Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW

Ellen Uses Pastel and Charcoal to Interpret Fairy Tales

Some of Ellen Cornett’s work in pastels and charcoal is now showing at the Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Avenue, in Brentwood, Maryland.

Using a number of Grimms’ fairy tales as subjects, Ellen created some stunning (and sometimes startling!) depictions of the stories. The piece de resistance is this 10-foot charcoal she titled “The Bloody Battle,” representing one of the classic tales from the Grimm brothers, “The Wren and the Bear.”ECornett-001_sThe show’s curator challenged Ellen to create this piece right in the exhibition space. She reports that she was initially terrified and anxious–she had never done a work that large, and failure would be very public. Plus, she had the pressure of finishing it before the show opened three weeks hence. But as soon as she started working on it, she felt exhilarated, and she finished five days before the opening. Along the way she posted “in progress” photos on Facebook and had a lot of fun asking friends to guess what animal’s head would go on certain bodies.

She rendered another fairy tale, “The Juniper Tree,” in a charcoal triptych:The Juniper Tree

Like many of the Grimms’ tales, this story is horrible. In short, the mother kills her stepson, blames her daughter for the death, and enlists the daughter’s help in chopping up the boy and cooking him in a stew. The father eats the stew, and the boy’s spirit is turned into a bird after her sister lovingly buries his bones. At the show’s opening I met the man whom Ellen used as a model for the dad in the center of the triptych. He told me that Ellen fed him a bowl of great Thai soup from Costco while she photographed him, and only later did he find out about the story’s narrative.

A pastel that I found cute and cheery is “Hans My Hedgehog.”Hans My Hedgehog

Later I looked into the story and found it among a collection of 19 of the “darkest stories from the Grimm collection of German fairy tales, containing elements that have frequently been removed in other versions.” Yeah. That’s our Ellen. But still, look how cute that rooster is! And the hedgehog!

On October 10 at 2 pm, Ellen will be delivering an artist talk at Brentwood describing her process and detailing how she created a pastel illustration for another deceptively sweet story, “The Hare’s Bride.”

The show is at the Brentwood Art Exchange through October 24.

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This entry was posted on October 1, 2015 by in Exhibitions, Pastel and tagged , , , , , .
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