James Ellison

2907 Blakeman Avenue
Rowland Heights, California 91748-4812


Email: eliartist@yahoo.com


I was born in Chicago on September 24, 1948, to Olaf and Marguerite Ellison and raised in York Township near Downers Grove, Illinois. In the spring before I turned five a missionary brought in fruit from Africa containing the larva of the Teatsy fly which carries the disease Encephalitis Lethargica, Sleeping Sickness. I, along with over fifty other children and adults, contracted this disease from the fly bites, of which about a dozen survived and only a few were functional. My fever rose to the point that my brain was wiped clean. The doctors gave my parents little hope, saying I would be severely retarded. My parents refused to accept this. When I came home from the hospital my mother began retraining me to walk, talk, use the toilet, etc. I entered kindergarten six months late. Throughout public school I had to work twice as hard as my peers to learn the same thing. The school district’s solution was to put me in “special classes” or hold me back a grade or two. My mother would not hear of this because she was determined all three of her children would go to college. To the consternation of all but a few of my teachers she demanded full inclusion for me. My mother taught me two important things; I could overcome any obstacle if I just tried hard enough and I was spared for a purpose which God would reveal.

The brain damage had been mostly to my left side that was a blessing because it left me very artistic. In first grade the teacher assigned a classroom mural about the United States. I saw a post card of the Statue of Liberty she had on her wall and proceeded to draw it on the butcher paper. The teacher, amazed by my drawing, kept after my parents for years to take me to the Art Institute of Chicago for Saturday art lessons. My parents could not afford it. So my mother would take me to the Museum of the Art Institute as often as she could. Then two incidents convinced me I wanted to be a professional artist. First, on one of the visits to the Art Museum my mother had me walk through a narrow door. To the right was a maze of dots. I asked my mother, "What is this?" She told me to turn my back on it, walk to the other side of the room and turn around. There before me, in all its splendor, was Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. I wanted to use color like him to make something appear out of nothing. The second event occurred when my Aunt Helen took me to her church where Warner Sallman was demonstrating and talking about art and faith. I saw him create the pastel painting of The Good Shepherd. I, too, wanted to inspire people with my art. I spent most of my time in the woods and fields near my home drawing and painting.

I received my B.F.A. from Eastern Michigan University, was married to Marci Schattenberg, my childhood sweetheart, and went on for my M.A. and M.F.A. at Northern Illinois University. At that time I was an abstract expressionist with a fantasy/Surrealistic twist, but the painting program there wanted me to be a Hard Edge painter, so I transferred to the Ceramics program. There I became a glaze chemist doing my paintings on the fantastic forms I created. When I came back to painting years later, this was of great benefit because I understood volume and depth in a way that most painters can not. After my M.F.A. I served as a Captain in the Army, and then Director of the Beverly Art Center, School of the Arts. During this time my two children Jennifer and Peter were born. Later I was a ceramics teacher at South Holland Community College.

While struggling to be a professional artist and teacher, I received a prophetic call from God and headed to the seminary with my wife and two children. I gave up doing art, wrongly thinking that God wanted me to deny this part of myself. I received my M.Div and pursued the ministry for twelve years until it was revealed to me that the ministry was a preparation for my call to reach people through my art. So I re-entered the art world with God at my side as a Symbolic-Realist painter.

Now I am teaching art at Nogales High School, showing my art in national and international shows and winning many awards. My work has appeared in the Manhattan Arts International Magazine and the Encyclopedia of Living Artists. Five of my paintings have been published as signed and numbered limited edition lithographs. I have copyrighted and published The Perceptual Color Corona, a revolutionary color system, based on the negative afterimage. I use this system with my students so they can get better color matches, vibrating color contrasts, and luminescent color harmonies. I have created a method of artistic interpretation and communication by combining my divinity work with cultural anthropology and Jungian psychology through the use of color, line and shape. In August of 1997, one of my paintings was in a group Exhibition at Agora Gallery in Soho, New York.


Art instructor Nogales High School, Rowland Unified School District, Rowland Heights, CA.
Visiting Artist in Hacienda La Puente and Rowland Unified School Districts
Art instructor Rowland Unified School District, Recreation Department, Rowland Heights, CA.
Director of Christian Education / Artist-in-Residence; Redeemer Lutheran Church, Rowland Heights, CA.
Pastor / Mission Developer; Holy Savior Lutheran Church, Detroit, MI.
Adult Education Calligraphy teacher; North East Iowa Community College, Peosta, IA.
Studio potter and teacher, Ceramics Dept., South Suburban Community College, South Holland, IL.
Director School of the Arts and Assistant Director, Beverly Arts Center, Chicago, IL.


Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI; Painting, ROTC, Art Education and Asian Art Hist. 1/71
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL; Ceramics, Clay & Glaze Technology, and Asian Art Hist. 1/72
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL; Ceramics, Clay and Glaze Technology, & Asian Art Hist. 8/73
Chinese brush painting and calligraphy;
Studied under Master Ho Peh Liu 77-78
Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, IA; Bible, World Religions and Evangelism. 6/84
Secondary Credential in Art;
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA; 7/96


Professional Artists of North America, The California Teachers Association, The National Art Education Association, The Smithsonian Institution and The National Audobon Society


1995-6 Sallie Mae First Class Teacher award for Rowland Unified School District


Five of my paintings are in signed and numbered limited edition lithographs.1994
The Perceptual Color Corona; a new color system developed for my color theory classes. 1994
Manhattan Arts International Magazine, Showcase Award Winner, summer issue 1996
Encyclopedia of Living Artists, November issue 1996


	National Open, Texas Visual Art Association, Irving, TX		1994	Pilgrim		   1st Hon. Ment.
	20th Annual National, Shelby Art League, Shelby, NC		1994	Guardian
	New Orleans Art Association 16th show, New Orleans, LA		1995	Fire on Water
	3rd Annual National, Carnegie Art Center, Tonawanda, NY		1995	Guardian
	ANA 24, Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT			1995	Pilgrim
	Works of the Spirit, The Masters Studio, Pasadena, CA		1996	Spiritus Creator
	Wiregrass Biennial Competion, Dothan, AL			1996 	Pilgrim
	ANA 25, Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT			1996	Spiritus Creator
	Northern National Art Competion, Rhinelander, WI		1996	Spiritus Creator
	Art Experience, Gallery 100, Cape Girardeau, MO			1996	Spiritus Creator
	Confluence, Hills County Arts Foundation, TX			1997	Spiritus Creator
	National Christian Fine Arts Exibit, Farmington, NM		1997	Spiritus Creator
	Louis-ClarkJuried Art Exibition, Lewiston, ID			1997	Spiritus Creator


	Inland Empire XXXI  San Bernardino Art Association		1994	Pilgrim		            3rd place
	ARTDEX International 						1995	Guardian	            1st place
	Sacred Arts Billy Graham Center Museum, Wheaton, IL		1996 	Spiritus Creator
	Artist Spectrum Talent Comp., New York, NY			1996 	Spiritus	Creator	       Group Show


Color Display Lazer Disc Catalog of Colorado, over 300 galleries, U.S. and Canada. Slide registry of The Master's Studio of Pasadena California


U.S. Army Res. 1971-81; Became a Captain as an Instructor in the 5th Army HQ.


As an artist, educator, and theologian I bring to my work a unique blend of aesthetics, theology, psychology and creativity. I believe that we are all created in the image of God and thus we are by nature creative beings. When God breathed the Spirit into the first human being, God breathed it into each of us. Thus there is in me and in everyone a pure child like spirit, an inner voice. I follow this voice closely for it is the Divine within me and it does not lead me astray in the creative process. As an artist, I have committed myself to the communication of this Divine presence in the world. Often we miss this because life has dulled our senses and imprisoned our spirits with the burdens of life. Thus, my paintings are a means by which ordinary people can grasp the great and the sublime.

When I begin to create individual works of art I seek out the paradox in what I have selected to be my subject. I hold this paradox in tension, not trying to solve it but to behold the unity within the diversity of all that lies before me. As I move from the creative insight towards the finished painting I seek to communicate the meaning of what I have seen in my mind's eye and in the world around me. The Essence of God is revealed to me in nature and in the human form in subtly different ways each day (Romans 1:20). I seek not to impose my will upon what I create but to draw out the fullness of its very being. I do this so that those who gaze upon the painting may experience eternity. They are one with what they see, as if they could walk into the painting and participate with me in the experience.

I am a Symbolic-realist, in that my paintings have a heightened sense of reality that includes conscious and unconscious symbolism. There are two genres in which I paint. The first is super realistic nature scenes with little or no human involvement and the second involves humans but is surrealistic. To accomplish this, I use in my paintings a combination of techniques. Like Friedrich of the Romantics, my designs are based on the symbolic use of line, shape and color. However I use Jungian Psychology to evoke specific emotions creating an impact that will cross cultural boundaries. Like the Impressionists I use many small dabs and strokes of various harmonious colors in my paintings to create the rich colors caused by retinal fusion in our eyes. To this I have added the use of complementary contrast to achieve an opalescence from the Post-Impressionist Renoir. From Cezanne I gained insight into creating unity, in form and color, except I do it within a depth of field by delineating my forms through the use of chromatic value contrast. I have combined the use of clash and discord from the modern colorists with the dynamics of Salvador Dali to charge the picture with an unearthly energy. In this process I pay attention to the slightest detail. Not one thing is of secondary importance to me as I create. Each element is to work towards the whole, the single inspired goal that I pursue with all my skill, insight, and knowledge to communicate the essence of what lies within my heart and mind.

My desire for the people who gaze upon one of my paintings is that they will be led to experience the celebration and struggle of a brother. One who is on a life long pilgrimage like them. My hope is that as they experience this they will feel a resonance between what I have created and their own joys and sorrows. The success of my painting is measured in the stirring of the spirit that is deep within them. In their receiving this beauty that is born out of strife they come to the appreciation of the worth of their souls. This inspires them to seek out new possibilities in life, as their crutches are turned into wings.

The James Ellison Collection.