Elli Egilsson is one of Iceland’s most interesting landscape artist these days. He is based in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and actress, María Birta Bjarnadóttir. You can look him up on elliegilsson.com.
Bonding With Nature
Besides being inspired by other people and other people’s work, such as musicians, painters, artists, filmmakers and overall good, hard working people, I truly believe that these days, the Icelandic nature and landscape is my number one go-to source for inspiration and not just for my paintings and artistry, but for someone like myself that was born in Iceland but hasn’t really lived there for the past 15 years or so. It seems that the older I get, the more I bond with the scenery and understand and respect the magnificent nature that is around us.
Grandpa Is An Idol
When I was a youngling, I didn’t have a lot of friends so I took every possible opportunity I had to get out of the city with my grandfather, Bjarni Guðjónsson, to his summerhouse in Grímsnes to help him fix the deck, paint the roof or basically anything that needed a touch up. My grandfather was my idol! He taught me how to build and fix things with my bare hands, which is something I now do on a daily basis. For example, I build my own stretcher bars and frames for my paintings, and I mix and make my own paint.
Jordan Was God
Like many other kids born in the early 80s, Michael Jordan became my God. If I’d count how many pairs of Jordans I had as a kid, I’d feel sorry for my parents’ bank account. Seriously, without sounding like a total spoiled brat, I had to have every single pair of sneakers that was released.
Michael Jordan made the impossible shots possible, so I felt like if I had Jordans on I could do anything possible, perhaps that’s why the famous quote from Picasso, “everything you can imagine is real,” always stuck with me and that is exactly what my career is all about today. I paint oil paintings of Icelandic landscape by memory only, without any photo references in front of me, what some would call a dreamlike realism, a place you think you’ve seen or been to, but you can’t really put a name or the exact location to it.
Eazy-Duz-It From My Mom
Then there is the main influence to us all, music. Now, I could probably write words that would fill out an entire issue of Grapevine when it comes to music influences, but I’d rather write a few words about how I was introduced to the genre that stuck with me from the beginning: rap music. My brother and I used to ask our mom, since she was a flight attendant, if she could buy the most explicit CDs she could find in the States; and she did. I was 7 years old when I got the newly released Eazy-Duz-It from my mom.
She didn’t care about the foul language, she’s always been an O.G., but when my dad would come home from work and he’d hear the lyrics, he took the CDs away and threw them in the trash, but that was ok, since my mom would just go buy the exact same CDs for us on the next USA flight she had. Thanks, mom!
Around Great Thinkers
My dad is an artist and he’s always had a studio at home, so when I was younger I would watch him paint and observe every move he made. The most amazing artists and characters would come visit his studio such as his late great friend Stefán Stórval Jónsson, Thor Vilhjálmsson, Erró, Siggi Örlygs and so many great artists that would subconsciously shape and influence that young mind of mine into becoming an artist.