Monday, September 21, 2009

Lean on Me

"Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show

We can all relate to needing a friend. When singer songwriter Bill Withers wrote "Lean on Me" in 1972, it went to the top of the pop and soul charts.
...are you a friend?

I have artist friends who encourage me to create, I have teachers who have boosted my appetite for learning, there are soul friends who have lifted me up, family who love me in spite of myself, and total strangers who offer a smile that goes a long mile with me.  

What do people think when they look at you?  Can they can call you a friend?  Do you share your smile or keep it to yourself?  Do you ignore others that you think are different, have nothing in common with you, or can't help you climb the ladder of success?  

We are programmed from birth to respond to the human face.  Because of this, portraits are powerful tools to make someone feel special, but also to vent our frustrations on, to throw darts at.  What?!  Yes, our face is the symbol of everything about us that people like or don't like; that's what they remember when they see our face.   My favorite portraits go beyond the physical likeness to capture the essence of a person's spirit, imbuing their image with character.  Sometimes those portraits are cartoons, aka caricatures! (Right, John Victor?!)   

I've been doing quick portrait sketches with Prismacolor watercolor pencils.   This sketch is of "The Sodbusters" with my friend John Victor on the harp, and his friends Dan Daly on mandolin, and Mark Lewis on bass playing at PIke Lake's Bluegrass Festival in June.  I've also been doing portraits in assisted living centers and alzheimer's units.  Doing someone's portrait draws them in to you (literally!) and is an excellent tool for stimulating the brain and the "heart". 

"You just call on me brother, when you need a hand (Chorus)
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on"

My friend, Kathy Groves Fowler, knew how much a hand up could make a difference in others lives, and started "Project UpLift!" in 1999, ten years before she died.  She invited me to work with her on this grant-funded program with an "outside the box" approach to achieving self-sufficiency for people and families who just couldn't seem to find a way out of poverty.  Chronic medical problems, Illness, lack of education, physical and mental handicaps, family dysfunction, addictions - just some of the mountains beyond their ability to control, alone.           Friendship:  Lean On Me (taking phone pics in the park)

Kathy believed we can all use a hand up, not a hand out.  A hand up shows respect and is a tool that makes a difference. Have you ever noticed that when you offer your hand to someone that it's natural not to let go until they are eye-level with you?  If you did they would fall back!  Although "Project UpLift!" was a temporary grant-funded program, Kathy's ideas and the program's actions took root and are still making a difference today.

"If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me"

"There but for the grace of God, go I" was one of my friend Kathy's favorite sayings.  And it is so true.  In a lightning flash, our lives can change, and we are at the bottom of the mountain, the dark side of the moon, or behind the eight ball. Yet, in that same instant, we can make the decision to do something for another person and act on it.  One second.  Why do we hesitate?   

It doesn't look any different from the bottom of the well no matter who's looking up.
Who do you call?  Who do you lean on when you need a helping hand?    

We need Community.  Be the Community.  What's the easiest way to plug yourself in?  Through the people you know, you'll find a way.  Maybe your the Church.  Maybe your local a Volunteer.  Or maybe through the United Way!

The Annual United Way of Ross County Campaign kicks off this Sunday, Sept. 27, with the 4th Annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest as the highlight of Community Day in Yoctangee Park All artists are invited, all ages, amateur (that includes people who think they can't draw stick-people) to professional (that includes people who get paid for doing art even if it isn't 40 hours a week) to join in the spirit of fun and community by drawing in a 5x5 foot square.  Only $5 a square and you get a 20-pc box of Crayola sidewalk chalk (you can bring your own too).  Start drawing at 11 am, get a certificate or prize awarded at 5 pm, with a special prize going to the best "LIVE UNITED" themed entry.  Enter as a team, group, or go solo.  Entry Form: 

Our United Way makes a difference: 

How will you make a difference today?


Illustrations:  Prismacolor watercolor pencils on Strathmore smooth bristol 100 lb, 9" x 7", Ellen Doerres © 2009
Photo:  Pat Sims and Me, taken by my sister, Celia Doerres Smith © 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Promise of Change

As promised, here is my painting done "by the light of the moon."  As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, even the moon rises, changing my view as I paint - will nothing  stay the same, even for a little while?! The moon and the rise and fall of tides across the globe - the ebb and flow of water mimics the ebb and flow of themes throughout our lives, each day, every day.  Some things are the same, but yet, somehow they are always different.

