Maumee musician turns visual artist in upcoming exhibition

Andrew Ellis started flexing his artistic muscles just a few years ago.

By Roberta Gedert / The Blade
Sat, 28 Sep 2019 15:00:00 GMT

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Andrew Ellis wishes he had more than a few hours a night to get some sleep.

As if performing as a one-man band about five nights a week at local, national, and even international venues wasn’t enough, the 43-year-old Maumee resident has added multi-media artist to his list of accolades.

But this musician and now visual artist, whose first solo exhibition of pieces are displayed in the Perrysburg Municipal Building Gallery, just shrugs off the idea that his plate might be overloaded.

“I think the most important thing is that [doing both art and music] fills up my time with positive things. If I can work myself to the point of exhaustion on things that I love, especially if I can support my family doing that as well, that I’ve won some sort of battle,” he said.

Most people who know Ellis, know him for his music, which he has described to The Blade as folk, hill country, Dixieland, and grouped with darker genres. They know him as the guy who keeps things lively at the local pubs on an almost nightly basis, jamming out at such places as the Village Idiot and Dale’s.

But about two years ago, he started flexing his artistic muscles. He has created art before, but it was a passion that surfaced full force in recent months.

“I try to be creative and passionate with everything that I do. I was just about to release another album last summer when everything kicked in and I started producing a lot [of art],” he said. “I think it was just a culmination of things going easily with that and me doing a lot of cooking around the house and being able to have an outlet for everything that I want to do. It's like a necessity.”

That necessity produced, all in the last eight months, the 22 pieces in the Perrysburg show, from 6 inch x 6 inch gouache pieces to large-scale, five-foot and taller acrylic paintings, subjects ranging from self-portraits to his neighbor's Jeep sketched out from his patio in the wee hours of the morning.

Talking about his music is old hat; he’s been doing it for more than 20 years. Talking about his art? That’s new.

He describes his work as bold, but doesn’t want to pinpoint one genre he works in.

“I have stuff in this collection that is like modern impressionism to expressionism to technical drawing to watercolor, ink color, even a little bit of cubism,” he said. “You can see the art history in a lot of it, and you can see the lineage. It's just a more modern approach.”

In the world of visual art, Ellis is self-taught — self-studied as his wife, Mary puts it. But if you think his approach is simplistic, or leans toward being a hobby, think again. He is a man who is, when not executing, studying, reading, watching videos.

He attends a gestural nude drawing class every other week, skipping out to make it on time to his weekly music gig at the Village Idiot. He practices routinely in a sketchbook. He reads, studies technique, and applies what he has learned.

It’s work that involves self-direction, and he takes it on.

“Last night, I spent three hours on color theory,” he said, adding “Which was a nightmare. I think a lot of the things as far as color is concerned, if you have an eye for it, it has a tendency to come naturally, but I wanted to get further into that, not to necessarily make a mathematical equation of why I use the colors I use, but just to have a little bit more theory with it.”

He studies the pieces in his solo show: Man with Knife, a piece that started out as a digital project and morphed into a large-scale painting; a self-portrait of himself he produced using a bamboo quill. In a piece depicting flowers his wife received for Mother’s Day, he used flowable acrylics or heavy-body acrylics with an airbrush reducer to reduce the thickness of the paint and create a layering, more three-dimensional look.

He uses graffito in many of his acrylic pieces, a technique in which an artist scratches through a surface to reveal a lower level of contrasting color to create a layering look. He executed it in his piece, Amsterdam.

“Growing up and seeing acrylic paintings I always thought of David Hockney, where everything is flat and graphic ... Acrylics are still a relatively new paint in the scheme of things and I think there are still a lot of opportunities to use it in unique ways,” he said.

He has been selling his work for about a year and a half, and word is spreading that the crooner’s creative outlets are multi-faceted.

Just ask Mike DeStazio, who works at the Village Idiot.

He was — intentionally or unintentionally — the subject one day of Ellis’ creative prowess.

“We were at a friend’s house and he said, ‘hey don’t move,’ and grabbed this chalk and etched me out really quick. I was like whoa, that’s cool,” he said.

DeStazioe has seen Ellis perform solo on stage, belting out a tune while playing bass guitar with his thumb, the drums and tambourine with his feet, so this newer venture doesn’t surprise him.

“Once I saw all that, he said check this out and I thought, ‘get out of here,’” DeStazio said. “You know Andrew and know his music, and all of a sudden he's drawing a giant silverback gorilla or a portrait of his grandpa and it gets you. It gets you in the heart strings.”

His wife, Mary, serves as his manager in both music and art capacities, and together they homeschool and raise son, Hank, to allow for travel to Europe for musical gigs, which now is going to include work on his art as well. He also has a daughter, Taylir, and recently became a grandfather.

Community members can see Andrew Ellis: A Solo Exhibit through Oct. 18. The show is part of the Perrysburg Public Art Series.