By Randi Bjornstad
As an artist, Marco Elliott can’t be pinned down as to style, and that’s the way he likes it.
His show up now at the Out on a Limb Gallery in downtown Eugene is a perfect example, incorporating pastoral watercolor scenes of his favorite spots on the Oregon Coast — “When I came to Oregon, I fell in love with the area north of Florence, especially the Sutton and Washburne beaches,” Elliott said — as well as “plein air” scenes from southern France, where he grew up.
He also does scratchboard, which he describes as “poor man’s engraving.”
The technique involves using cardboard or a hardboard covered with fine-density clay and then sprayed with India ink, Elliott said. “Then you scratch through the ink layer to create the image you want.”
Scratchboard artists use anything from X-acto knives to needles, scalpels, wire brushes or steel wool. The resulting pictures can be left black-and-white, but many artists add color to their etchings.
Some make their own scratchboards, although they are available commercially. The medium became popular in the 1800s in Great Britain and France as a less-expensive and more forgiving alternative to wood, metal or linoleum.
Before moving to Eugene, Elliott taught high school art classes in Venice, Calif., and always embraced the idea of eclecticism in his work.
“Some artists find a niche, and then people — especially galleries — expect them to keep that style,” he said. “But people like (Pablo) Picasso liked to experiment with many different styles and mediums, and that’s the way I like to work, too.”
He went through a “political period” while in southern California, Elliott admits, creating portraits of people such as then-vice president Dick Cheney, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, “all the neocons.”
“I even did a linoleum print of Donald Rumsfeld,” Elliott laughs. “And sometimes my portraits contain little surprises, like the one of George W. Bush, which has a silver spoon ‘collaged’ in it.”
Another part of his body of work focuses on homages to the styles of other artists, and he also has a small collection of pieces he did while still living in Paris that is based on images from early 20th-century postcards.
Elliott spent much of his first three decades in France but had dual citizenship through his father, a U.S. native. His more-or-less permanent relocation to the United States came when he developed a serious interest in murals and moved to Los Angeles, “which is the mural capital of the world,” he said, and where he met his wife and fellow artist, Joanna Carrabbio.
“After 25 years of teaching and commuting on the LA freeways, we took a summer camping trip to Glacier National Park via various states, and on the way back we drove through Eugene,” Elliott said. “We had an instant warm feeling about Eugene, and a couple of years later we were thinking about relocating to northern California, but we came to Eugene also.
They found a house on Moss Street “that wasn’t a cookie-cutter house — it was all paneled inside with Port Orford Cedar and had been owned previously by a landscape architect,” he said. “We fell in love with the garden and the house, and we’ve been here since 2009.”
Elliott met Tim Boyden, proprietor of the Out on a Limb Gallery, soon after, when Boyden’s house in the same neighborhood was part of BRING Recycling’s house tour.
Boyden’s gallery features his own fine woodworking and other eclectic creations as well as exhibits — some permanent and others temporary — by a variety of local artists.
“I was attracted to Marco and his work immediately,” Boyden said. “Often, when I know an artist whose work I really like, I’ll just say, ‘Bring me some stuff,’ and we’ll do a show.”
Out on a Limb Gallery
What: Eclectic prints by Eugene artist Marco Elliott
When: Through Dec. 31
Where: 191 E. Broadway, Eugene
Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 9 am. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Information: 541-342-5937, email@example.com or timboydenart.wordpress.com