Ellen Wheelock Willis Biography


"To know, love and practice that which is true, good and beautiful."

Biography: Ellen grew up in a ranching family in Corsicana, Texas. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. After raising her three children and being one of the founders of a classical and Christian school in Austin, Texas, she has devoted herself to creating art that reflects the glory of God.

Thesis: Each artist has a philosophy and a style. An artist’s philosophy evolves from how one makes sense of the sum of life’s experiences. An artist’s style develops naturally through study, careful observation, and what one learns from master teachers.

Philosophy: Ellen Willis grew up the daughter of a rancher in Corsicana Texas. At an early age, she developed a love for the created order and its beauty. Later, her study of art history at Southern Methodist University gave her a deep appreciation for the artists that had gone before her and the realization that artists today stand on their shoulders. This study made her gravitate to art museums and galleries as she traveled. She only dreamt that one day she would become a full time professional artist. Maintaining this dream, she began to study art as she raised her three children. A defining philosophical moment came when she embarked on founding a classical and Christian school in Austin. While having to think through the mission statement for the school, there was an epiphany; “To know, love and practice that which is true, good and beautiful.” This became not only the mission of the school, but the philosophy of her art.

Style: Because the created order contains such variety, Ellen loves many different types of subjects. She finds herself studying under many different types of artists. (See below for partial list) This impressive list of teachers gives her the ability to paint a wide variety of subjects. Ellen senses a great debt to each of these artists who has taken the time to teach her their craft. These teachers and her own experimentation contribute to Ellen’s unique style. Capturing the three dimensional world on a two dimensional canvas is always a challenge. Her orchestration of light, shadow, color, edges and brushwork gives her compositions a stunning yet peaceful quality.

None of us accomplishes anything on our own.  While she is grateful to so many people for their help and encouragement, she is particularly grateful to these artists with which she has had the privilege to study:

Carolyn Anderson                                 Bye Bitney                                        
Brian Blood                                            Scott Burdick
John Budicin                                          Jill Carver                                                                  
Warren Chang                                       Scott Christensen
John Cosby                                            Marty Hatcher
Robert Johnson                                     William Kalwick
Greg Kreutz                                            Marlin Linville
Huihan Liu                                              Susan Lyon
Sherrie McGraw                                    C. W. Mundy                                        
Kay Polk                                                 Chuck Rawle                                      
Ron Rencher                                          Peggy Kroll Roberts                      
Matt Smith                                              Jeff Watts                      
Michael Workman                                  Henry Yan        
HongNian Zhang                                    Zhaoming Wu

Ellen recently completed a two year mentoring study with John Cosby, one of the premier landscape painters in the country and an outstanding teacher.  His instruction has been invaluable.

Austin Plien Air
Oil Painters of America (OPA)
American Impressionist Society (AIS)