Sometimes I am not always sure of what is real...I see double.  There are two sides to every story.  I value Honesty and Truth.  That means that we have to take the good with the bad in the tides of life.  How can we do that without being overwhelmed by the negative?

Celebrate life in it's entirety.  Focus on the good, learn from the rest, accept it for what it is, and move on.  The moon is beautiful but it has to surrender to the sun, sharing the sky for a brief luminous passing of power, and then the sun must also set to allow the moon to shine.  Tender-sweet moments co-exist with harsh brutality. 

Make a promise to yourself:  Focus on the good, today.  My son's grandfather passed away yesterday after a long illness.  For my soon to be 15-year-old, it was a harsh reality that he witnessed, and heightened new emotions overwhelmed him.  The toughness of his grandfather's character persisted even to the last moment, and it is my hope that the memory of his grandfather's strength is what my son chooses to carry with him for inspiration in the dark; for none of us are perfect, even the ones we love most are simply human after all.

RAOK - Random Acts of Kindness, also include yourself!


Illustration:  Seeing Double, watercolor-ink-graphite on paper-vellum, 8" x 10", Ellen Doerres © 2009(art journal page)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Predictability and Controllability of Life Events

This is the view from my studio, looking out the bay window at the historic Phoenix Firehouse Tower in downtown Chillicothe. I love the evening sky, in fact I love the sky at any time of day and no matter the weather! It's also a great place to watch the moon, which goes for a ride arcing over the tower as it rises.

Have you ever tried painting or drawing in the dark? It's like drawing blindfolded, except I can see the object I'm trying to draw, even if I can't see what kind of marks I'm making!

Sometimes we go through life with blinders on, or feel blindsided - the reality is that we are missing something. How do we improve our peripheral vision of reality? Try drawing in the dark, or without looking at the paper. See what happens. It forces you to think more about what you are seeing, what you can't see, and what your hand is doing, using sensations we normally don't pay attention to.

I have to admit - I was both blindsided and blind to the obvious recently, much to my dismay. Being blind is a disadvantage, and I can hardly take solace in the fact that I was helping someone in the process, because it was at my expense. But what if I hurt someone without intending to, because of my blindness? I would surely hope to be able to make amends. How do we overcome blindness? I don't like being in the dark, feeling lost, like a night traveler without a moon to cast any light on the path.

That's what life without faith is like. There's no way we can possibly see and know everything. We have to have faith. And so I will paint in the dark, and look for the light.

I will post my paintings by the light of the moon...soon!


Illustration:  "Studio View", Photo by Ellen Doerres © 2009.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Express Yourself!

Freedom to play, to create whatever I want, no pressure to produce a masterpiece! But then, maybe my art play turns out to be a happy accident and I like it in spite of my lack of serious intent! Isn't that what art is supposed to be? F-U-N !!!

The ink splashes above were just play, to see what would happen, and I turned the wet paper this way and that, letting the ink roll and drip, spread and seep into the next color, some of it I flung on, dropped on, brushed on. You may not be able to tell but some of the ink is metallic. The paper is from my journal, 100% recycled cotton. If you click on the picture, it will give you a closeup so you can see it in more detail.

At the very least, I can cut it up and make thank you cards out of it - a very good thing, if you ask me! And the scraps can be used to collage into something else...and so on, and so on...

Personal expression makes it unique.  Right now another page from my journal, that I created on a whim, "Flying High" is in the Pumphouse Center for the Arts with a Third Place ribbon in the Annual Pumphouse "The Hills" Competition! What fun for a piece that was made purely for the enjoyment of the moment, with not a care or thought of how others would think about it! I made it for me. Just to document the moment.

So get out some paint, your favorite colored pencils, pens, and ink, and whatever else you feel like - start playing! Then sit back and see what kind of "pictures" you can see in your freeform patterns. Try making those stand out, go back and work them in some more. 

Play - the power of free expression - is what gets the healing process of art going.


Illustration:  "Birthday Suite", 12 x 14.  Ink and watercolor on 100% cotton recycled paper.  Ellen Doerres © 2009.

Friday, July 3, 2009

In Progress

OK, I'm not ashamed to show my work in progress, after all, it's not finished!  Here's one of my first trials with watercolor pencils. This is a rough pic of an experimental piece patterned off a rug! It reminded me of Piet Mondrian's work, but I used a color scheme separate from the rug and Mondrian. I chose the Prismacolor brand because I already love the waxy paint-like qualities of regular Prismacolor colored pencils.

