You can’t call David Craig Ellis a pussy. His response to my question of how prepared he was for these unfathomable, trying times without hesitation was, “Everything from my time in Canada camping in the woods, with nothing to living on a park bench in Washington Square Park to being homeless in Toronto [prepared me].”
“I’ve been through the mill. I’ve been tested by fires, floods, robberies, you name it. I’ve been getting a life of preparation for this. Although this might not be pleasant, it’s nothing that I can’t handle. As long as I have a cup of coffee, a pen, and a piece of paper, I’m happy. I really don’t need anything. Eventually, I may need an egg or an English muffin. I have coffee here; I have lots of pens and tons of scrap paper. I’m OK. That’s a lengthy gratitude list for me right there.”
When I called David Craig Ellis in his upstate studio and domicile, he was in day three of his treatment for infection with the Covid-19 virus. I have come to know and love Dave through the years and was deeply concerned for my now sick friend. He wouldn’t have anything of it. “It’s been a challenging week. This last week has been challenging enough, let alone this last year. I can tell you that it hasn’t been pleasant; I can tell you that it’s been pretty bad. It feels evil, like there’s an evil sickness that is embedded way down in my soul.”
“I can’t wait for it to go away, but I can describe to you how I feel now. I feel nauseous. I feel like I have a baseball sized lump of concrete embedded in my skull, which is kind of pushing and trying to get out, causing a pounding headache and making my ears ring like a fire alarm. I have been sick to my stomach. I am freezing with chills, but I am sweating. And then on top of it all, I can’t taste, and I can’t smell, so pizza is out of the question. All my favorite foods just basically go into a blender, and I am sucking it up through a straw. One of my friends brought me 50 drinking straws – that was great!”
Now that we know how you have been keeping busy over the past week, tell me how have you been keeping busy over the past year?
“Yes, in many ways it has been a satisfying year. As you know, I build recording studios, and I have been able to work on a project doing that in Bushwick. So I still come back and forth, wearing a mask. I commute actually quite a lot. I still have my studio in Dumbo, and when the lockdown was initially lifted, I was working there but keeping pretty much to myself. So I have been on my own but getting a lot done.”
“I have had the time to experiment with different kinds of paint and different media. It’s basically been me and a cat, locked up in this house, and as long as I do the paintings in a room where he won’t walk on them, then I ‘m able to do the experimenting and have fun with it. I am sticking to my style. I don’t stray too much from my subject matter and my characters. I don’t stray too much from my overall theme. But the way that I am applying paint has led to more experimentation.”
What does it mean to own David Craig Ellis?
“First of all my old man, when I was I kid and I would say ‘I want a bicycle; I want a new TV; I want you to buy me this; I want you to buy me that,’ he would say, ‘Buy me; buy me,’ as if to say that he would not be forced into buying my love, that it would not come down to me accepting him for his showering me with gifts. But in this day and age, buy me, buy me, is a whole different concept for me. You can buy all sorts of things that I have created online in the shop on my website www.davidcraigellis.com, but I also have NFTs that you can now purchase, essentially a representation of a painting that boils down to a serial number.
“Perhaps last week when I was thinking that I might die of Covid, I was thinking that this may be a good time to buy David Craig Ellis, that I may die, and my work would go up in value. Sorry to disappoint, but I thought that it could be this week by the way that I was feeling. For the most part, I price everything really low, some of which I freely give away. I just want to get my stuff out there. If I can give something to someone and it means something, that is more important to me than selling right now at a high price and hoarding all the money. I have one for you, Paul, the one with the cup of coffee in it.”
What has e-commerce meant to you over the last year?
“It was just several days ago that I got a text from my friend Gideon Kline that said, ‘You should make your work into NFTs.’ I had no idea what he was talking about, so I read up on it, and the next night, when I was driving down on my commute, there happened to be a huge story about it on NPR, and I tuned into that and learned a little bit more. By six o’clock that evening, my assistant Greg and I were opening a bitcoin wallet, transferring funds, and putting paintings up. Basically, everything that I know is everything that I have learned in the past three weeks – and it isn’t much. It’s kind of a big, vast confusing world.”
“We did an improvement of my website www.davidcraigellis.com. I gave up my Etsy site and opened a virtual store right on my site. There are about 150 paintings that are for sale on the website now as well as my T-shirts (which I silkscreen myself in my Dumbo studio), tote bags, and a new line of posters as well as a great selection of signed and numbered prints of my recent work. There is a pretty good representation of what I have been up to on the site. Thanks for mentioning it.”
Are you going to explore fractional ownership and speculative trading of your work?
“We are launching that as well. Although I have shown at several different galleries, and I have good relationships, I also have my own underground gallery in Brooklyn, which is a constantly changing and evolving show of my work. As it revolves and I sell and make new work, new work is shown. The whole thing comes up and down constantly. I like being in charge of my own sales, of my own career, so to speak. So it’s another great thing to look into.”
What have you been doing to get your art out there to dealers in other countries?
“I would say most of my success with those developments and introductions were started at Art Basil a few years ago. I was in a couple of shows there, and I ended up spending a fortune on taxi cabs running around all day and all night. I made some really, really great contacts, and some of them resulted in great deals coming through. That has been up and running for a few years.”
David, I know that I speak for all your friends and patrons in hoping that you are 110% better. It’s amazing to me that you can take time out of your Covid recovery to do this interview. And I am thrilled that you can continue to draw and occupy yourself in between cold sweats under the sheets and emergency runs to the bathroom.
“Thanks Paul. I look forward to being 110% better and especially done with this 110 degree fever, too. I ‘m grateful for doing this with you and for the great help that I got from Urgent Care and everyone who has been checking in with me and bringing me food to throw in the blender.”