Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District

Meet Ellen Cornett, Charcoal Artist

Photo courtesy of Brentwood Arts Exchange

Photo courtesy of Brentwood Arts Exchange

How did you discover the medium you currently work in?

Charcoal and pastel are sublimely responsive to the subtleties of application. It is possible to make the wispiest of strokes and the darkest, most opaque areas of deep dark with a single stick of charcoal. Pastel can be blended or layered or scratched into to make entirely different surfaces. It’s all in the touch and the direct connection from the hand to the brain. I have been working primarily in pastel for almost 10 years, just recently switching to charcoal. The shift in medium from vivid color to black and white has profoundly affected both how I see my subjects and how I render them.

How do you define an “artist”?

It’s the place in my head where I am most who I am meant to be. Whether it’s going well or poorly, it’s the work that is satisfying and engaging and enlarges me.

How did you discover the Gateway Arts District?

I have lived in Cheverly, Maryland since 1980 and have seen the Gateway Arts District growing.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice about being an artist, who would it be?

Don’t compromise what you want to do, what you think you ought to do, before you start. Try it. Succeed or fail. Let the world shoot you down, don’t do it to yourself.

What drives you?

I am addicted to the flow, the zone, the whatever you call it, that happens when work is going well, when things are humming. Someone once said to me that there was one good cigarette in each pack and he smoked looking for it. I start each picture thinking it’s going to be that good one that transports me in the making of it. Keeps me going.

I struggle to keep my work true and fresh and exciting to make. I work hard to say things that are interesting in my drawings. And like any artist, I am challenged to be seen, to be understood and appreciated.

Visit her online at:

Meet Ellen at Art Night Out – With Ellen Cornett & Sheppard Bear at Brentwood Arts Exchange at the Gateway Arts Center. Tickets are $25 per person. Click link for more details.

Want to be featured like Ellen? Take a moment and answer our Artist Interview questions!


About neenajoe

Joe’s Movement Emporium is a cultural arts hub that acts as a catalyst for creativity and economic opportunity for all through productions and programs in education, artist services and work readiness. Located in the town center of Mount Rainier, Maryland within the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District, the organization supports and promotes creative projects of local artists and community groups. For additional information on programs and events, please visit

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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