Jennifer Ellifritz

Shine Some Light On. . .Seeking Stars Art Blogger, Photographer & Show Support

Jennifer oversees the SSA blog to "Shine Some Light On..." and focuses on a variety of rising stars within the arts community. She seeks out talented artists from across the region. Guest writers, featured artists and contributors are featured from time-to-time as well.


"My hope is that this blog will be another extension of this art,

where we are able to showcase the talents of each artist to form a stronger whole.

I look forward to shining some light on."
...Jennifer Ellifritz

Creativity Before Capital: Art At Any Cost, by SSA Featured Artist, B. Kolb

January 29, 2016

Does a true fisherman lament when he finds himself without tackle? No, quite the contrary, it is more of an exercise for his imagination and creativity to make his own tackle, or go back to a more primitive way of fishing, before sonar or fiberglass. A true fisherman at heart relishes in the idea of flexing his muscle to fashion a hook, line, net, trap, etc. He knows he is making himself a more fish-centric angler, rather than gear-centric and subject to current fads. This can be translated to most any endeavor that one may find themselves wanting to start, or start over, and such is the case with art.


As I have progressed in my journey through many types of media and art forms, I have always taken great satisfaction in starting from scratch, making my own tools and sometimes even making my own tools to make my own tools. In the day and age of the internet and Google, it is getting easier to seek out and get in touch with old masters of dying arts that are nearer to your location and more accessible than one may have thought in the past. In my personal experience, most of these seasoned veterans would love nothing more than a chance to spend time with a younger artist who is willing to listen to their advice, and heed any warnings of past mistakes and time-savers they’ve found along their journey. Most of the time this is free, but it doesn't hurt to show up with coffee or lunch for them. In the capacity of their experience and wisdom, free actually means priceless.


When I did my first festival (circa 1997), I set up on a borrowed table praying for nice weather because I had no canopy. I was peddling a truckload of Artist’s Conch Fungi that my family and I had collected by roaming the forest and pulling them from dead and dying white oak trees. I used a scribe that I made from an old dart and a paint brush handle to scratch pictures on their pure white underbellies of deer, trout and a myriad of Appalachian flora and fauna. Then mounted them on beautiful old dead, gnarled sections of tree roots that we also collected from the local woods. From there, I took any profit from those early festivals and invested in impoving my display and getting better materials to put finishing touches on the art, such as felt on the bottom, or special drill bits that made the screws and fasteners easier to hide. This all results in a snowball of profit, reinvestment, and better quality tools, and at the end of the day, a better finished product for which I, as an artist, can now charge a premium price. With that comes the soul and earned experience that certainly shows through in the art, and is appreciated by a picky collector.


Don’t refrain from learning a new skill or starting a new type of media because you can’t afford the absolute best tools and materials. I am utterly perplexed by the excuse-makers who are unwilling to start blacksmithing because they can’t afford the perfect anvil, or the painter whose canvases are sitting in the corner because they don’t want to use inferior paints, or worse yet, the painting is complete, but they can’t afford the framing. When I started working with metal, I used a sixteen inch piece of old railroad track as my anvil and a wooden baseball bat in a vice for making all the curves and radii involved in making my brass jewelry. Sometimes, when one is starting a new media, or is simply “underfunded,” one must revert back to the smaller snowball and start the cycle over again of creativity, profit and reinvestment that will eventually culminate in quality tools, paint and art. A hidden benefit of applying this process is that your art will take on its own distinct character, and stand out when placed in a sea of cookie-cutter art, where other artist are interested in making their art as “good” as everyone else’s. An innovative artist will redefine how good art can be, and will constantly be described as edgy, eclectic and maybe even the one that steals any show they attend.  I’ve carved a little niche out for myself in this regard by originally not being able to afford frames, but I could afford a six-dollar miter box and refurbished old handsaw. With these two items, and a load of elbow grease, I would knock on the doors of farmhouses and ask if I could tear down their old sheds and barns, offering art in trade, and most of the time they were tickled pink to be rid of the eyesore falling down in their backyard. After my kids and I pulled the nails, I could transform these charming old pieces of chestnut and oak into frames for my paintings, oozing with the character that can only be obtained by a lifetime of exposure to the sun and weather. For better or for worse, my paintings would hang almost defiantly side-by-side and in stark contrast to the gallery wrap canvases and sleek black frames so popular with other artists to make their work look like it belongs. Once again, raise the bar and don’t chase good, redefine it.


