One of the East Coast’s most collected artists, Ellen’s paintings are found in private homes and government and corporate collections throughout the United States and abroad. Her work has been published in national magazines, including The Smithsonian, and an Easter Egg she designed resides in the permanent collection of The White House.
The daughter of a naval officer/aeronautics engineer and granddaughter of two Navy Admirals, Ellen has lived most of her 50-some years within a few miles of the Atlantic Ocean, over 40 of them in Delaware. Today, she resides on a small peninsula a mile from the coast in a home overlooking the pastures and wetlands of the James Farm Ecological Preserve.
The ocean, the natural beauty of the region where she lives, its people and wildlife are the focus of much of her work, but by no means its limits.
Ellen gained recognition early for her insightful way of looking at and portraying the many aspects of life around her. She won her first award in the sixth grade for a Maryland safety poster she created and sold her first painting in high school to a fellow art student.
She began taking her artwork more seriously in her early 20s, when a relative to whom she had given a drawing had prints made of it and told her to go out and sell them. She told her that her work was very good and it would sell. Ellen showed the prints to a local town fair along with a handful of originals. Soon, she was showing regionally and steadily gaining a following that has continually grown ever since.
Ellen Rice painting the Delaware Easter egg for the White House's Permanent collection
Requests for commissions began coming in rapidly after that first show. She was soon doing portraits of children, dogs and horses, then illustrating newspapers and magazine covers throughout Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. “I was not sure
how to do some of the things I took on,” Ellen recalls. “But I’d stick my neck out and say, ‘Yes, I can do it,’ then get a ‘How to...’ book and learn through trial and error, working at whatever I took on until it looked and felt right to me, no matter how long it took. Fortunately, everyone was happy and I kept receiving more commissions.”
Her sideline work in the publishing field eventually led her through the back door into a 10-year career in journalism, during which she advanced from stringing as a Church Section illustrator and free-lance photographer to writing full-time and eventually becoming an editor and corporate liaison. She won more than 60 first and second place awards for writing, photography, illustrations and newspaper design from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association and Chesapeake Publishing Corporation. Her devotion to her work and volunteer endeavors in the community also garnered numerous civic awards, including the designation “Female Role Model in Journalism” by the American Federation of Women’s Clubs.
In 1994, she completed more than 10 years of research on a pet archeological/history project, then drew, painted and published her findings -- a historical map of the “Treasure Beaches of the Mid-Atlantic.” The map and a companion piece, Treasure Legends of the Mid-Atlantic, attracted tremendous national media attention and eventually led to her work being carried in more than 100 galleries throughout the country. The map was later chosen to represent the state of Delaware on QVC’s “Quest for America’s Best.” Today it can be found in homes around the world and in its fourth printing is still a steady seller.
The success of the map and resulting national and international interest enabled Ellen for the first time to devote full time to her art and inspirational writing and in April 1999 go on to open The Ellen Rice Gallery in coastal Ocean View, Delaware.
Her paintings are deemed inspirational. Those that are not of specific local scenes or portraits, done using photo references, come straight from her heart, soul, imagination and prayer. She says these often come to her as complete images in quiet times. The paintings she enjoys most are those which “just seem to emerge from the canvas, have a life of their own.” It is these which are usually the most sought after by patrons.
“I think people connect with Ellen through her paintings,” one private collector says. “There is an intangible quality to her work that people respond to. It’s not just visual. Her work is truly beautiful, but it goes deeper than that. Her paintings touch you, something within you.”
Comments the artist, “Paintings can touch a person in a way no words can ever do. It was a conscious decision to communicate through painting rather than as a journalist when I went out on my own full-time as an artist, though now I often combine both. I pray my way through every painting and the writings that go with them. I was once told I should watch what I was thinking when I painted, because that’s what people would ‘get’ when they viewed the work, that that was the most important part of any work.
“People, other artists, often ask me how I do this or do that. I can’t tell them how to do what I do, because with me it’s not so technical. My advice to artists — people in all walks of life — is to reach deeply within your own heart and soul, then employ what you find in your work. Technique only takes you so far. Great art is honest art. Genuine art resonates.”
For more information or to contact the artist, visit The Ellen Rice Gallery in Ocean View, Delaware, go to www.ellenrice.com, subscribe to the gallery's email newsletter, or email Ellen . You may also sign up for emailed notices of new originals, forthcoming prints and updates on gallery events. The Ellen Rice Gallery is open year round. Call (302) 539-3405 for hours and directions.