A chat with Ellen Million

A chat with Ellen Million

Ellen Million has been creating art and putting together books since she was just four years old! Her love of fantasy and science fiction shows in her art and her writing, countered by a practical side which led her to major in mechanical engineering, with a focus on aerospace. (Yep! She’s a rocket scientist!) When she isn’t coding or drafting, she’s nose-deep in multiple projects involving her art or her writing.

Ellen was one of the first artists to send me books to review for AdultColoringBooks.com, and working with her has been a pleasure. She has been publishing coloring books for adults since the 1990’s through Ellen Million Graphics, featuring her own work and well as that of other fantasy artists. Her first coloring book for grown­ups was a collaborative coloring book called Sword and Sorcery, published in 1997. Since then, she’s published more than 30 coloring books! I was able to chat with Ellen through email to ask her about her work and her art.

Color On!: How long have your been drawing?

Self portrait from the back cover of Muff the Kitten.

Ellen: I have artwork on my webpage dating back to 1980. It is not GOOD artwork, mind you. The oldest is a book called ‘Muff the Kitten,’ which I drew in crayon and bound with scotch tape when I was four or five. I have improved a bit since then…

Color On!: What inspired you to start creating art for coloring books?

Ellen: I started doing illustrations for small press ‘zines, and at that time, they were usually xeroxed. Color copies were comparatively expensive, so publishers requested black and white work only; this medium has remained my favorite. In sharing a finished piece with a friend, they confessed that they would love to color something like that. The idea of a coloring book for people who wanted complicated, interesting artwork to color did not take long to develop from there, and I’ve been creating them ever since.

Color On!: Do you work entirely digitally, or do you prefer pen and paper when creating?   

Ellen: I love traditional work, and do very little digitally. Micron Pigma pens are my favorite – I use the very tiny 005 size the most.

Color On!: Do you make/sell other kinds of art?

Ellen: I do a little painting with acrylics, some with colored pencils, and I’ve recently dabbled my toes in Copic markers. Tiny abstract paintings on canvas are one of my de-stressors, and I love doing character portraits.

Color On!: When coloring your own art, what is your favorite medium?

Ellen: I would have said Prismacolor pencils until a few months ago, but have fallen in love with Copic markers.

Color On!: What color or colors do you most love to work with?

Ellen: I find my pallet tends to lean towards blues and greens – probably because I am doing nature scenes a great deal.

Color On!: Tell us a little bit about your art. Do you have a favorite piece that you created?

261_journeyfinalweb-ellen-millionEllen: Journey is one of my favorite pieces – it is also the largest and most complicated piece I have done. [Editor’s note: Click on the image to see a larger version online.]

Color On!: Other than creating coloring book art, what interesting hobbies or activities do you enjoy?

Ellen: I love going for walks in the woods with my daughter, who is three, and my big dog, Norway. I also write short fiction, and build worlds that I share with other people. Torn World is my shared science fantasy sandbox, and I enjoy creating in this world and letting other people play in it, too.

Torn World was a project that I started working on personally in 1997, and opened to the public in January, 2010. I expanded it as a shared world sandbox, where artists and writers could come and help develop and create. The world has no magic, per se, but does have very peculiar temporal properties and dangers that aren’t fully understood, that appear like magic. In the north is a culture of snow­unicorn riders that have been isolated from the rest of the world for some time, and in the south is a great empire rediscovering time technology. The setting has flavors of steampunk and high fantasy, and we’ve got some really talented writers and artists contributing!

Art from Torn World, by Deirdre M. Murphy and Ellen Million. Click on image to see larger version online.

One of the sub­projects of Torn World was a ‘creative jam’ called a Muse Fusion, where we collect and give prompts set in the shared world, and then we would write and draw whatever we were inspired by, for a weekend of collaborative fun. This idea took root, and blossomed into the first Sketch Fest in March of 2010. People (artists or not!) can leave prompts of any type, and artists (of any media and skill level!) can pick prompts they like and try to draw something for them. They could pick one or more prompts, play for just an hour or two, or jump in for the whole window (12 hours at first, but it’s 48 hours now) ­ the only restriction is that they had to share their work after one hour. They didn’t have to work that full hour ­ a quick gesture sketch or scribble was fun, too, but they couldn’t spend MORE than an hour on any piece before sharing it.

Color On!: Have you had any memorable responses to your art work from collectors?

Ellen: Honestly, every comment and email of thanks that I get is my favorite. Each one leaves me smiling and wanting to do more to share.

Color On!: Who is your favorite artist?

Ellen: Arthur Rackham is probably my favorite, if I had to pick only one.

Color On!: If you had to choose one superpower, what would it be?

Ellen: I would like the ability to teleport. It would be very nice to take vacations in warm places without traveling several days to get to them.

Color On!: Is there some person, place or thing that inspires you when you are creating your art?

Ellen: I grew up in Alaska, and we did a lot of traveling around the state. The mountains and forests that I played in are often reflected in the work that I create.

Color On!: Tell us a bit more about some of your art-related businesses.

portrait-adoptionEllen: In 2004, I started Portrait Adoption, a place for artists to offer their character portraits for exclusive ‘adoption.’ Writers and role­players can pick from pre­existing portraits, or submit descriptions for our artists to draw. It bypasses a lot of the hassles of commissioning artwork, and gives random portraits (that would otherwise just languish in an artist’s portfolio) a place to come alive.

In 2006, I published EMG­Zine, an e­zine for fantasy artists and writers. This on­line magazine ran for seven years, never missing an issue, (though one was a day late because I didn’t have power!) Each one had columns and articles on creative and business topics, plus tutorials and a gallery of themed artwork and fiction. The archives are still available and fully searchable, and are a valuable resource for new and intermediate artists and writers. There are three gorgeous printed anthologies available covering the first three years of material.

The business ­ and all my projects ­ have grown organically. I love to be involved in the artists community and help my fellow creators, and I am constantly working on ways to make things easier (and more inspiring!) as a working artist. I am a one -woman shop, still ­ no assistants (and more crippling, no daycare! It’s a miracle I get anything done!) or out­sourcing. I do my own marketing, publishing, printing, finances, design, and ­ as often as I can! ­ my own artwork.

You can learn more about Ellen through her various websites.

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