If those are not enough reasons and examples to get out and make your art at any cost, we can also take into account the plethora of embellishments one can make to items you may already have laying around just waiting for new life to be given to them by a sharp imagination and careful hands. From the beginning of humans having things, human artists have made beautiful things, whether it was a spirit turtle-lovingly painting above the entrance to an Adena lodge 2,000 years ago, or an eagle carved into the butt-stock of a union soldier’s rifle. While my embellishments are usually on a more personal level, as in decorating my own tools for me to enjoy while I’m using them, I have had very positive feedback and sales in painting my watercolors on old book pages and topographical maps that I’ve bought for pennies at a yard sale or rescued from a refuse pile.


In the end, I think the point of all this hard work is to connect other souls to mine in the joy they get from seeing or buying a finished piece, and the reciprocal joy I get in watching them see it, and talking with them about the inspirations or techniques. At the heart of it all, one can be either happy or satisfied, and they are not the same thing. In this age of instant gratification, temporary happiness may come from doing something easy, but satisfaction comes from hard work, diligence and delayed gratification, and is a much more fulfilling sense of accomplishment which all comes out in the end product. It subtly shows itself by way of the intangible character that your pieces will exude when you make your art at any cost.

Painting Memories, Not Just Shapes, by SSA Featured Artist, B. Kolb

October 12, 2015

There's an ancient proverb written on the walls of caves throughout the world that says "defining art is as easy and necessary as putting scuba gear on a cat." The only thing I can offer is what art means to me. Art is making someone feel something, be it positive or negative, just a feeling, because of what you have created. Like a song, book or movie can make one laugh or cry, a painting or sculpture can take the viewer to a place they've never been; stir them in an overwhelming memory of a place they once visited, and conversely, make them want to see some land they never knew could exist just by the way its portrayed. For the purpose of this writing, I will focus on why I choose to paint primarily from memory instead of from photos or reference material.


I do often paint “en plein air” (or in the open outdoor air and light), and I love it, because of the interactions with other people and the small nuances I can detect that sometimes don’t survive the filter of memory. However, I may be misrepresenting what I do on-site by calling it plein air because I still paint whatever I want. I can move mountains, trees and buildings for better composition, or change colors for moods, or add and subtract features because let's face it, this is art, not a geography test.


In the studio, fresh off of a hiking and backpacking trip, or whatever exciting adventure I've been on, is always the best time for me to paint. I can crank some tunes and remember fondly the way the moonlight kissed and fluttered on the subtle ripples that were constantly performing their own little ballet, bouncing between my canoe and the slippery, rock strewn bank. The way the firelight danced around my kids faces as they gathered around the campfire, still excited by the adventures of that day, and maybe even a little anxious about the thrill of sleeping under the milky way that night. By painting all these from memory, I am projecting to the viewer of the painting what I'm feeling about the subject or landscape more so than if I am tied to the reality and/or trappings of a photo, which definitely aid the memory, but allow the right brain off-the-hook, suppressing some of the emotional parts of the experience.


Another major advantage of painting from memory only, is the fact that I often find myself creating the perfect spot in my mind and portraying that on canvas, by picking and choosing my favorite features from many of my usual outdoor haunts. For instance, anytime I paint someone in a river there will be a rock peeking out of the water that resembles one of my favorite spots on the Cheat River. There's a sweet little eddie on the downstream side of a bear-shaped rock where one can always pick up a smallmouth if you're getting skunked and need a confidence booster.

Painting from memory also trains your senses and stretches the limits of what you may have thought were possible by forcing you to be more present in situations, weather pleasant or miserable, so you can better represent them in your future art. You can combine all of the most memorable parts of your location or adventure, the way a blue-chip, recruit quarterback makes a highlight reel of all of their good runs and touchdowns. This is not to provide any false information, only to avoid getting stuck in the mire of every small detail in a scene, or in the recruits case, a scout doesn’t have to watch every play of the game. In the end their payoff is a scholarship or a spot in the draft. While my payoff might literally be someone paying me for my painting so they can look at it all the time, but it is also the countless times you as an artist get to see people viewing your art. They may be reminiscing in their head or aloud about the past experiences and adventures they’ve had in the places or activities that I paint. It may even bring back memories of lost loved ones they’ve shared those adventures with in places that are special only to them.


In essence, letting your feelings about a certain location or activity cloud your judgment, when it comes to art is kind of the point. Because when you paint experiences you are personally connected with, you subconsciously are painting in all the smells, sounds, feelings, fear, excitement, etc., that connect people collectively on another plane that exists somewhere intangible that everyone feels and recognizes. A connection not bound by the X, Y, or Z-axis, allowing vibrations of energy to flow between thoughts and feelings of shared sentiment that binds us all as humanity.

Focusing on Grayspace, by J. Ellifritz

August 31, 2015

Shine Some Light On Dana Gray


This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Dana Gray of Grayspace Imagery, about her busy life, her work and her approach to photography.

