My name is Ellen Jean Diederich and I live in Fargo, ND. I have been painting professionally since 1985. My parents encouraged me to pursue my art career and even sold a cow so I could attend a Robert E. Wood workshop in 1979. I have a B.F.A. in Fine Art and a B.A. in Art Education from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. The last three years of college, I drew portraits and caricatures at multiple locations to pay my bills. My first teaching job was as an elementary art teacher in Pine River, MN which really helped me and my enthusiastic students focus on the basics of arts.
My childhood started in the city of Wayzata, MN and moved to Staples, MN where we lived on a farm. There, my high school art teachers Rose Edin and Russell Norberg, now both famous artists, provided a substantial start in the arts. Moorhead State balanced out my exposure to many mediums and art history which was very inspiring. The diversity of these lifestyles, directed my interest in painting several subjects particularly architecture, flowers, domestic animals and now landscape.
In 1985 I moved to Fargo, ND, married Paul Diederich and began teaching adult art education classes and painting full time. The start was rough and it took me a year to establish a working routine. My success rate was low, only one out of ten pieces at first and gradually improved over time.
For some reason I believed my work needed to be published to be successful. With a baby on its way, I started painting stuffed animals for my daughter’s room. They were selling as soon as they were done. Because of this success, I decided to create a stuffed animal print so I could move on to other subjects. Karen Lauer helped me develop my first marketing plan for my piece “King of the Blanket” and it was a success. Unfortunately this, labeled me “the teddy bear artist”. All of my life, I had never allowed myself to paint anything cute as I was so serious about my art. The good news was, those teddy bear paintings lit an intimate spark of love into my art that changed everything.
As a mother, I kept painting as my children grew. Part time daycare and babysitters gave me time to paint uninterrupted and the daycare bill was motivating. I worked out at 5:00 am each day before Paul left for work and still follow that routine today. Photographing my children at garden shows and our cats inspired many paintings and eventually my first children’s book “Where’s Petunia?” This garden adventure with my girls and two cats became a Gold Medal Ben Franklin Award-winning-full-color-hard-cover children’s book.
In 1988, two of my friends and I drove to Dillman’s Lodge in Wisconsin for a week long watercolor workshop. We realized that together we spent as much money as if had hired a pro to come to Fargo to teach. With a total of 12 painters, we formed the Red River Watercolor Society in 1989 and hired teachers to come to Fargo-Moorhead. RRWS has a different professional artist teach every year and held its first national exhibition in 1994.
In 1998 I began reproducing my paintings as Giclée reproductions which look so much like an original it is almost difficult for me to tell the difference. My collectors were pleased and I felt less pressure about the amount of time I was putting into each painting. Because of my interest in architecture I started painting local scenes. After many requests for cards of my painting “Fargo” and the support of Pride of Dakota and designer Sheyna Laurich; I began publishing my paintings as blank boxed cards. Find them at a store near you.
Teaching workshops helped me as well as my students. I keep a diary with notes about my work to share with my students. Confused how after a day of amazing painting would be followed by a day of destruction, I studied some theories and tested them on myself and my students. They encouraged me to put it in my book. Providing guidance though the painting process became the main focus of my third book “Progressive Painting- Your Creative Journey”.
My fascination with watercolor grew. Then in 2009, Spinal Stenosis nearly paralyzed me. The surgery was successful but my doctor gave me the devastating news that I would be more comfortable painting on an easel. Unhappily, I forced myself to learn to work with acrylic. If you heard a rumor that I’m not painting in Watercolor any more…it’s not true. I became even more dedicated to my exercise routine and now paint with watercolor without pain. Even better, I also love painting with acrylic too. At the same time, my work had begun on my third book “Samson’s Gift” and most of the illustrations are in acrylic. It was tough, many of the first paintings had to be redone, but those 42 paintings made a good training ground. “Samson’s Gift” amazingly received a Gold Medal Illumination Award. It is a nativity story where an orphan ram, Samson and a beautiful shepherdess, Tedra learn the joy of giving.
My work is best described as Neo-Impressionism. Color and the brush work are significant ingredients to my style. What is unique are the overlapping and interlocking calligraphic shapes created by using a brush shaped like a calligraphy pen. When looking at my subject, it feels similar to painting on an object from one position. In Watercolor the brush strokes either blend or many remain visible. With acrylic, all of the brush strokes show.
See my events page for upcoming shows and workshops. Some are in conjunction with a hotel or resort where guests can stay and paint. Feel free to invite me to teach at a warm winter location. Mentoring painters, jurying shows, demonstrating painting and speaking on the creative process all interest me. You can sign up for my “Painting of the Week” blog where I tell the story of a painting and describe something specific about the painting process. Please feel free to sign up to receive my newsletters there.
The Fargo artist’s neo-impressionist paintings have been displayed and critically acclaimed at numerous national exhibitions since 1991, and her original works and giclée reproductions have been widely celebrated and published. Collectors often mention the beautiful color and the positive and healing nature of her work.
Ellen is a signature member of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the Red River Watercolor Society, the Watercolor Society of Alabama, and Watercolor West.