“I tend to draw a lot of the same things over and over,” explains Eric Ellis of his process. “Usually I will end up with a page that is a mash-up of words, phrases and simplistic graphics.” Yet the work he’s decided to show at the Coop strikes a visually elegant chord. The mash-up page of words and graphics doesn’t make the final cut here.
Ellis wears a plaid shirt and sits behind a table at the end of the room in the Coop, a West Loop studio cooperative and exhibit venue. Small sketches and drawings greet curious West Loop explorers as they walk through the door. Large prints hang precisely on sheets of white paper from an exposed brick wall. All the prints are blue and so they all defy the red brick wall. Likewise, the playful graphics grab your attention and, like one illustration of a blue pencil, they seem incapable of producing a straight line despite their measured rendering and exact execution.
Stickers that bear Ellis’s illustrations litter the table that he sits behind. Each sticker reveals what this tendency to draw and redraw is capable of producing: a delightful visual liveliness. The simplicity of Ellis’ style brings distinctive personality to even the straightest line. He could tease charm out of a semicircle.
After working with Chicago-based design shop OneDesign, one of the design collective’s members approached Ellis about a show of his own. “I believe it was at Rod Hunting’s show there [at the Coop],” Ellis explains. And then he is back at the Coop stacking chocolate strawberries and waiting for the first guests to arrive at his own opening.
The work that goes into it all emerges over time: Ellis pulls out a sheet of paper and does “thumbnail sketches, I guess you could call them if you want to be all art school about it.” When an idea is sharp enough from the outset, though, the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils never make it off their preferred perch.
“I will usually turn the radio on to NPR or music, whichever I’m in the mood for. My cat likes to sit on my finished drawings, too, which bugs me sometimes because I get little cat foot print smudges on my paper.”
Ellis works freelance for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency. It would be wild,” he says, “to see a billboard with graphics that I came up with.” (Ian Epstein)
Eric Ellis shows at The Coop, 845 W. Fulton Market, through October 20.