City girl Ellen Weinstein was born and raised in New York City. Her illustrations reflect the city’s energy with an imaginative point of view and energy. Ellen’s style sometimes has a social commentary slant, humor or both, making it thought-provoking and fun. Altpick had the pleasure of speaking with Ellen about her work, teaching and the upcoming ICON conference.
Altpick :: Recently you went to Italy to teach, tell us a little bit about your experience with the Italian culture, food and students.
Ellen Weinstein: Italy, of course is a fantastic place to visit and be immersed in great art and food. I greatly enjoy the experience of working with artists from different cultures and experiencing that the language of pictures is universal.
AP : Congratulations with your position as President of ICON8. It must be very exciting and I imagine a tremendous amount of responsibility. Can you share the theme for next year’s event?
EW: The Illustration Conference is shaping up to be very exciting. We have had a great launch and there are many announcements to share in the months ahead. Serving on the board of ICON is a tremendous responsibility, not just for me, but also for the entire board and our Director, Mark Heflin. We are all busy with our own work, teaching, and families but make time to create a conference worthy of our attendees. The theme for ICON8 is Work + Play and Portland, Oregon is the perfect location for it.
AP: As an artist and teacher, what are your thoughts on the contemporary illustration?
EW: Illustration feels much more spread out in different markets and genres rather than a one size fits all scenarios. I think students understand that they will need to pitch and develop their own projects as well as pursue commissions to make a living as an illustrator. It’s possible to be very well-known in a certain niche and completely unknown to people who work in another. That reality is both liberating and disconcerting.
AP: There’s always a person that acts or is a mentor in someone’s life. Who was yours?
EW: I was fortunate to have several, Milton Glaser, whose studio I interned in as a student was an enormous influence as an artist, educator and mentor. Through Milton, I met Henry Wolf, the renowned Art Director and photographer whom I worked for almost two years after graduating Pratt. Every day in their studios was a master class in visual thinking. Frances Jetter, who I met through taking her class at SVA, was a very big influence on my work as a young illustrator and very generous with her time and advice.
AP: Which time period in art do you appreciate the most?
EW: That is a difficult question for me; there are works from almost every time period that I appreciate including writing and film along with visual art.
AP: New York City has always been a haven for artists and an inspiration to create. How do you feel about the gentrification of almost all of the old neighborhoods in the city? The old vibe of the Lower Eastside and Little Italy hardly exist anymore.
EW: Like any other change, the shifts seem subtle when you are living it every day. If I had been away from New York for a couple of years, I would feel like Charlton Heston in the ending of Planet of the Apes walking around my neighborhood. I miss independent bookstores or bookstores of any kind and non-chain coffee shops. I guess the one upside is I no longer have to run home in the middle of the street because it is safer than the sidewalks.
AP: Your work is always fresh and out of the box! How do you stay inspired?
EW: Thanks for that comment, Maria. I had a dear friend, a swimming coach who would say, “you’re either getting better or getting worse, time doesn’t stand still and neither do we.” I think that holds true for everything, especially work. I can only hope to keep learning and remain excited about what I’m making.
Thank you Ellen!