Watercolors with Ellie

Award-winning watercolor artist Ellie Moniz states, “Subjects I gather the most inspiration from are generally ordinary buildings and cityscapes that may otherwise go overlooked. I find stark shadows exciting and it is my goal to capture these moments in time." A survey of the images of her paintings, posted in the “portfolio” section of her website (www.elliemoniz.com), confirms the artist’s fascination with light and darkness and their depiction in a range of contexts.

A resident of Huntingdon Valley, PA, Moniz holds a BA in Art from Millersville University. She has also studied at the Moore College of Art and the Fleischer Art Memorial in Philadelphia. At Millersville, Moniz took as many classes as possible with drawing and painting professor Bob Andruilli, whom she credits with   teaching her “to see shapes and colors in objects that I had never seen before.” Her painting "Two Closed Doors" recently earned Best in Show at Abington Hospital's Art in the Atrium while "Creek and Terwood" won 3rd Place at the 29th Byers' Bucks Fever Art Exhibition.

Moniz specializes in house portraits and “whimsical yet realistic paintings of cityscapes, figures, and still life images.” Although there is a consistent style of authorship throughout the portfolio, each subject is approached with careful attention to its individuality. When asked about artists who have inspired her work, Moniz notes, “Being a watercolor artist from Pennsylvania, I can't help but be influenced by Andrew Wyeth,” and fondly cites visits to Chadds Ford’s Brandywine River Museum. She also admires the work of American watercolorist Dean Mitchell, whose paintings “remind me to choose subjects that leave viewers thinking.”

“House with the Red Roof” and “Winter in Weston” are both house portraits and both cold weather scenes, but are otherwise different from each other in mood and composition. In the left half of the former is a small, stucco house, built into an embankment, below a mostly sunny sky. Much of the foreground lies in shadow. In the center of the picture, beyond the house, stands a large evergreen. The larger, more angular home in “Winter in Weston” has a cascading roofline and is set at the center of the painting. The daylight is crepuscular and much of the painting’s light emanates from the snow-covered front yard that slopes down, toward the viewer. Although both homes seem inviting, an air of reserve stems from the Weston property’s seeming isolation. Standing between fences, with a telephone pole in the yard, the “House with the Red Roof” is connected to the world.

Moniz has two daughters and pairs of girls engaged in various activities are featured in several of her paintings. Two youngsters are dying eggs in “The Golden Egg”. Mugs of each primary color, arrayed on a table, hold dyes in the foreground. The girls’ rapt attention focuses the viewer on the golden egg that the elder is lifting on a spoon from a fourth, green mug. The other secondary colors are depicted in the orange stripes of a chair back and the senior girl’s purple chemise. White eggs ready to be dyed and the girls’ black hair complete the palette. The girls appear to approach egg dying as both fun and serious business, which seems appropriate in an artist’s children. A similar mix of concentration and amusement is conveyed by the soap bubble blowing activity in “Delightful”, while the mood of “Kid Convo”, in which the sisters converse while riding their bikes on a sunny winter’s day, is one of pure emancipation.

Moniz’s depictions of children convey a variety of moods. Seen from the back, two kids walk a sandy, sinuous path, deserted except for themselves in “Almost There”. Their destination may be close but it is not in sight and the trees along the path are dense and dark. Meanwhile, the child shown on the beach in "To Be Five" is alone, momentarily lost in a world of only the water, the sand, and herself. The painting suggests that the consciousness of a five-year-old lies somewhere between the narrow focus of infancy and the dawning comprehension of the big, wide world. Moniz’s keen eye for light and shadow; splashes of vivid, thoughtfully placed color;  and a strong sense of composition heighten the particular emotional impact of each image.

Moniz’s paintings and the infrared and enhanced photographic art of her father, Fred Moore, will be the focus of an exhibit titled, “Enhanced Photography & Watercolor Encounters” at the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center (MRAC) this May. For more information, see www.mrartcenter.org on the web or call 215-482-3363.

By David Kozinski