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Life & Work with Dorothy Ellen Designs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dorothy Ellen Designs .

Hi Dorothy Ellen Designs, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My name is Dorothy Ellen, a good ol’ Southern double name that I once hated growing up but have since embraced now as my artist identity. I’m a TN native and have been creating for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I thought it was normal to love to create. In Kindergarten, everyone brought crayons, glue, and scissors to school because it was required, but even in middle school, I was still bringing art supplies with me! That’s when I realized that not everyone loves creating as I did, and I began developing my identity around being a creative person.

It’s funny to me now that I had no clue what I wanted to pursue once I got to college. After trying a few different paths that were clear “no” s, I tried an introductory class to Graphic Design. Going to this class felt like stepping into Kindergarten with my art supplies again, which started the momentum to become an Art Major. Even though I had never thought of Art as an option, it was undeniable, I was meant to create and owed it to myself to pursue Art. I graduated from Union University in 2010 with a B.A. in Art, an emphasis in Graphic Design, a secondary focus in Photography, and a minor in Film Studies. In my last semester of school, I studied in L.A. at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, and once I graduated, I moved to Nashville, where the dream was to become a freelance designer.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

As a creative, things have to be going fairly well in my personal life for creativity to thrive. There was a season of life from 2012-2016 where I wouldn’t exactly say things were “going well.” I was in an unhealthy relationship, and as a result, my art was non-existent. Even with a BA in Art, I had no interest in pursuing design jobs. Instead, I waited tables here in Nashville. That season, as painful as it was, I don’t regret. I probably learned one of my best life lessons to date: how to summon my courage. I slowly but surely gained the confidence to leave that relationship. Once I overcame that personal challenge, I knew I was capable of applying that newfound courage to other aspects of my life as well. It didn’t happen overnight, by any means, but I suddenly had a drive that was lacking before to create my future. Like water is to a plant, it’s amazing what life courage can give art.

2017 is when I finally started to discover myself as an artist again and I bought my first set of paints. At first, staring at the blank canvas was incredibly intimidating and daunting, but I told myself something that still rings true today: only create what I enjoy and have fun. As a graphic designer, it was hard to paint without the safety net of an “undo” button, but courage helped me learn to take risks, embrace my mistakes and keep honing in on what makes me happy.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?

I know a specific trait about myself that drives my art stronger than any other force: the desire to be unique. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, I’m a textbook 4 in that regard! I don’t only love to be unique. It’s a necessity for me. I like seeing things differently and taking different interpretations. Making people say, “huh, that’s interesting!”, is one of the highest compliments in my book!

In my art, that manifests itself as trying to depict a feeling. Specifically, the feeling you get when you stare at a breathtaking view for the first time. For example, experiencing a Sunrise’s beams burst over a mountain range in the distance and bounce off a sparkling lake below. A moment like that can burn itself into your memory, and I try to recreate not the literal scene but the feelings that come at a moment like that. My work is abstract for this reason, so that the shapes that dance around the canvas can represent a feeling and are open to interpretation. Some people have seen clouds, birds, shimmers of light, airplanes, and even cows! I LOVE that my work is sparking someone else’s imagination. To me, that is what my art is all about– having fun and an exercise in creativity not just for myself as the artist, but for the viewer too!

In a literal sense of what sets me apart, I knew I wanted to incorporate light into my pieces somehow. I developed a technique of spot pouring and manipulating resin into shapes and strokes. I call it “painting with light”. The shiny pools make the piece interactive and change throughout the day depending on the lighting in the room.

Because of my fun and bright style, I’m finding that a lot of my work is popular with kids and young parents for nurseries, which is such an honor and 100% affirms the goal of creating something fun and imaginative. I guess you could say I make art exclusively for kids, but not just 5-year-olds… for the 55+-year-olds as well. My target audience is the inner child (no matter how old you are) and feeling that sense of wonder and imagination again.

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
When I think of my childhood, I immediately picture my brother, sister, and myself during the Summer months. Our imaginations ruled the day and gave us endless adventures to go on. We just played. All-day. Every day. We especially loved world-building. Cities built out of books for our toys, “Davy Crockett Land,” which was simply a cluster of rocks and trees outside, and “Dog Town,” where we were business people– but in dog form. I see now even in my art, where I’m still creating worlds and just playing, and I know now that’s something I’ll never grow out of.


  • $175-$750

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Nani Williams

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