Dana, a research specialist by profession, says she started her obsession with photography about ten years ago as a way to share her impressions of her new home state with her extended family. “I’m not from West Virginia originally, but I have to tell you, it is beautiful. I started taking pictures to show family and friends out-of-state the beauty that was surrounding me. My husband and I like to hike, so I continued to shoot all the spectacular sights we were fortunate enough to see.”

Dana also works in watercolor, but has really begun to focus on the process of photo encaustics. “Basically, that is when I take one of my photos and, using a mixture of beeswax and damar resin, add texture and highlight color with pigments in a way that the camera alone can not. I can create a one-of-a-kind piece of art that falls somewhere between a photo and a painting.”

When asked what she would like people who appreciate her approach to photography to know she said, “It's all about visual storytelling” and “not about the camera, although a nice camera is fun to have. Photography is about being able to see what is right in front of you, but you’ve forgotten was there. It’s about perspective, light, timing, and most of all, capturing stories as they unfold.”

Grayspace Imagery currently has work on display at the Arts & Antiques Marketplace located at: 205 Adams Street in Faimont, WV.

You can view and purchase more of Dana's work on her website:

Joshua Floyd Doesn't Look Back, by J. Ellifritz

July 1, 2015

Shine Some Light On Joshua Floyd


This month I had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Floyd, a native of West Virginia who primarily produces wood-fired clay pieces ranging from coffee mugs, bowls, and jars with lids, to hanging wall baskets, large terra cotta planters, and decorative, yet sturdy, ceramic baskets with copper wire handles.


As a Fairmont, West Virginia local, Joshua enrolled at Fairmont State University as an Art Education major where, he said, “pottery was a required class, but I loved it, and never looked back.”

After graduating with a Regents Degree in 2004, he served for two years (2004-2006) as an Artist in Residence at the Cub Creek Foundation located in Appomattox, Virginia, followed by a short-term residency at the Red Clay Lodge Center in Red Lodge, Montana and assistantships at the Penland School of Crafts in Spruce Pine, NC in 2008 and 2009.

Joshua is currently working as an Artist in Residence at the North Carolina Pottery Center, a non-profit museum with an educational focus, where his job is helping with program planning, as well as teaching beginner classes and making work in the studio. In addition to more routine duties, “sometimes,” he says, “I wash chairs and change light bulbs; sometimes I sit on a committee.”  He advocates for the profession, "of the many things I'd like to mention, one of the most important is the idea that we need people to believe in what we do as artists and crafts people.”

Joshua will be the focus of a solo show hosted by the Randolph Arts Guild in the Sarah Smith Self Gallery in Asheboro, NC in November of this year. Details on the show will follow on the Randolph Arts Guild website later in the season.

To learn more about Josh and his work:
North Carolina Pottery Center:
Randolph Arts Guild:

Matthew Benson of Artisan's Menagerie, by J. Ellifritz

June 1, 2015

Shine Some Light On Matthew Benson

This month I had the opportunity to speak with Matthew Benson of Artisan's Menagerie in Morgantown, WV. We met in his shop where he spoke about his path to a career as a full time artist and where he was able to give me a brief demonstration of his work.

Matthew is a Point Pleasant, WV native, that studied Psychology, Business, and Education at WVU, but found that the woodwork that had started as a hobby was his true calling. Having already spent several years developing his talent, he turned toward metalwork, learning the finer points of repoussé and chasing. This is a technique where a malleable metal is first set into a soft pitch backing and shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief, and then worked from the other side refine the design on the front.

He explained as he heated and worked a small square of copper, “Warm the pitch, stick the metal into it, and then let the pitch cool so it becomes a semi­soft backer for the metal; hammer into it to get the desired shape. Then take it out, flip it over and keep doing that back and forth, raising and lowering areas until you get the design that you want.”

In addition to metal jewelry such as copper and brass bracelets, copper charms, and hair sticks, he produces tables, wooden chests, and custom pieces. At the Atomic Grill, one of Morgantown's most popular restaurants, he created a copper and cherry wood focal piece with aluminum flames that reflects the design and attitude of the locally­ owned business.

Before going into business for himself in 2013, Matthew was a part of the first Arts Alive on the River festival in Morgantown, WV in 2012. He has more recently participated in Cheatfest 2015, and will be participating in the Heritage Days Festival on June 13 and 14 in Cumberland, MD, FestivALL's Capitol Street Art Fair on June 27 and 28 in Charleston, WV, and is one of the thirty artists accepted to the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta celebration in July.

