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Staying bright and creative

Artist, author passes her love of art on to the children she teaches.

April 21, 2010|By Riley Hooper

Libby Ellis started an art program for kids in her small town in northern Illinois when she was 7 years old.

She had the kids’ parents sign permission slips, arranged with her mom to have refreshments served at break and posted a sign asking students to enter through the back door, so as to not wake her younger siblings from their naps.

On the first class, they went tramping through the backyard, collecting things from nature and doing leaf rubbings, by rubbing crayon on a piece of paper over a leaf to create an imprint. The classes continued for about two years.

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“I think there’s magic in that — early on in our lives we know who we are and what we want to be,” said Ellis, who is now an artist, author and art educator living in Montrose.

Since that first art class, Ellis’ life has maintained a constant thread of art, color and children, she said.

Ellis creates both commercial and fine art, writes and illustrates books, teaches art classes and enjoys it all equally. Her home is her studio, and art is her hobby and profession.

Her commercial art consists mostly of pieces for children — growth charts and wall art made of vibrantly colored, cheerful paper collages she has licensed to companies.

Her fine art often explores the chaos and order of nature, and, often to the surprise of people who have only seen her commercial work, she does not usually use the color pink, she said.

Ellis has written about 15 books, and illustrated about 10 of those. Her book “Buenos Dias Baby!” won the Top 10 Best Books for Babies Award in 2005 from the literacy outreach program Beginning with Books.

For about five years, Ellis has taught many art classes to students ages 6 to 16 in schools throughout the district.

She also started a summer art camp, which will be in its fourth year this summer.

At Rosemont, Ellis teaches after school in the classroom of science teacher Krista McMillin.

“She has a sparkly personality,” McMillin said. “She relates really well to kids.”

In art class Ellis aims to give students confidence and encourages them to reinvent projects with their own ideas, she said.

“They ask, ‘Can I make it a purple banana?’ and I say, ‘Of course. Why wouldn’t you make it a purple banana?’” Ellis said. “I really like to feed the imagination.”

Holly Russell,one of Ellis’ past students, said the art teacher was always open to ideas.

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