News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Nature ‘holds hope’ for artists

Karen Ellis and her family have lived in Central Oregon since the late 1990s and have been involved in the community art scene ever since they arrived. Ellis is one of 76 artists donating a piece of art for the My Own Two Hands (MOTH) community arts fundraiser put on by the Sisters Folk Festival.

The auction event will be held virtually May 10-15.

Ellis is contributing a cyanotype series of four connected nature prints. To create a cyanotype print, she uses objects placed on light-sensitive paper that is chemically treated, exposing the objects and paper to direct sunlight to create the reverse image on the paper. It is then washed, watered, and dried creating an image of an object reflected on the paper. Typically, the image comes out blue and white due to the chemicals in the type of paper, but the work can be tinted.

“Every time you do the process it is usually a surprise how it will turn out,” said Ellis.

Cyanotype was the first form of photography, using reverse images and light to create an image on paper.

According to, “The cyanotype process, also known as the blueprint process, was first introduced by John Herschel (1792 – 1871) in 1842. Sir John was an astronomer, trying to find a way of copying his notes. Herschel managed to fix pictures using hyposulphite of soda as early as 1839. In the early days the paper was coated with iron salts and then used in contact printing. The paper was then washed in water and resulted in a white image on a deep blue background. Apart from the cyanotype process, Herschel also gave us the words photography, negative, positive and snapshot.”

For the prints, titled Cyanotype Series, Ellis used digital prints of original cyanotypes in order to make them larger and come to life more for the auction event.

Karen Ellis has loved to draw and create art since she was a child. Over the course of her life, she has received both informal and formal education in the practices of art. She spent time at the Art Institute in Chicago, as well as at the University of Hawaii studying fine arts — primarily printmaking.

In her artist statement for the fundraiser, she explained:

“Those times were really formative, and my time in Hawaii brought me closer to nature. A lot of my art is a reflection of nature and I hope to encourage others to be more sensitive to nature and art. My art/design work reflects my lifelong love of nature. Being perpetually intrigued with her mysteries allows for a never-ending study of her patterns, rhythms, nuances, and intricacies. If my work nudges you to perceive new facets of beauty in this world, my goal will be achieved.”

Ellis’ primary focus in her life is to be a mother, wife, gardener, and to create art. Ellis has her studio in one of the rented studio spaces in the Sisters Art Works Building. She also works as a part-time teacher and instructor of art at Central Oregon Community College and OSU Cascades in Bend. Ellis typically teaches three courses per term.

“I am fascinated by the creative process and it is rewarding to foster the student’s creativity,” she said.

She works in the fine arts department at both schools teaching drawing, basic design, 2D design, and Art 101 — “art appreciation.”

Ellis has donated to MOTH in the past and participated in the first-ever Sisters Folk Festival arts fundraiser in 2002, which at the time was called Painted Strings, and morphed into My Own Two Hands in 2004. She has donated many print pieces since.

“The Sisters Folk Festival and the Sisters schools have always had a special place in my heart, and they continued to be important to me. All three of my sons went through Sisters schools and were all involved in the Americana Project (the Festival’s music education outreach program). The project is really important to me and it is my way of participating and joining the community,” she said.

The theme of this year’s auction event is “Holding Hope.” Ellis’ prints reflect the idea of the resiliency of nature and hopefulness of nature.

“When I study the process of nature, the thing that stands out are the cycles and the unusual phenomena’s, but also the resiliency. The force of nature that is resilient. These prints address and celebrate nature’s resiliency and are connected to hope,” she said.

Ellis’ cyanotype series will be a part of the MOTH virtual auction event being held online May 10-15. More information on the items and on bidding can be found at


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