Rice begins 50 Paintings Celebrating 50 Years of Painting challenge

Paintings to form foundation of inspirational card line

Artist Ellen Rice is beginning a challenge this week — to create 50 paintings in 10 weeks and to use those paintings to inspire.

Special to the Coastal Point • Duane Whitman: Ellen Rice works on one of the 50 paintings she is creating between now and October as part of a personal challenge celebrating 50 years painting the people, places and wildlife of Delmarva. Below, Ellen Rice at the age of 13.Special to the Coastal Point • Duane Whitman: Ellen Rice works on one of the 50 paintings she is creating between now and October as part of a personal challenge celebrating 50 years painting the people, places and wildlife of Delmarva.Rice’s unique challenge celebrates an anniversary and is intended to be a catalyst for exploration into ideas she’s never painted. The paintings she creates will be the foundation of a greeting card line intended to inspire, encourage and bring smiles.

“When I saw articles this spring marking the 50th anniversary of the Storm of ’62, it hit me that this was also my 50th anniversary of selling my first painting of the Delaware shore,” Rice said. “It also hit me that ideas I’d been putting off for another day had now been put off for decades, and life is short!”

Most of the paintings in the challenge will be small, starting at around 5 by 7 inches, she said, but the subjects will be wide ranging and, “Hopefully, their impact will be large.”

“I’m going to have fun with these. I’ve never worked this small before, and there’s something about it that’s very freeing. This challenge enables me to paint a lot of the ideas that have been knocking around in my head for a long time, and it’s the right time for Healing Tree Cards.”

Rice’s desire to inspire, heal and bring joy with her work came early in her life, she said.

Ellen Harris came to Delaware in June 1962 at age 13 to help one of her aunts run a rooming house (what would now be called a bed-and-breakfast) on Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach. That summer, she met an artist who instilled in her the thought that she could do what he did with study and practice.

When she returned to school that fall, she tackled her first oil painting, a palette-knife memory of a turbulent Rehoboth surf, then another oil of the backbay marshes by moonlight. The marsh painting sold to a fellow school student a few days after it was finished, and a fledgling career was born.

Rice became serious about using her work to inspire in the early 1970s, after serious physical difficulties forced her to quit her job with the DuPont Co. in Seaford. Noting that she was a dedicated seeker of truth and student of the Bible, she said she relied on prayer for healing when medicine failed.

Her first published work presented itself as an opportunity to illustrate weekly religious messages in a local newspaper, The Leader, in Seaford. From those illustrations grew great personal satisfaction, but more than that: multiple painting commissions and award-winning work with the paper as a photographer, writer, editor, designer and corporate liaison.

Entirely self-taught, she described her journey as a professional artist and writer as a walk of faith.

“When I started painting for others and writing, I’d be asked if I could do something, and I’d say ‘Yes, I can do it,’ and then go about learning how, whether it was painting an oil portrait or writing a feature article. All the time I would be knowing it was God, the Source of my Intelligence, the same Source of the talent of Michelangelo and DaVinci and Rembrandt and countless others, that gave me the ability to do the work.

“Though I don’t go out thumping Bibles and talking about my faith a lot, my entire career is born of faith and continues through it. Prayer is where my best ideas come from and it’s on God I rely to paint and write. I think it’s why people tell me how moved they are by my paintings. It’s the spirit, the love and joy and awe with which they’re created that speaks to them.”

Rice is today considered one of Delaware’s most collectible artists, and she has completed the first four of the 50 paintings in her challenge. Several more are near completion. Each challenge painting will be numbered consecutively on the back and inscribed “50 Paintings Celebrating 50 Years of Painting Challenge.”

The paintings will be exhibited in the order they’re created, on ledges being put up for the challenge throughout the Ellen Rice Gallery in Ocean View. They’ll also be posted on Rice’s personal and gallery Facebook pages, and people can subscribe to receive email notices of the challenge paintings in real time by clicking on the Subscribe button on the bottom of her Web site at www.ellenrice.com.

When a painting is sold, a photograph of it will be put in its place on the ledge so that everyone who comes in to the gallery at any point during the 50 Paintings Celebrating 50 Years Challenge will be able to see the entire challenge as it’s going on. Rice plans to conclude the challenge in October.

Rice’s inspirational cards will also debut one by one over the summer. Subjects will range from local seascapes and marsh scenes, mountainsides and lakes to children playing, families interacting, dancers, flowers, butterflies and birds, and “possibly a few abstracts” thrown in the mix.

Each card will have a quote and/or inspirational story on the back, written by Ellen Rice.

The public can meet Rice this summer on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Ellen Rice Gallery, 103 Atlantic Avenue (Route 26) in Ocean View, 2.2 miles west of the intersection of Routes 1 and 26, in the west end of the old Country Wicker building.

The gallery, a National NICHE American Retailer Award Finalist, is open every day – Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at (302) 539-3405.