Artist Ellen Chapman’s inspiration for painting is in the colors and light she sees in the world around her. Her painting for this issue’s cover was inspired by the beautiful sunset sky on the evening of Jaffrey’s 2017 Fireworks display.
“The detail, even in the shadows, creates a passion, and I want to capture that — the beauty of the natural creation of things,” she says, describing what prompts ideas for her paintings.
“The challenge is to get what I see and feel on the board. I love landscape, being outside. God’s nature flames in my heart,” she adds.
Fellow artist Phil Bean enjoys meeting at various outdoor locations with Chapman and at times one or two other artists they know to practice plein air painting, an activity she delights in as well. This benefits them by having an opportunity to “bounce our work off one another,” Bean says. It is a way to offer reflections on how they see each other’s progressing paintings from different perspectives.
“She’s got a good eye and makes some suggestions that are really nice. And she’s very professional and independent,” he notes.
Miller State Park and an area near the old Shattuck Inn are among the places they meet to paint. Beaches are another location where she enjoys working, with the changing light and life she encounters there; at times, she paints striking dogs she sees, for her own joy, yet finding that owners may want to purchase the work.
Painting with soft pastels is a medium Chapman savors. She grew to love pastels through a workshop in Saxtons River, Vermont, led by instructor Robert Carston, “a sweet and encouraging gentleman.” A fellow member of the Monadnock Area Artists invited her to attend the workshop, and she later returned for another. She now belongs to the Pastel Society of New Hampshire.
“The colors are delicious; the whole palette is incredible,” she says.
Her aunt, artist Marge Kendrick, inspired her initial interest in art while Chapman was in seventh grade. Kendrick had attended school at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston starting at age 12, and the museum connection exposed Chapman to impressionistic paintings.
“All the colors captured me,” she remembers.
At Ahern Junior High School in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Chapman’s eighth grade English teacher, Beverly Lord, noticed her talent and asked her to work on theatre sets, make-up and costuming.
Chapman next studied commercial art at a vocational high school. The school helped place her in a job designing greeting cards at Russcraft in Norwood, Massachusetts.
From there, she went to work on designing rings for Balfour Jewelry in Attleborough, Massachusetts.
“Then I graduated to marriage and children and put almost everything away but pen and pencil,” she says.
Art was not on the forefront while raising children except when they did creative work together as a family or one of the children needed help with a project. She was busy homeschooling her two older children, which she continued through high school. She also spent a great deal of time caring for the family menagerie of horses, donkeys, goats and dogs. Her children were involved in 4-H, and she spent twenty years as a 4-H leader.
Chapman grew up with animals and developed a love for them. She describes the barn where they surrounded her as “a place of solace.”
All of this was before Lyme disease struck; her life slowed down, and her physical strength decreased, causing her to give up most of her animals, as it became difficult to care for them. Yet, the slower pace allowed her to resume some art. When she was finally diagnosed with Lyme, she learned she had struggled with it for the previous 15 years. Chapman worked with a naturopath to successfully manage and improve her condition.
She has done a lot of paintings during the last few years, including oil painting, for which she had no formal training. Her aunt once again provided inspiration and assistance.
“She was really chill about it; she even gave me homework. I loved all that time I got to spend with her,” says Chapman.
Monadnock Area Artists membership has provided great opportunities, including chances to paint together at the library six or eight years ago, she remembers. Another benefit is participation in the annual Art in the Park, although this past year, the pandemic led to the event’s cancellation.
She serves on the organization's scholarship committee, which she hopes may offer future scholarships to help high school students participate in workshops.
Chapman’s most recent hurdle has been her continuous two-year battle with cancer. Alternative, functional medicine has proven far more effective than conventional medicine, she says, and the disease is in remission.
She looks forward to getting outdoors to paint again when warmer weather returns.
See more of Chapman’s work at www.ellenchapmanart.com and in the Farm Directory in this issue.
Diana Damato writes from Keene, New Hampshire.