Painter Ken Elliott Knows That Rewards Come With Risk

You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

“Wishes come true,” says artist Ken Elliott of his slow migration from Texas to Colorado. What's not to love about the state he now calls home? “Four seasons and no bugs and wild summers in a little-big town,” Elliott points out. And for an artist, Colorado also offers a sense of place that has inspired most of his colorful oil landscapes.

“I do a lot of trees, a lot of sky, and I’m bringing in more water,” Elliott says about elements that allow him to bring in the color that gives his large-scale paintings such vitality. “The landscapes are really just an excuse to do whatever you want to do with color," he explains. "You can be low-key or outrageous, poetic or shocking. What I’m really trying to do is thrill myself.”

He does that working primarily in oils. “You have to work more to get the color you want,” he says, and that's a challenge Elliott appreciates: “There’s some mixing involved, and also if you’re working it right, there’s more risk involved — but you can use accidents.” 

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Having expert teachers has helped him learn how to use those accidents. “I was fortunate enough to get to study with Wolf Kahn for a month,” Elliott says. “I’ve been fortunate to have the best mentors in a lot of different fields.”

Elliott says his painting gets better with every canvas because “I’m going to take it further than I’m comfortable with.” He’s been painting since the late 1960s, and he isn’t afraid to admit that he’s still honing his craft, learning as he goes.

Elliott works with pastels, too, and has done etching and collage work. “All of these mediums have helped me to become a better artist who is willing to take more risks,” he says. "“Pastels are essentially chalk, and they are already mixed. You pick up what you want, and then you layer. They can be lovely, and very powerful.”

As for collage, “You get exactly what you want since the lines are already there," Elliott continues. "When painting, I have an idea in my head, and then I have to get it to travel down my arm and onto the stick and out of this gloopy glob of paint.”

“I’m doing large formal landscapes in the tradition of contemporary American painters," he continues. "I’m trying to get over the bar and then raise it and jump over it again."

Elliott started showing his work in 1990 and has been represented by over a dozen galleries, including Mirada Fine Arts Gallery; his work can be found around town in local businesses, hospitals, hotels and event centers. Earlier this year, Elliott had a solo retrospective at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events (PACE) Center, and several large reproductions of Elliott’s landscapes are currently hanging in the main terminal of Denver International Airport as part of the semi-permanent group show Here to There. For more information on his work, visit Ken Elliott's website

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