FIREBIRD (Diptych – Homage to Stravinsky) 48×98″ Sumi ink & watercolor on panel & glass

WELCOME to MICHAEL ELLISTON ART & ZEN! I hope you find the work compelling. I like to think that I have the best painter in the world working for me. Let me explain what I mean by that.

When I was working on my Master’s Thesis in printmaking at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, using tusche (a greasy black composition in liquid form) on large blocks of Bavarian limestone to make lithographic prints, I noticed that when the medium dried, the textures and patterns created naturally by the medium’s reaction to water, to which it formed a “resist,” were quite elegant in their detail and form, much like natural processes on a larger scale. Something or somebody was a much better artist than I.

It occurred to me that the fundamental forces, or the Four Elements of Zen – Fire, Wind, Water and Earth – were working together in the form of the temperature and movement of the air in the studio, the liquid medium, and the pigment itself, to form, on the micro scale, the same vocabulary of images that Nature produces on the macro scale, such as mountain ranges, rivers, even brain tissue.

I felt a bit like a creator god, presiding over a miniature universe, in which I was cooperating with this other “person,” in the form of my “creation,” to yield the image. In this dance with the medium, my goal became to get out of the way as much as possible, and let it do its thing, untrammeled by interference from myself.

These many years later, my goal remains the same, and I am still working, though on a much larger scale, painting directly rather than making prints, on both the canvas and the glass lens, making three-dimensional images. I work mainly with water colors and sumi ink, the same medium used by my Zen Ancestors in China and Japan, for their transcendent landscapes, portraits, and amazing calligraphy.

I feel that my work is inspired by Zen, which had just begun to become a force in my life at the time I was doing my graduate work at ID+IIT. I am still continually surprised by what the forces of Nature have in store for me, revealed in each new image, every time I paint. One side benefit is that no one can ever forge my work.

If you are interested in any of the available pieces, please do not hesitate to contact me directly — taiunmelliston@gmail.com.

In Georgia, I am represented by the Kai Lin Art Gallery. Visit www.kailinart.com to check out more of my work, and to save the date for my upcoming shows. Thank you for visiting my site, and for your attention to my story.


SECONDARY HARMONY 29.5×38.5″  Sumi ink & watercolor on gesso panel & glass


APPARITION 30×35″ Sumi ink & watercolor on gesso panel & glass