In her room that seems smaller than the size of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, Ellie Howard manages to pull four different copies of her latest print from her print-making class titled “Victory” out from underneath her white iron-cast bed. Her long blonde-ash locks are pulled back into a messy ponytail and her fingers, stained with different colored paints, are dead giveaways as to what she had been doing for the past six hours. Her room is plastered with ripped-out pages from fashion magazines, an American flag fan, a flag from Sienna, Italy, small cut-outs of famous paintings, a billboard collage of colored ribbons, and photos. Her voice is calm, yet she has a spark of laughter that’s contagious. Cracking jokes left and right, she sits Indian style upon her floral-printed bedspread as she tells me of her passion for art.
I got the privilege of talking with Howard, a senior and artist majoring in Studio Art and minoring in Art History at the University of Oregon.
What inspires you the most?
“I don’t know how to narrow down what inspires me other than what strikes me at a moment. I was thinking of an instance that this happened to me the other day. In the EMU I saw this golden drinking fountain…. It had a plaque to commemorate somebody. [It was] in this weird stairwell that broke off and there was a brick wall with this golden drinking fountain. And I was like, ‘that’s the coolest thing ever.’ I felt like I wasn’t done thinking about it…. I really like flowers, I really like clothes and looking at what people are saying and doing.… It’s hard to narrow down. I have a lot of interests. I get a pull from all over.”
How long have you been making art?
“Since forever. I have one of those second memories like where you remember the incident, but you don’t remember anything else really. I was probably five-years-old and everybody was out playing on the playground. I was sitting alone drawing a picture of my family under a rainbow or something. In Kindergarten, when we had that sponge brush and we had all the different cut sponges. And we did the coolest thing ever… I was like ‘This. Is. Awesome!’ I think it sparked in Kindergarten.”
What’s your favorite medium?
“There’s so many types of ways to make things which I definitely learned in undergrad. Taking printmaking, which is something you don’t do too much in high school if you take art. I really liked printmaking, but it was really stressful. It’s cool to be able to make copies of stuff. I really, really like painting, but it’s a struggle sometimes. It’s hard to be original and find satisfaction in your own work when there’re a lot of other people like that. A lot of people make art. I like all different mediums.”
Which era of art would you go back to and why?
“Probably the late 1800’s in Paris and England because they had these great exhibitions and it was so romantic, the notion that everyone was going out to see what had been painted. It was more in the public eye, which is cool. That’s why people make things for other people to look at.”
Do you usually have an idea first and then create it or do you start off with a plank medium and work from there?
“It depends on the class. When I have a prompt, it’s kind of like going at it like a math equation or trying to think back to what I’ve thought about recently or what’s in my sketchbook or collage. If it’s a literary reference, I think about all my books or pick an image that is blank. You just fill in the blank with something that pertains to your interests. It’s almost easier coming up with something. The carrying out of it is the hard part because it never turns out exactly how you pictured; well, not never, just rarely.”
Ellie plans on graduating from the University of Oregon this Spring and moving back to her hometown of Lafayette, California where she will begin looking at internships abroad.