The paneled grid reminded me of homes in the Far East, and the corn resembled bamboo.  This pic shows the first drawing, water wash, and over-drawing with Prismacolor regular colored pencils, Prismacolor Stix, Prismacolor watercolor pencils, and Conte Crayon pencil pastels in the upper left corner, as well as an irridescent wash in some areas to create a heat-mirage effect. At this point, I thought the piece was done. I was thinking "Prairie Heat" with the hot sun beating down on fields with grasshoppers and butterflies.

I've done more work on this since, adding a layer of Dura-Lar Mylar, colored inks, and Chinese characters. "Fertile Fields" will be on display July 7-Aug 2 at the Pumphouse for the
"The Hills" annual competition and exhibition. The opening reception is Thursday, July 7, 6-8 pm with a feast provided by the Farmer's Market - WOW! (Update: this piece was awarded an Honorable Mention in Mixed Media at the 29th Annual Foothills Art Festival at Canter's Cave near Jackson, OH!) 

Here's to experimenting and the joy of discovery!!!


Illustration:  "Fertile Fields", watercolor pencil, ink, colored pencil, watercolor, oil pastels, conte crayon, on mylar and 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, 9" x 11".  Ellen Doerres © 2009.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Now, where was I ???

Pleasantly sidetracked! I've been keeping busy with art and working towards completion of my degree in Art Therapy.  One of the things I really enjoyed doing over the last few months was being a guest artist for two Sensory Serenade live art shows. Organized by poet-musician Rick Barnes and artist-musician John Victor, the shows were in November and April at Schlegel's Coffee House, just around the corner from my studio.

That's me putting the melting butter on a stack of pancakes I was inspired to create by Rick's humorous "Prayer of a Hungry Child" poem. I used prismacolor pencils on pastel paper, and attached a Dura-Lar Mylar overlay that I painted with opaque watercolors and archival ink. 

The finished piece, "More Pancakes!" was 23x23 and sold at silent auction at the end of a wonderful evening of musical performance and poetry reading (and lots of laughs) to Schlegels' owners, Greg and Liz Corzine (they have four hungry children who enjoyed a memorable pancake breakfast made by Dad just the morning before the show!). Liz makes fantastic sweet desserts (she's famous for her tasty puffcorn!) and put on a fabulous gourmet dessert and coffee buffet for the showgoers. 

You can see John Victor's awesome artwork just to the left of my head, but you can get a much better view on his website:, designed by his wife Melissa ( 

We were fortunate to have world-traveled photographer Rob Gough document the November show, he was back visiting his hometown and family for Thanksgiving. Rob gets the credit for the shot above.

Coming up: several free-lance jobs for portrait parties, collaborative art, private commissions, facilitating a creative writing group at an assisted living center, organizing the CAL exhibit for Berger Hospital's ArtsaRound Gallery in July, putting final touches on work for exhibitions and shows this summer and fall, and taking on art students for fun summer art sessions a la my serendipitous style! 

Who knows, maybe you will be the next person I draw or you'll join me for a creative adventure in art!?

~ ellen.

Photo by Rob Gough © 2009.  Ellen Doerres creating "More Pancakes!" during the Sensory Serenade at Schegel's Coffee House, Chillicothe, OH.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let Your SPIRIT Soar!!!

What do you love to do? Draw and paint and create, like I do? Do you love sports, the outdoors, music, making others smile, writing, cooking, building & fixing things, your pets, yoga? Whatever it is that takes you to another place, that removes stress and tension (without harming yourself or others), please find time to practice your gift.  

Ask yourself, "What do I enjoy doing?" That is your PATH. JUST DO IT.  Don't deny your natural abilities, you were blessed with them for a purpose. So what if you don't think you're perfect, or good enough, or think you don't have any special talents.  

When your spirit soars, that's a CLUE to your GIFT.  Yes, it's a GIFT. Each of us is special and unique, and has special talents that we naturally enjoy using. That's our natural high, our natural stress-reliever, our way to connect with that special purpose each of us was created for.  

By letting your SPIRIT SOAR, you are living the life you were meant to have. Why shortchange yourself?  Follow your heart, share your enthusiasm, and let your spirit soar!!!

"Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art." ~Leonardo da Vinci

Got SPIRIT?! GET IT!!! ~ellen.

Illustration:  "The Road You're On", crayon and marker on paper, 8" x 10".  Ellen Doerres © 1983.