Member Spotlight

Ellen Becker

I recommitted myself to painting, and specifically to watercolor, in August of 2020, as the pandemic impacted all our lives. I had painted in acrylics on and off  and took  some classes at community colleges in the Bay Area, but my creativity chiefly had been expressed through my work as a psychoanalyst, raising our son, in our garden, and through cooking.

I am still engaged in my professional life as a Jungian psychoanalyst through consultation with analytic candidates and developing psychotherapists and through teaching how to work with dreams in multifaceted ways to help uncover the self.

Living in this technological age – with access to the internet, zoom, and YouTube  – brought many teachers into my home during the last 3 plus years. I blessedly found Susan Chiang in 2021 – I still remember her small accordion watercolor book of wisteria and her beginning watercolor classes. She made exploring watercolors very accessible and fun.

Watercolor drew me in. The interplay of the paint, water, time, types of paper, salt, cling film, brushes all brought me growth and playfulness.

I love nature: the flora, trees, and the ocean. Point Reyes national seashore, an hour’s drive away, infuses my psyche and inspires my creativity.

I love color. Noticing what color palettes draw me in is fascinating – is it seasonal, inspired by nature, by my and other people’s photographs, by classes,  by the work of Chagall, Remedios Varo, and other artists? I’ve begun to unpack and understand more about the color wheel – the interplay of the primary, secondary and tertiary colors has been a growing edge. And learning about the combining of colors to make rich color not straight from the tube has been fascinating – mixing my own greens from various combination of cool and warm blues and cool and warm yellows with neutral tint,  Payne’s grey, sepia, and burnt and raw umber and sienna is wondrous. Wondrous.

I have been  experimenting with mark making using twigs I’ve found on our hikes, the back tip of brushes, old credit cards and my Dad’s palette knives. It’s been fun to utilize his old painting equipment in new ways.

With 20/20 hindsight, it makes sense that I would be drawn to a medium that is a dance between control/mastery and flow/not knowing/letting go/lack of control. Which is not the same as a lack of agency. That mystery, that dance, that search for balance has informed my work as a psychoanalyst, my life, and now  my creativity and my painting. But five years ago, if you had told me watercolor was going to capture me, I wouldn’t have believed it.

A Favorite Quote:

“Art does not reproduce what you see. It makes us see.”

Paul Klee

What does painting do for you?

Painting is meditative. I seem to head towards semi-abstract and abstract landscapes and yet, there is some draw to bringing in realistic aspects from nature. I paint from my own photographs and from my intuition and from the interplay of the water, paint, and paper. Making art brings calm, peace, flow, exploration, delight, frustration, excitement, a sense of play, and a sense of my capacity to grow and learn.

“A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked… I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.”

— Helen Frankenthaler

How does community play a role in your creative practice?

The Paint With Me community brings a sense of connection, growing friendships, a compassionate, supportive learning environment and levels and levels of learning. I was not on social media before 2020 so it’s been wondrous to delve into the social networks and the social capital of fellow artists supporting and celebrating each other.

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supply recommendations:

Paper: Arches Cold Press Blocks. Saunders Waterford Cold Press. 

Watercolor Journals: I love the Saunders Waterford cold pressed jumbo watercolor sketchbook from Jacksons art supply in England. 

Etchr watercolor journals are pricey but hold water well without buckling. They come in 3 great sizes. 

Brushes: Silver Brush Black Velvet Brushes were worth the splurge. Both rounds and flats and riggers.  

Rafael Softaqua size 6 and Da Vinci Casaneo size 4 mop brushes are BIG. Hold a lot of water and paint. They were recommended by Maria Wigge in a series of classes. A new experience. Still exploring how to use them effectively.

Watercolor: I primarily use Daniel Smith watercolor – rich and saturated color.  Quinacridone Gold, Indanthone Blue and New Gamboge are favorites right now. I love DS granulating colors including Bloodstone Genuine and Blue Apatite. Thanks to Susan and Vanesa, I’ve delved into Mission Gold and their Sepia is beautiful. Case for Making in San Francisco is a woman owned business with wondrous handmade colors.

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Who are your favorite artists?

Remedios Varo, Tula Telfair, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Tom Thomson, Fidelia Bridges, Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Brian Rutenberg.

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Other (Creative) Outlets:

Gardening, photography, hiking, reading, cooking, gathering with friends and family.

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Geographic location:

Bay Area, Northern California

Selected Artwork

See more of Ellen’s work in the gallery below – click to view full images

She loved the happy accidents – the way watercolors continually remind you that you aren’t in control.”  

— Melissa Carroll

Everyone is an Artist.