Ellie Taylor relishes the beauty in things most people don't give a second thought to: large round bales of hay in the summer sun, lazy goats in the middle of a grassy field, an old barn that has seen better days.
By her own estimate, Ellie has painted thousands of images that preserve some of the quieter, often overlooked, moments of life.
Sometimes she encounters the images outside her home located in an area of East Texas known for its natural beauty. Other times she stumbles on them by accident while traveling the back roads of the state with her husband, Larry, a retired minister.
"My husband and I passed through Troy, Texas, on the way to Waco. We stopped at a plant nursery," Ellie says of her painting "Barbecue in Troy." "Across the street a group was selling barbecue."
They came across a field of bluebonnets while on a sightseeing outing near Fredericksburg. "After snapping photos and returning home, I painted several paintings (of the scene) from different points of view."
She's painted an empty alley in Grand Saline that was bathed in sunlight, a field of fluffy cotton near Amarillo, old Volkswagen Beetles left to slowly rust away in a pasture in Salado, colorful fishing boats in the harbor at Port Isabel and a New Orleans-style jazz band in Gilmer's Yamboree Parade.
Her subjects include deserted buildings that seem to harbor the ghosts of lives gone but not forgotten. An abandoned house near Marble Falls caught her eye. "This must have been a very beautiful house at one time," she says of the painting. "It is still picturesque."
She's drawn to a rusty old cotton gin in the tiny town of Kerens, near Corsicana. "I have painted this old gin several times and I will do it again."
While traveling through Alto, she met and painted two women sitting on a bench. "I enjoyed a short conversation with the ladies as they were enjoying visiting with each other in the warm sun."
Many of her paintings, and the stories behind them, are found in "Celebration of Texas," a book printed last year.
After growing up in a Houston suburb, Ellie earned a bachelor of science degree from Sam Houston State University with a minor in fine art. Although she always loved art, she devoted the next 33 years to teaching young children in school.
"I always used my art in the classroom," says Ellie. "Everything is connected to art in some way."
After retiring from teaching in 1992, she studied art at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant and developed her talents under the tutelage of several instructors, most notably Earline Barnes, an impressionist artist in El Paso who insisted that paintings should always be simple and never overstated.
In 2002, one of Ellie's paintings received the Artistic Merit Award at a show hosted by the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art, a San Antonio gallery that displays the work of nationally recognized artists. Her art is seen in galleries and juried shows throughout the region.
"Her Impressions: Original Oils by Ellie Taylor," an exhibition of about 80 of her paintings, recently was held at The Dutch Gallery in Dallas. It was billed as a show of "exaggerated color and bold impressionistic strokes."
Besides landscapes and cityscapes, she also paints still life – flowers used in table settings are one of her favorite subjects – and abstracts. Her abstracts include a series of paintings with nothing more than circles and series in which she applied globs of paint to the top of the canvas and let them drip down, forming a series of long squiggly lines.
Her paintings, depending on the size, sell for a few hundred to several thousand dollars. "Tyler Roses," a 16×20 oil on canvas of red roses in a white vase, recently sold for $500 at The Dutch Art Gallery.
A 1,100-square-foot building originally built as an airplane hangar serves as Ellie's studio. The building is filled to capacity with her paintings. Many are on the walls and others are stacked under tables. She's not sure anymore exactly how many are displayed and stored there.
She draws attention to a painting of a woman in a flowery dress walking briskly down a street.
Ellie saw her near the county courthouse in Tyler, thought she looked interesting and snapped her photo. "She doesn't even know I painted her picture," says Ellie.
Once she starts a painting, the creativity gushes forth. Using broad strokes that forsake details, she can make a painting from start to finish during one of her hour-long demonstrations before groups.
Ellie says she uses a minimalistic approach to capture fleeting moments and the interplay of shadows and sunlight in the plein air tradition of impressionism.
"I want my art to express feeling, aesthetic beauty, awe and drama. I use exaggerated color and bold impressionistic strokes. That is just me."
More than anything, Ellie wants people to slow down, look around and better appreciate the state that she loves so much. "I want people to see how beautiful Texas is."
In "Celebration of Texas" she writes: "I am surrounded by hay fields, wooded areas, cows, chickens and goats. Texas is a beautiful state. I love Texas!"