We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyle Ellingson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kyle, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
A quote I keep pinned up in my studio is from Donald Barthelme, a postmodern writer from the 60s and 70s: “Not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made.” It comes from an essay titled “Not Knowing” in which he describes the value of creating art from the inside out, using spontaneity, invention, and discovery as your primary tools rather than working from a concept, outline, or declared set of intentions. I use this quote as a kind of reset button each time I start a new work or project. My impulse is to over-conceptualize, over-plan, and mentally rehearse a piece to the point that actually bringing it to life feels unadventurous and oversimplified. Barthelme’s quote helps me maintain a healthy sort of energetic cluelessness from start to finish, pressing me to make art that I’m surprised by—in the hopes that this surprise is passed along to the viewer.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I came to illustration by way of writing and publishing short stories. I studied philosophy and creative writing in college and spent the following decade on a deep-dive into literary postmodernism and surrealism, writing stories that put an absurd twist on everyday life. A few years ago, I started to translate this narrative work into large-scale standalone ink drawings, adapting a comic style and a lifelong love of draftsmanship into a dreamlike vintage aesthetic with a contemporary digital vibrance. I carried this work into an MFA thesis at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where I graduated in 2021. That body of work, titled DREAMS, is an ongoing series that serves as a laboratory for all of my visual experiments. This sense of exploration helps guide me through my freelance jobs—I’m always reusing, in client work, some concept or technique I’ve recently explored in my personal pieces.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m based in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. An ideal outing would include coffee at Hungry Ghost, Colson Patisserie for croissants, a walk in Prospect Park, a morning at the Brooklyn Museum, burritos at Calexico, an early matinee at Nitehawk Cinema, and happy hour wine at Brookvin. I’m an early riser, so this plan would really hinge on my visitors waking up before noon.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to thank Megan Paetzhold, an art director at New York Magazine. Megan reached out to me early on in my freelancing efforts and gave me an opportunity to make work that was truer to my personal voice and style than I’d allowed myself to explore previously. Our first editorial piece went on to be included in Communication Arts Annual 63, and Megan’s skills as a collaborator helped convince me to bring a more distinctive individuality to all my future editorial projects.

Website: https://www.kyleellingson.com

Instagram: @ellingson_art

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