Ellen Elmes’ paintings have been acclaimed for their unique, collage-style blend of symbolic imagery and flowing naturalism. From watercolor paintings inspired by the majesty of the ancient Appalachians, to painted expressions sparked by the songs and music of Carter and Ralph Stanley, to murals depicting the heart of rural communities, Ellen’s art thrives on the rhythms of her personal life and community experiences.
She has exhibited her watercolors extensively in the central Appalachians, where she and her husband Don live; in many of the Mid-Atlantic states; and as far away as Aberdeen, Scotland. As a muralist, Ellen has designed and painted numerous large-scale murals in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia; as well as having supervised and participated in painting many collaborative community-created murals in Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, and at the Allanton Peace Center in Scotland. Ellen’s recent commissions include a mural honoring beloved Tazewell Countian Louise Leslie in the newly-restored North Tazewell Train Station in Southwest Virginia; a community-painted mural, Tazewell Now & Then, based on drawings by 5th, 8th, and 12th grade students; and an outdoor history mural about the impact of the N&W Railroad on the merchants, railroad workers, and community members of Richlands, Virginia.
Ellen has recently published a book about her work as it has been inspired by living in the Appalachian Mountains—Appalachian Labyrinth: Painting to the Center. More information about the book is available here under the “Book” link.
A well-respected teacher who retired from full-time teaching 11 years ago at Southwest Virginia Community College, Ellen continues to offer long and short-term watercolor painting workshops through art centers and organizations for adults, as well as special art classes for children.
Annually, Ellen has enjoyed teaching at Common Ground on the Hill Traditions Week for the past twenty-two years at McDaniel College in Maryland. She has found a cocoon of reflective time and inspiration during numerous residencies at the Lillian E. Smith Center in Clayton, Georgia. In 1995-1996, she taught at Aberdeen College, Scotland and, later, at Ivanavo State University in Russia during October of 2001. Ellen and her husband Don worked four summers as tutors for Common Ground Scotland in Ayreshire, Scotland. The couple enjoys traveling together to find new realms for creative expression and to marvel at the beauty of life on this earth.
Ellen displays and sells her artwork on a regular basis in southwest Virginia and West Virginia, particularly at the Appalachian Arts Center at Wardell in Cedar Bluff, Virginia. She is a signature member of the Virginia Watercolor Society and ‘Round the Mountain Artisans.