We always like to learn about PSAD community and celebrate the achievements – today we caught up with PSAD tutor Ian Ellis!

Interview by Sniez Torbarina, FPSAD Committee Website Editor. All photographs relating to his art practice and favourite artists are by Ian, unless stated otherwise.

Artist Ian Ellis teaches at PSAD as well as at Sutton College. At PSAD he has been teaching since 1991, currently several different classes including portraits, oil painting and watercolour drawing and painting for all levels.

Ian studied at Lanchester Art School at Coventry University before completing MA in Painting at Manchester University. His Youtube channel and Instagram are called Great Artists Steal. His paintings have been selected for RA Summer Exhibitions including this year!


Ian Ellis with his oil painting Fear (1987), photo by Georgie Dighero

Ian thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a proud Dad of two wonderful adults, Max and Manon. Sadly divorced but on good terms with my ex-wife Maud and I am profoundly deaf. Born and bred in Sheffield so love football, supporting Sheffield United, which is both frustrating and entertaining.

My passion is for painting and the cinema. I am at my happiest if a painting is going well, visiting a great exhibition or watching a great film. I also enjoy analysing and interpreting great paintings and I have spent years studying things that have helped and inspired great painting such as science, psychology, literature, films and maths. I love passing on my findings. I do this working as a teacher, not just at PSAD but at Sutton College and have a Youtube channel called Great Artists Steal.

Where are we – your ideal place in the world to unwind and create?

In the studio, searching for, exploring and experimenting with ideas with paint.

Travelling and your essential travel companion(s)?

I love walking, cycling and driving. I drove to Madrid two months after passing my driving test. Having food and a drink with my family and friends. My essential travelling companion is my wonderful girlfriend.

When did you decide (or felt you wanted) to be an artist?

During my final year at Coventry Art School in 1985 I felt I had done well enough to give it a go.

Ian Ellis – Thesp Ian (self portrait, oil, 2019)

How would you describe your art practice? In three words or best qualities of your artistic style.

A painter who likes playing with style and meaning concerning psychological realities.

Ian Ellis – Sting (oil, 2000)

Your most precious art achievement?

Creating a unique colour mixing system that has taken colour theory one step further as it reveals the colours obtained when any two colours are mixed..

Ian Ellis – Tell-Tale-Ba (shortlisted submission for RA Summer Show 2023)

4. What inspires your work? Artist(s) that influenced you most.

I was initially inspired by the writing of Carl Jung about the power of the crowd in the Twentieth Century. Later on analysing the visuals of David Lynch’s dream inspired films helped me get to better grasp of the written ideas of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung about how dreams communicate meaning using a symbolic language. I think Freud is good at explaining how dreams communicate ideas with a symbolic language but Jung at interpreting possible ideas about what the symbolism could mean. This understanding has helped me to make more sense of my own dreams to understand myself a little more and to identify potential subjects and ideas for my painting.

Picasso, Beckmann, and Philip Guston are the three painters that have inspired me the most.

Max Beckmann – The_Bath

Art exhibition(s) that you enjoyed especially and why? Current or past ..

Goya’s portraits at the National Gallery.
Because he responded mainly to the individuality of the people, who they were rather than how they look, which revealed a brilliant creative imagination that was really inspiring and, like all great art, enforced my belief in the beauty of the human mind.

Francisco de Goya – The Duchess of Alba (oil, 1797)

Art exhibition(s) that you’d especially like to see in the future and where?

Philip Guston in October 2023 at the Tate.

Philip Guston – The Studio (oil, 1969)

When did you join PSAD and what do you enjoy/take most out of your time here? Please tell us a little bit about your courses.

I led my first class at PSAD on a Wednesday evening September 1991 when I was 28 years old. When teaching I enjoy engaging and discovering the individuality of the students, and trying to help them to enjoy being creative.
When seeking advice about subject matter all those years ago the then more experienced tutor Michael Lancod said ‘Give them the whodunnit first and then the Harold Pinter later. ‘

Having been in the school for a long time you are familiar with much of the work of the Friends of PSAD in supporting the school – is there there anything you’d like to say and/or see more of from the Friends of PSAD?

I am pleased for this opportunity to personally thank the Friends for saving the school from closure which was over twenty years ago. I clearly remember the sense of dread and doom as we did not seem to have a chance as all the odds seemed to be stacked against us.

I think that, among many things, the Friends have helped create the quality books in the library. Sadly some of the best and most expensive books go missing. Perhaps we could all encourage those that have borrowed books to return them. Is it possible for the Friends to help replace some of them? Recently the Cecily Brown book has gone missing.

A piece of advice you might like to give to any artist-to-be? Or to your own younger self..

I think to succeed in anything you just don’t give up as you learn more from the struggle and the more you work the luckier you become.

What are you working on now?

I am currently giving more time to painting searching for new ideas and compositions now I have finished my study of maths in the compositions of great paintings.

At the moment I am searching for images of a battle taking place on my kitchen table between toy land animals and imagined man sized lobsters fresh out of the sea but walking and running around on their hind legs that scares even the most ferocious of animals.. Why? I have my reasons but I want people to make there own minds up about it all.

Please tell us a bit about your study of maths!

The maths is systems used to help balance and structure composition. I have studied the Brunes Star and so called Divine Proportion known now as Golden Section. These things are difficult to use if you want to be spontaneous. We all tend to get by with our intuition these days so my students will be pleased to hear  I will not be teaching any maths in the classes unless requested to do so.

If you were on Desert Island what would you take with you and why? 

If I could just take one painting it would be Las Meninas by Velasquez as it would keep me company and remind me of happier times. To be the keeper and restorer of this great painting would keep me very busy. So I would also need lots of art materials. If I fail I can blame the weather and my deafness.

What’s next for you?

I have had some good news as I have been selected for this years RA Summer Exhibition with my painting called Tell-Tale-Bat, which shows the two Superheroes Batman and Robin having a break. And more good news as one of my students, Fleur Moodie on the Sat pm class at PSAD also had her oil painting selected, it is called Getting in Line.

Also I have been thinking about the idea of a radio or TV programme about art. More details soon!

Instagram: @great_artists_steal

Youtube channel: Great Artists Steal.

Website: https://ianellis.weebly.com/
Contact: ellisian51@yahoo.com

Read more about PSAD Friends and PSAD School History Here.

Link to PSAD courses Here. Ian’s Photo album below.