Artist Ellen Heise brings landscape scenes to life


Heise works on her art in the Chico Paper Company gallery. Photo credit: Caitlyn Young

Landscape paintings are very beautiful, but at times can all seem very similar. Artist and Chico State alumna Ellen Heise creates landscapes that have their own flavor. She creates more than just a landscape painting.

Almost all of the paintings that artist Ellen Heise creates have a painted border. The main scenes themselves are rather small, but the canvases are on the larger side. This has become one of her signature looks ever since she was an undergraduate. She was creating a “Bachelor of Arts” series when she realized that she needed something to make her beautiful artwork stand out even more. She wanted to “go beyond beautiful.”

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The piece Heise was working on is titled: Chun Seen Da Dee, which, loosely translated means Spring Awakens the Earth. Photo credit: Caitlyn Young


Once a scene is painted, Heise chooses the right border for that particular painting. Sometimes, she paints a close up version of a part of her painting. For example, she might have poppies growing the corner of a landscape, but they are so small, no detail is shown. However, she’ll then paints intricate, large poppies around the border to enhance the colors in the landscape scene.

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Heise’s artwork hangs up in the Chico Paper Company gallery. Photo credit: Caitlyn Young


Heise’s artwork really speaks for itself. It not only demonstrates who she is as a person, but she also subtly hides a bit of herself in her work. In English, her Chinese name means “Expensive Sparrow.” Heise occasionally hides little sparrows in her artwork to represent herself, and because she enjoys painting them. Sparrows and water lilies are her favorite objects to paint up close.

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Heise paints in more flowers to add some bright color to her landscape scene. Photo credit: Caitlyn Young


When Heise moved to California from Taiwan, she decided to do more landscapes. She chose landscapes not only because she liked to paint them, but because she saw the beautiful scenes in the spring time. The beauty of nature in the spring inspired her to try and recreate them. Previously, she had only visited Northern California in the dry, summer months, so she decided to paint spring scenes.

Heise tries to capture what she sees. Years ago, she tried painting outdoors, but it did not really work for her; she couldn’t concentrate. Since there are too many things that could go wrong when painting out in the wilderness, Heise likes to continue to go back to the scene she is basing her painting off of. She also takes a picture as a reference to remind herself of the smaller details, but she says that when you take a picture, the place never really looks like that.

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Heise stands proudly by her latest work in progress, Chun Seen Da Dee. Photo credit: Caitlyn Young


She has traveled to many places to get inspiration, such as Mt. Lassen and Kings Creek. Heise says that someday in the future, she would like to return to painting outside in front of the scene that she is intending to paint.

While her paintings are based on real places, Heise makes small adjustments to how things are in reality.

“When you see my paintings, it kind of reminds you of somewhere,” Heise says, “but when you’re the artist, you have to decide what works best for you.”

Heise’s Process:

  1. Taping. Heise tapes down a border around her landscape in the middle of the canvas.
  2. Sketching. Heise sketches out quickly the landscape that she wants to create.
  3. Painting. Heise begins to add color all over, adding more and more detail to her scene.
  4. Waiting. After Heise finishes the landscape in the middle, she thinks of what the border should look like.
  5. Drawing. Heise draws out the border design.
  6. Watercolor. Sometimes Heise adds a watercolor base to the background of the border.
  7. Finishing. Heise puts the final touches on the border of the painting.

All Heise’s work can be purchased at the Chico Paper Company.

Caitlyn Young can be reached at [email protected] or @Orion_CaitlynY on Twitter.