Artist Spotlight Series: Ellen Schuster
I am back with a long overdue Artist Spotlight Series Feature.
I give you a Texas talent and introduce you to
What is your training?
My undergraduate degree is interior design and I minored in art history. I have ALWAYS been drawn to beauty especially in the form of color and texture. It wasn’t until my husband and I moved to New York City in our 40s where I has an epiphany that I did not know who I really was… I began enrolling in every art class I could find. The Art Students League was only a few blocks from my apartment. I had no idea at the time that this is where some of the most iconic abstract expressionists also initially picked up paint brushes. I continue to regularly seek learning with various classes and mentors in NYC, Texas, California and even in Europe. One word that sums up my artistic endeavor is experimentation and to effectively experiment, it helps to observe different techniques and mediums from others.
You could say I’m a recovering perfectionist. I love learning and growing and exploring – striving to let go of doing it by the book and allowing myself to make mistakes and learning from those mistakes. For me, that requires a lot of unlearning. And I struggle with that every day. Anticipating a blank canvas, can bring fear. “What do I do? How do I start? Will it be any good?” Then I hear Brene Brown’s words echoing in my studio: “Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” I also draw inspiration and courage from music. “The Greatest Showman” and “Dear Evan Hansen” fuel courage and creativity.
I’m also inspired by the privilege of adding beauty into someone’s home, where they live life every day. That’s truly motivating. I would gladly (and do) lose sleep in order to create something for someone’s home that brings them joy daily.
I grew up in Austin, TX, and remember from an early age how beautiful my surroundings were. The hills, the water, the trees. I’ve always loved color and texture and I experienced that daily. My husband’s family is from El Paso and that terrain was an entirely new and different kind of beauty – rugged, colorful, serene, big skies. Our family time in La Jolla, California absolutely influences my work. I was born in California and the cool air, ocean and sunsets make me come alive in a way nowhere else can.
I used to paint way over 40 hours a week with few stops and starts. Once I gave myself permission to access emotion and memories with paint and canvasses, that energy was hard to contain. Now, with grandchildren and travel and other priorities, I’m able to stop and start – although it’s still challenging because the longer you go in between the breaks, the harder it is to start again. Your brain tells you that you don’t have anything to give. It’s then that I must remind myself to be brave. To show up. To be creative. To be present. To enjoy without knowing or controlling the outcome. Finding balance is literally a discipline for me.
I LOVE travel!!! My husband and I married a year after college graduation and had our first of three daughters one year later. A couple of years ago when she married in Italy, we took some time afterwards to celebrate and experience Capri. I often dream of returning, especially after being in the Covid lockdown! My other favorite place is La Jolla, California where my husband’s grandparents have a home. My middle daughter married there several years ago and my youngest will also get married there this fall.
First thing that comes to mind is MD Anderson. We live 15 minutes from this world-renowned institution and both of my parents died of cancer. I’ve spent many hours in waiting rooms and would love to distract people with the escape of beauty during the hours of limbo.
Favorite hostess gift?
Assouline travel coffee table books– such a luxurious beauty with various pops of color
I was very close to my mother- and father-in-law, both of whom died during the past year. They modeled love, compassion and joy throughout their 60-year marriage, and I am reminded of their spirit when I look around my home at things they once called theirs. A watercolor of the Old City of Jerusalem, two Eames chairs, cut crystal cordial glasses. I loved my in laws deeply and these things remind me of their love for me and everyone they encountered.
What am I reading?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I have a precious six-month-old grandson and when I’m not painting, I spend any free time with him.