Blending painterly elements with photography

“When I see people moving up real close to have a look at my work, just to see if it’s a photograph or a painting… honestly, I just love it!”, says fine art photographer, Ellen McDermott.

“I love the fact that they don’t know what it is,” she tells The Weekly Flickr in the accompanying video. “It just makes me feel good that I’m doing something that they haven’t seen before.”

Ellen, from Wicklow, Ireland, began her career as an oil painter, often using photography as an aid. Over time, her passion for photography grew and eventually took over her artistic interests. Putting away her oil paints, Ellen developed a new aesthetic that was best suited for digital photography. Her images evolved to become beautiful photo portraits, set against a serene Irish landscape with painted finishes (using Gimp and Photoshop), like The Girl With the Fish.

Anna Livia Pleurabelle

“It was just a natural progression for me to go to photography and then paint on top of it,” explains Ellen. “I’ve had oil-painting artists tell me, ‘ I’m not an artist, I’m a photographer.’ I’ve also had photographers tell me, ‘I’m not a photographer, I’m an artist.’ I would say my work is computer-generated art, which takes into consideration both photography and all that I learned through my art — painting, colors, cohesiveness of the picture and things like that. I just love it.”

Ellen’s work has been described as “enigmatic with a romantic sensibility that uses nature to explore the story of human emotion” — a theme that she’s fascinated by.

“I am interested in the juxtapositions between beauty and ugliness, pleasure and pain, freedom and the feeling of being tied down by things beyond our control,” Ellen explains. “In everything that’s peaceful, there’s something that’s sad too. It’s just a part of life, and I find it interesting. Whenever I’m feeling some sort of emotion, I like to get out there creatively in my work.”

Queen Maeve

Ellen also has an interest in capturing the innocence of children. She even uses her own four daughters as muses in her photographs.

“I think that children are just so honest and truthful,” Ellen says. “They’re like a blank canvas. Having four children is great because they like to plan out what the shoot is going to be, what props we’re going to use, etc. We do it together, and they get a great kick out of it, and I do too.”

Although Ellen’s work is contemporary and figurative, many of her pieces are in fact autobiographical and deeply personal.

the heart that never sees what it loves following intuition

“I don’t necessarily tell a lot of people about my life, but I do it in my art,” Ellen explains. “I, myself, sometimes look back at my work, and I can just see the different states of my life and notice the changes. In the last couple years since my husband passed away — which was a bit of a shock — but I’ve got four lovely daughters, and now a creative outlet for all that. I find my work cathartic and healing. It’s a release, and I’m thankful for all of that.”

Ellen says photography is and will always be a part of her. Besides her children and family, it’s the best thing in her life. She hopes others, whatever circumstance in life they’re in, can find a similar passion.

“There’s always a way that we can express ourselves,” Ellen says. “I think when you bottle something up inside, when you hold a secret in, or something like that, it just always comes out in the end. I think you need to, to let it out, and this is my way of letting things out.”

Ellen’s overall style is far from settled as she continues to change and experiment. Each day, she says, she’s inspired by striving to do something she’s never done before.

“When I think about creating a work of art, it’s usually me trying to see what I can do rather than show what I can do,” Ellen explains. “I’m continuously trying to push myself to try new things, and accomplishing this challenge gives me satisfaction. I love Flickr for that very reason. There’s so much inspiration to be found there. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Visit Ellen’s photostream to see more of her photography.

Watch the video of how a 14-year-old photographer became an internet sensation with his photos of surreal miniature worlds.

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