When I was a kid, I love coloring on my driveway with chalk. My sketches were never very good, but I enjoyed leaving my mark for other people to see. These early led to other creative endeavors. Ellis G., on the other hand, took the reverse approach. Hailing from Manhattan's East Village, this native New Yorker started out bombing and ended up chalking. Don't be fooled; while the medium seems simple, his pieces are anything but.As a kid in the late 1970s, Ellis marveled at graffiti culture springing up around him. "I was certainly inspired by what I saw out there in the streets," he recalls. Bombing with IRAK crew members like Earsnot and the late Dash Snow, he spent his youth getting up around the city. Since 1979, he's left his mark in New York, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Miami, Amsterdam, Negril, and . No matter where he roams, he alway returns to his roots. "I have a special affinity towards New York," he says, "I'm from here."
After a good fifteen years in the graffiti game, Ellis decided to mix things up. Taking a stick of chalk to the street led him in a new direction. After choosing an object (perhaps a bicycle or fire hydrant), he works quickly to chalk a vibrant outline around its shadow. Each shadow remains frozen in time long after the sun's position changes or the object gets moved.
In addition to his chalk pieces, Ellis also keeps it spicy with his trademark fire-tagging. "I did it once at a friend's place on a piece of plywood back in 1999," he remembers. "I didn't revisit it until late 2008. I was working in a gallery and I was bored, so I decided to cop a tag on the bathroom wall and set it ablaze." Since those early endeavors, he's experimented and improved his technique.
Don't think for one second that chalking is easy; before I spoke with Ellis, he'd been picked up by the cops. (Will they start going after children next? Clearly my early hopscotch days were a violation.) "There's always the risk of being arrested," he insists. "I have spent many a night in central bookings. Not fun."
In spite of the challenges, Ellis continues to hustle. His chalk pieces are all over the Lower East Side. This summer, "Ocular Echoism: The Autonomy of Ellis G." drew steady crowds at Collective Hardware. "As an artist, I want to create more," he says. "I would like to develop into large-scale installations. I am currently working on various projects. As a person, I want to be the best father I can be." Although his work can seem a bit fantastic, Ellis's message is a big reality check. "I'm motivated by the need to create and engage," he insists. "People need to take a second out of their schedules to become aware of their surroundings and the life around them."
Thanks, Ellis! I caught up with him at Willoughby Windows this summer and agree that he's a really cool guy. He brought his son, chatted with friends, and talked about new projects. When I camped out in front of the Os Gêmeos mural, he stopped by to chalk out his respects to Dash Snow. Ellis is definitely someone you can grab a beer with after his awesome gallery opening. For more info, check out his website (it will direct you to his MySpace etc.) Hope everyone has a great Halloween and I'll see you Monday!