Ellen Sherman is an artist, illustrator, and founder of Fin and Feather Art. Ellen grew up in Michigan, and received her BFA in Studio Art at Michigan State University, before moving to Florida. Her love for the outdoors and the natural world can be seen through her art. Most of her paintings and drawings reflect the local fauna and flora – – a Koi fish, a bird’s nest, Chickadees on a tree, a starfish. . .
Last month, we have seen the artist’s bayside art studio in Miami. Today, we get to know the artist a little more as Ellen talks about her art, inspirations, challenges, and shares a personal message to her supporters.
What’s the story behind the shop name?
I was searching for something that might convey the feeling behind my shop, the motivation for the art. My work is predominantly based in nature, and usually focused on fauna, so I went with a name that would present that front and center.
Can you share with us the process of creating these items?
I always start with a few sketches first to explore composition and layout. From there, I’ll find the paper I want to start with and begin either on a few studies in color, or on the final piece. Once I have the final painting completed, I’ll scan the work and begin making test prints.
I always make multiple tests per painting to make doubly sure the color in the print is exactly the color in the original. It can be a little frustrating, but I feel that is an incredibly important step if an artist is going to sell prints. Once I’m satisfied in the quality of the print, I’ll get start planning a little photo shoot for the shop, and get the piece added online.
I noticed that most of your works are done in pencil or watercolor, what makes these your preferred mediums?
I pencil for it’s impermanence; love those errant graphite smudges. Even though I’ll end up cleaning it up later, it just adds another layer to work with. Watercolor is a favorite in that the nature of the pigment allows me to work quickly, and yet will always reveal a surprise as it dries. I live for those little blooms or drips that refuse to be corralled.
Do you use other mediums?
Occasionally, I’ll bust out pastels or acrylics. It’s fun to experiment.
Who is your favorite artist?
I grew up on Georgia O’Keefe, my parents took me to her museum in New Mexico when I was little and her work just embedded itself in my heart. I also really enjoy Jaime Derringer’s work, she’s got some incredible abstracts.
What are your top 3 favorite picks from your shop?
Little Fawn: I started this as a present for my grandmother, who turned 98 this year. I wanted to make her something sweet and peaceful for her apartment. Now every time I look at this piece I think of her.
Orange Koi: This piece was made for a watercolor show at the Botanical Gardens in Miami Beach. It was one of my first shows since moving to the state, so it is a fond reminder of those exciting weekends.
Twilight Garden: I love this piece in how it came together. I had a vague idea in my mind of how I wanted it to be, and my hand more or less took over. It was more of a intuitive piece than what I’m used to creating and I was very pleased with the final result.
What do you love most about what you do?
The freedom of being my own boss. On one hand it’s terrifying, taking care of everything on my own; financials, inventory, marketing, creating… but on the other hand, I’ve never felt more fulfilled. It’s a challenge to run a business as one person, but I also only have to answer to myself. Which is pretty great.
Is there anything you dislike about it?
Sometimes it can be lonely, working away in a studio into all hours of the night. But I’ve learned to take on extra roles outside of my work that will get me out and around people a little bit more.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
I’m learning to be a better boss to myself. I used to push really, really hard and wouldn’t be very kind to myself if I thought I fell short. I’ve had to realize that I am my own boss, but I’m also my own employee – if I wouldn’t treat another person like that, why would I do that to myself? Maintaining a good relationship with the work is paramount, and I think a lot of it just boils down to knowing when to be gentle with myself and when to put in that extra hour or two.
Where do you find inspiration?
Outside. Always. On my nightly runs, or early morning trips to the beach, as long as there isn’t a roof over my head something is bound to inspire me.
What do you do when you’re not drawing or painting?
A lot of reading (anything with two covers and some pages, not picky on genre) ,videogames and running. Running combines exercise and meditation for me, and is integral to my ability to reset/recharge after a long day in the studio.
What are some of your most memorable projects?
I think the commission work I do stands out the most; each one has their own story, their own distinct journey. I just love that back-and-forth with clients, taking their ideas and molding them via my hand and tools — it is such a fun and exciting process.
Your message to customers and friends:
Even though I’ve been doing this for a few solid years, I still feel like it’s a dream. I’m so, so grateful for every single person that has bought one of my pieces, come out to a show, or even just commented on my blog. It’s been a truly wonderful journey thus far and I can’t thank everyone for their support enough.
Thank you so much, Ellen!