoff, Katrina Majkut, Ann Mansolino, Matthew McLaughlin, Emily Newman, Chee Wang Ng, Melodie Provenzano, Susan Sidebottom, Robert Thurlow, Susan P. Tolbert, Randall Tosh, Radek Vizina, and Tom Wagner.

Evelyn E. Jorgenson Gallery

Moberly Area Community College

October 1 -November 12, 2015

Opening Reception October 8th 5-7 pm

These three paintings of mine were accepted into the show- enjoy!
Robot I 300DPI



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


Smokebush: evolution of a painting

IMAG2078_1 small IMAG2106 small IMAG2110 small IMAG2114 small

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.