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Meet Ellen Allgaier Fountain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Allgaier Fountain.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Being an artist is all I’ve ever wanted. Born and raised in the panhandle of Idaho, I drew and painted from the time I could hold a crayon, but didn’t get any formal art instruction until college, eventually earning a B.F.A. (studio art) and an M.A. (art education) from the University of Arizona in Tucson. My husband (a Tucson native) and I met in Los Angeles, lived the first two years of our married life in Hawaii, and returned to Tucson in the early 1970’s where we’ve lived since.

I fell in love with the Sonoran Desert, completely and utterly. Landscape is my main subject matter, along with still life, and I paint plein air whenever I can. Our own 3-acre property in the Tucson Mountain foothills provides plenty of inspiration when I’m not traveling somewhere else to paint. I recently wrote and published “A Little Slice of Sky,” a memoir of my Idaho childhood years. It’s richly illustrated with my watercolor paintings, mostly done from memory.

Watercolor got my attention as a graduate student, and it quickly became my favored medium. I never tire of the challenge and the rewards of its luminous color on a white piece of paper. I work in series, and pattern is the one art element that recurs in nearly all my paintings, regardless of subject. It can be used as decoration, narrative reinforcement, textural suggestion, and more.

Please tell us about your art.
I have been working almost exclusively in water-based mediums on paper since the mid-nineteen seventies, and I continue to be challenged by their versatile, demanding and dynamic nature, particularly transparent watercolor. Since the mid-nineteen nineties, I have also been creating work digitally, output as giclée prints on paper or canvas. Some of these works are unique (one-of-a-kind) or limited-edition prints. Others are open editions. Landscape and still life are my primary genres.

I draw inspiration for my art from my surroundings (particularly for landscape work), from historical art styles, and from a few favorite 20th century painters, then filter that inspiration through a lifetime of personal experiences.
My response to my subject matter determines how I will treat it—with flattened space, arbitrary color and lots of patterning, or with the illusion of realistic space and more representational colors. The subject also dictates whether I will use transparent watercolor, acrylic or a mixed media approach, or whether it will become a digital painting or print. “I’ve always had an interest in special treatments. Sometimes I want to do the realistic illusion thing, and sometimes I want to emphasize it’s just paint on a flat piece of paper.”

I grew up in a remote location in the panhandle of Northern Idaho, without a phone or TV, and my connection to the natural world, made during those early formative years, has never left me. I am drawn to the plants, animals and geography of every place I’ve lived as an adult. Looking for the patterns in nature, when it seems so chaotic at first glance, is one of my goals as a landscape painter. That underlying structure and organization can be expressed in something as small as a single leaf or as large as the Grand Canyon.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
In some ways, getting your art in front of people has never been easier because of the internet. There’s really no reason for any artist not to have a website these days. Online software with ready-made themes make setting one up a matter of uploading photos of your work. Social media offers artists a way to let people know more about how/why they work the way they do, and about themselves too. On the other hand, it’s getting more difficult to find brick-and-mortar gallery representation as there is just so much competition for so few spaces. Open studio tours, sponsored in most larger cities, are another way to expose your work to potential art patrons and collectors. I enter a lot of juried shows nationally, and another thing I would like to see is lower entry fees or help with shipping costs for artwork.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I show my work in juried exhibitions locally, regionally and nationally. I’m a juried, signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Western Federation of Watercolor Societies, Watercolor West, the Arizona Watercolor Association and the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild.

My work is always viewable on my website,, where I always post which shows I’m currently in, and I usually have work showing in the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild Gallery at Williams Centre in Tucson. I love having people visit my home studio too.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ellen Fountain

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