Art and the City

Ellen Cornett: Artist Revisit Profile

Ellen Cornett paints visual questions. They emerge from the familiar—fairytales, old novels, poems—glowing in homemade pastels with titles like “Princess and the Pea,” and “The Little Mermaid.” They are mystical and magical, with a story within a story within a story. Something very intriguing is going on.

I wrote that eight years ago. It’s still true, but now, Ellen has put aside her hand-made pastels for a carbon pencil…for a while. And there are no people—at least in complete human form. Animals have taken center stage. These are creatures in a separate reality…puppies and possums, bunnies and bears.  You see robins and rats with pachyderm pranksters and cats in pajamas.

It’s fun. It’s wonderfully whimsical. Ellen loves “doing animals oddly combined behaving or misbehaving.” Yet, there are “tragic undertones” of classical poems and fairytales, with conflicts and caricatures—recognizable and roguish. Ellen plays with the established notions of everything.

Each drawing begins with the spark of an idea. One leads to another and she just lets them roll. Ellen has reached such a superior skill level that her playful personifications are born whole from the point of the pencil. That mastery has made her fearless in entering the unknown and pursuing the what if.

Ellen received a BA in art from the University of Maryland, and has had a successful career as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator… and mother. She has won awards in shows throughout the area and teaches life drawing and oil painting at the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL).

Imagination and art meet in the field of dreams where Ellen Cornett and her friends come to play, and you are always welcomed to join the party. You can find more of her work at

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art  

Drawing. We usually take it for granted because we have been doing it since infancy, but it’s incredibly powerful. It made us who we are—uniquely human. It is the visualization of objects and symbols: the projection of ideas onto a surface.

From the beginning, like all other critters, we could convert an optic stimulation into a picture inside our head. But then, on some enchanted evening, an ancient ancestor was able to convert it into the abstractidea of the thing. That forever fascinates me. Eventually, we could share the ideas with others through verbal language—and then, wait for it…by drawing a picture. Thought became art and eventually writing. Incredible?

Drawing, even in the Stone Age, became more and more skilled, and for many centuries has been “Step One” in learning to become an artist. Most art schools still teach it—it’s key in learning how to share appearances. But way beyond that, drawing can be evocative and inventive—the exploration of mental space.

As an art form, drawing can be exquisite—breathtaking. Many artists carry a sketchbook. In some cases, it’s a visual diary. It records notations of the way light touched and moved across surfaces, crafting the shadows that form shapes, patterns and tones that identify one tiny part of the universe. The pages become pieces of memory, and maybe, just maybe, the suggestions of a new reality.

Ellen Cornett’s sketchbook is just that, the place where sights and thoughts first wrestle for supremacy and coalesce into suggestions of something unexpected: thingies—parts from this animal and that…often with a touch of human form and nature. It’s pure imagination, the ultimate visual expression of the human mind.


At the Galleries

“Show and Tell”
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th St. SE
Oct. 1 - 28
Recep: Oct. 1, 5-7
“Show & Tell: What I Did on my Summer Vacation,” is the theme of the Capitol Hill Art League’s end-of-summer all-media juried exhibit for member artists. Expect a wide range of ideas and themes—styles and techniques. The reception on Oct. 1, is open to the public.
Athenaeum Invitational
201 Prince St.
Alexandria, Va.
-Nov. 6
The theme of this exhibit is “Oh! The Joy!” Artists are challenged by the exclamation of William Lewis upon his first sight of the Pacific Ocean. The paintings of Anne Marchand (Sept. Profile Artist) powerfully express moments of pure joy, triumph, and wonder.
Group Exhibition
Hill Center Galleries  
Old Naval Hospital
921 Penn. Ave. SE
Oct 6 - Dec 30
Opening Recep. Oct 19, 6-8
Holiday Recep.  Dec. 11, 3-5
This is a fascinating mix of art expressions, with expertise and personal experiences coming from a variety of artistic and professional backgrounds.
Mid City Artists, Michael Crossett and Charlie Gaynor search for that particular aesthetic that defines city life. Their Inner City Hues is a “collection of photography and painting that explores neighborhoods through layered compositions of architecture and design affected by time.”
Adrienne Moumin, a collage artist and black and white photographer, combines the two in Architextures — a series of handmade gelatin silver photo collages. The focus is “typically New York City architecture and urban landscapes” in her geometric 2-D and 3-D constructions.
Photographer Larry O'Reilly was an Assistant Director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He experiments with “painting with light,” using natural objects that can be photographed in an “infinite number of ways. “ 
With, “From Politics to Painting - Two Artistic Journeys,” Martha Pope and Anne Shields combine with pastel paintings of beautiful places around the globe. Martha Pope was U.S. Senate Sergeant of Arms. Anne Shields was Chief of Staff to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
Dilip Sheth presents “The DC Series” with oil and acrylic paintings. The city emerges out of his joyful dance of “bold colors.”
Charlene Nield & Ann Pickett
Foundry Gallery
2118 - 8th St, N.W.
Oct 5 - 30
Recep: Sat, Oct. 8, 5-8
Ann Pickett and Charlene Nield co-inhabit what they call an “abstract state of mind” in this dual show. Both painters move to work abstractly from representative subjects.
The Princess and the Pea, pastel, 20x28, 2008.
Feathered Hats, carbon pencil, 14x17.