Black Art: Ted Ellis
Ted Ellis is a prolific painter with a lot on his mind and a lot to say. In late November, he held an art show in Washington, D.C. at the home of Phinis Jones, a southeast resident and ardent art collector. Mr. Ellis’ show brought out longtime supporters from across the D.C. area, Maryland and Virginia.
He considers himself a creative historian and his artwork depicts and celebrates African-American culture and history. He believes artists are important to society because we dare to dream; and have the ability to heal and give hope.
He’s coined “Tedism” to describe his art style — a blend of folk, impressionism, and soul. He believes doing art is his divine purpose and he feels good things come your way when you are following your passion.
His love for the arts is rooted in the rich culture of New Orleans where expressing your creativity is firmly entrenched in the culture. As a child he loved sketching, doodling, and tracing his favorite comic strips characters. And, he and his friends spent their spare time competing with one another to draw the best designs.
He says New Orleans was like an incubator nurturing young talent. There were opportunities to participate in art clubs, design murals for school, and create signs for special events. Ted took art classes, participated in summer art programs, and frequently visited Jackson Square to watch and talk to local artists who were there creating their art in various mediums. Doing art was fun and feeling supported by his community fostered his development.
Taking his art to market as a medium of exchange has been a driving force throughout his career. Ted’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited in high school when he and his classmates sold their custom designed t-shirts to the juniors and seniors at their high school and eventually branched out to sell them throughout their district.
Ted is a shrewd, businessman who’s making his passion for art, work for him. He’s been a full-time working artist for twenty years and working without a safety net pushes him to find ways to expose his art to the masses. He goes on fact-finding missions to find support. This may take him to art festivals, conventions, reunions, libraries, or the neighborhood beauty and barbershops. He explains if an artist doesn’t have academic connections then they must find other venues to sustain themselves; and creating awareness and value for your art starts in your community.
In 1991, Ted founded T. Ellis Art, Incorporated and since then he has been on the leading edge of fine art publishing and products. He’s sold over 1,750,000 fine art products nationwide through direct sales, to galleries, catalog outlets, fine art dealers, and licensing. He’s developed partnership opportunities to educate and empower communities by offering maximum returns on minimal investments.
Ted has established affiliations with major corporations including Walt Disney Studios, Minute Maid, Coca Cola, Marathon Oil, Exxon Mobile, State Farm, Merck Pharmaceutical, JC Penney, Southland Corporation, and Avon Products, Inc.
He believes African-American artists have some major climbing to do to get recognized by the mainstream and financially we are lagging behind. He believes our generation of artists is the most productive and business savvy, but no one is crediting any contemporary artist, with 15-20 years under their belt, as a major influence. He doesn’t think academia is providing credibility by documenting how an artist is impacting the community, and no one is creating value by writing about contemporary artists. (He’s pleased with what Voicing Art is doing.) He wants to know where are the academic essays? Is the Schomburg documenting this generation? Where’s the data from art historians and curators?
Ted believes there are important issues to be addressed for the next generation of artists to thrive. He says, “We need to identify how to influence and impact our community and the masses.” How do we make the business model more efficient and effective? How do you get the Internet to work for you? We must understand and leverage the full impact artists are making politically, socially, culturally, educationally, and economically.