Kyle Ellingson publishes an absurd and entertaining 100-page comic book, devoid of any words
The Baltimore-based illustrator has compiled a series of wordless graphic illustrations, inspired by the elusive structure of his dreams.
- Ayla Angelos
- 31 March 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
We often hear of an artist’s introduction to the medium through their family. And Kyle Ellingson is no exception to that. Having grown up in Minnesota, a small suburb of Minneapolis, and now based in Baltimore, Kyle remembers his grandfather; a printmaker and art professor at the nearby university. “Most of the art supplies I used as a kid were funnelled to me through him,” Kyle tells It’s Nice That, detailing how his uncle also worked as a visual effects artist in LA, and his mum made drawings and textiles in her home studio. “And so art was a normal, if not kind of expected, thing to make in my family. I broke that trend a little and spent my 20s writing short stories, though I started to miss the speed and emotion of image-making – I think illustration has settled into my life as a kind of rendezvous point for the writer and artist in me.”
By meandering through Kyle’s portfolio, you can see the influences from his past life as a writer. For one, he creates various fictitious narratives and graphic comics. Secondly, he’s just published a new book, Ellingson’s Dreams: Vol 1. – a mammoth 100-page compilation of comic-inspired drawings. What’s disparate within these works say, compared to his writing, is that these drawings are completely wordless. “Ellingson’s Dreams is what happens when a writer who needs a break from constructing narratives nevertheless wants to make a graphic novel,” he adds. “I had character and conflicts in mind but found myself taking them off-road from a traditional story arc.”
In doing so, Kyle’s new body of work references the elusive structures of a dream; that being the ways in which dreams tend to be crafted from utter nonsense, “intuition” and (well, at least for Kyle) “a sense that time is running out.” The book was an opportunity to make sense of it all, “unmoderated” by words and thus using the images from his memories. And for anyone wondering, it’s called Vol 1. because he’d like to revisit the wordless graphic novel again at another time, and “hopefully many times over in the future.”
Kyle continues to label the work as a collection of personal chaos, composed from the dreams he had while making the book. On how he puts pen to paper, his usual process – just like how he created Ellingson’s Dreams Vol 1. – tends to start with an early rise, before sitting down at his drawing table by six in the morning with a coffee and headphones. A blank stare or two out the window and he’s ready to get cracking on any personal works at hand, making sure to spend time with the former, pre-imagining what the finished work might be. He also draws on paper, applying pencil first before inking, erasing and scanning. Then he’ll splash colours and textures with digital tools. This all occurs way before reaching noon, and Kyle tends to be napping by 10 or 11 – that is before heading back to the table until “wine time” latest that afternoon.
Within this new body of work, you can expect to find a host of bizarre stories and scenarios. We ask the artist to pick out a few favourites and Kyle responds that he tends to be drawn towards the ones that feel more absurd and climactic. “In one,” he says, “a theatre audience looks on as an invasion of big floating pineapples zaps a city to dust. In another, a firefighter aims a spray of water emojis at some fire emojis that are consuming a wall of smiley emojis. Within each, I wanted to create a sort of emergency level situation minus the backstory.” Others pieces depict the scenes of a character grating cheese onto a house in New England; astronauts answering a giant telephone while gloating in space; and trees growing sideways. Besides these obscure tales, every piece is drawn within a 14 inch by 22 inch panel, to add to at least some consistency in the book. “Overall, this project helped me further streamline my process, meaning I could jump from piece to piece, every day or two. It made the experience of drawing somewhat dreamlike: intense but kind of fleeting.”
At the moment, Kyle is currently finishing off his MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, with plans to move to Brooklyn and set up a workspace. Busy working hard and hopeful to land some editorial work in the very near future, we can only expect great things from this illustrator. As for Ellingson’s Dreams: Vol 1, this is currently undergoing a printed limited run before he looks for further publication opportunities. “In the meantime,” he concludes, “I’ve taped three big sheets of paper to my wall and am thinking of filling them with some kind of Basch-esque armageddon scene of superheroes no one’s heard of yet.”
Kyle Ellingson: Ellingson’s Dreams: Emoji Fire (Copyright © Kyle Ellingson, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.