Living Art

Ellen Steyn with husband Peter
Ellen Steyn with husband Peter

Ellen’s love of animals is captured on canvas

Two Wells resident and accomplished artist Ellen Steyn has been painting for as long as she can remember.

“As soon as I could hold a paintbrush,” she says enthusiastically.

Her artwork can testify to this.

The subject matter and execution draws you to her canvas, unwittingly absorbing the substance and spirit of each piece.

Ellen decided to concentrate on painting animalia 10 years ago, after identifying a lack of animal artists in the local market and a flooding of scenery and landscape artists.

“I love painting the eyes, they are the soul to the animal,” she expresses.

Her love of all animals, in particular horses, can be attributed to growing up on the family farm in Victoria.

“My uncle’s horses often went missing out of the paddock….I was known for taking them out for a ride”, she recalls with a cheeky grin.

Combining a natural kinship with all creatures great and small, and artistic genes that run in the family (her grandmother’s artwork hangs in her hallway), it is no wonder Ellen has been able to establish herself as a reputed artist in the region.

She has exhibited her work far and wide, from galleries along the Yorke Peninsula including Moonta, and Quorn, down to Victor Harbour, Murray Bridge, Jamestown, Mannum, Clare, Kapunda, Gawler and our very own Two Wells Institute (library).

Her home serves as an impressive portfolio, each wall decorated with superb paintings from her long career.

Ellen took art at school and went on to study art at college in Bendigo.

After completing her studies she landed a position as an advertising illustrator for Myer in Bendigo, which she found fascinating as a young adult, drawing the items for each sale catalogue in black and white.

Throughout the years she offered private tuition in painting and, although not formally trained as an educator, was also employed as a specialist art teacher at Minlaton High School and at the local gallery there for 10 years.

It is this life-long experience and remarkable talent that holds Ellen in high esteem amongst her art community peers.

She is the treasurer of the Gawler Community Gallery and part of their Hanging Committee, which requires a certain expertise to hang each exhibit.

She is also kept busy as the Convener of the Gawler Show’s art section, which sees her responsible for organising the entries, having suitable judges, acquiring sponsorship and awards, and again being a member of the Hanging Committee.

Ellen speaks and moves quickly, exuding a lovely dynamic energy, which keeps her from being idle.

It is not surprising then that she further contributes to the community by volunteering her time as the vice president of APEC, (Adelaide Plains Equestrian Club), organising trail rides and other non-competitive activities.

Only in recent years has she, and her husband Peter, slowed their involvement with the Arabian horse society. They had been breeding, breaking in and showing their horses for a number of years, with Ellen also being part of SA Arabs Inc.

Ellen and Peter moved to the Two Wells area with their now adult children, Natalie and Brett, about 30 years ago, running a large cattle farm at Salt Creek. Even though Brett has since moved to Sydney and their daughter Natalie lives in Boston USA, Ellen and Peter stayed in the area after retirement as they hold a love for the people and the atmosphere.

“Every little pocket offers something different,” Ellen explains.

“The town has grown, and the forward planning taking place is a good thing”, she adds.

Peter now drives buses for various local companies and is able to get around and see more of the area.

Since her ‘pseudo’ retirement, Ellen committed herself to painting for at least two hours every day.

She uses acrylics, which allows her to obtain depth and translucence, starting with a base coat and then layering on.

She enters various art competitions, such as the SALA (South Australian Living Art) competition and the upcoming Gawler Art Prize, and is commissioned by individuals and groups to produce requested paintings of animals and landscapes, even greeting cards.

Ellen has recently been approached by DCM deputy mayor, Mark Wasley, to paint murals on the local train signal boxes to help prevent graffiti, the unfortunate art scene of the local youth, and she is currently inviting artists to confer and assist her with this project.

Ellen has approached the council herself, after being requested by numerous local residents, to explore the possibility for a gallery in the new Two Wells development, and has been advised that there is the potential to look into it in the future, especially if more interest is registered.

For now, competitions and commissions keep her hand at the canvas, exercising a talent that has been refined over a lifetime and allows her audience an access to the beauty she finds in the milieu of the region.

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