To learn more about Matthew and his work:
Artisan's Menagerie:

Future Events:
Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta:
Heritage Days Festival, Cumberland, MD:
FestivALL, Charleston, WV:

Striving to Thrive in Morgantown, by J. Ellifritz

May 1, 2015

Shine Some Light On Malissa Goff Baker

This month, I had a chance to speak with West Virginia artist, Malissa Goff Baker, at her home where she allowed me to preview some of the pieces for her month-long solo show at the Atomic Grill in Morgantown, WV starting on May 8.


Malissa pursued her Bachelor of Fine Arts at WVU, with a focus in sculpture and painting, and is currently the Art Coordinator for the Atomic Grill where in her words, “the intent is to give as much of a gallery experience as is possible in a restaurant setting.”


She is also the Staging Coordinator for the Artist Collective of West Virginia, co-founded and operated with John Michael Barone. She says of her efforts with the Artist Collective, “When you think of Asheville, North Carolina, you think of the art community. We would like that for Morgantown -- to generate a thriving local art culture.”


She works in a variety of media, including plaster, fabric, and resin, but some of her most sought-after pieces are her vivid, glowing commissioned oil portraits of Morgantown haunts, families, children, pets and the local music scene; all are faithfully painted from reference material, personal memory and experience.


Malissa's work is currently on display at the Morgantown Brewing Company. She will also be showing in a month-long solo show titled “Reunion,” a show inspired by Morgantown locals from the late '80s and early '90s, opening July 3rd at 123 Pleasant Street.

You can learn more about Malissa and receive updates on upcoming shows by following her on Facebook, as well as the Artist Collective of West Virginia, which can also be found on Facebook.


Symmetries, by J. Ellifritz

April 16, 2015

Shine Some Light On Sharon Lyn Stackpole


This month I have the privilege to introduce to you to West Virginia artist, writer, poet and dreamer, Sharon Lyn Stackpole, who I met at the Monongalia Arts Center in Morgantown, WV during her “Symmetries” exhibit to discuss her thoughts on making personal art for public display.


Sharon Lyn studied painting and art history at West Virginia University, has exhibited in San Francisco, New York, and is currently working on a graphic novel. She works in pen and ink, in watercolor and acrylic, and with recycled pieces, as a matter of course integrating very personal items to take the concept of mixed media to its fullest realization -- deconstructing memorabilia, poetry, and her own musings to create the very material from which the pieces are made.


"So, I sent that image [a mixed media piece, the base of which was a digitally printed canvas] away to be enlarged, printed on a canvas, painted on top of the image again and then drew on it with ink. Artists ask me about it a lot because the surface looks strange to them. I really do not have qualms about mixing medias like that. I think that's what they are there for.”


This is what the artist had to say about one of my (and of the show) favorites called, Not Enough Words. “I had a jack-in-the-box as a child, as most people probably did. I thought it was scary. It hit me in the nose. You're listening to this nice little song, hypnotized, and then a head springs out and scares you to death. I have a theory that we use nursery rhymes to inculcate our children about the grimness of life, like immunization against disease or about why we build a vocabulary and learn to speak; it's all navigation, but for survival. The face on the girl in the box is terrified. Her hair is alphabet letters. There are never enough words. That's what it's about. It was supposed to be more comforting than this. But we make do."


Some of Sharon Lyn's work will be on display at the “Art All Night” event in Pittsburgh, PA, April 25-26 and the Sci-Fi Valley Con in Altoona, PA, May 15-17, 2015.


You can learn more about Sharon Lyn and her work on her website at:

An Introduction by Seeking Stars Art Blogger, Jennifer Ellifritz

March 8, 2015

As for myself...

I am an artist and writer by nature and a graphic designer by trade, with a BS in Graphics and Fine Art from Fairmont State University. I currently employ those skills as a production artist for a local print publication and as an independent designer specializing in logo creation.


Growing up in a rural area, I was surrounded by a constant stream of inspiration. I learned early how to find the joy in junk, watched my aunt and uncle master the art of thrift on their farm, found solutions to problems in the day-to-day operations of that farm, and began to take seemingly incongruous items and put them together; creating dish towels from flour bags, cabinets from discarded pinball machines, merry-go-rounds from truck axles and the like, but ultimately learning to respect the attributes of individual pieces to form a new whole.


This mindset has followed me into my adulthood. From lengths of old cord to damaged doll parts, to scraps of images and imaginings, which I use to create digital and three dimensional works of art, I now save the physical and virtual flotsam of everyday life.


I take as much of an interest in the deconstruction of an object as I would for the finished product itself. I enjoy solving the problems through the process and, in the best scenario, reaching a natural combination of digital and more traditional, organic forms.


My hope is that this blog will be another extension of this art where we showcase the talents of each artist to form a stronger whole. I look forward to shining some light on.

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