As a child, I lived largely in my imagination.
More than playing with other children, I enjoyed playing by myself with lots of tiny figurines that my mother called “my sets.” I would spend hours creating worlds out of leaves and berries and candle votives and cubbies under my nightstand or the phone nook.
As I grew older, I found a best friend in my grandmother. My granny is observant and inquisitive by nature, and I would talk to her about anything, so she quickly became the type of friend who knows you through and through. I think it was my granny who first told me I saw the world like an artist. She said I was always discovering strange shadows or pointing out colors that she had overlooked in the sky.
The first time I saw Elly Mackay’s illustrations, my inner child and my inner artist swooned.
Since then, I have purchased several of her picture books (Fall Leaves, Maya, and Butterfly Park). I also google her name periodically so that I can sigh over the beauty of her life’s work.
When I share Elly’s work with some of my friends, they don’t always have quite the same first reaction that I did. It took me a little while to understand why. At first glance, most people think her work is computer generated. I only recognized her art form for what it was because I had toyed with some of the same materials (yupo paper and alcohol inks) and was familiar with their effect. Also, my inner child woke up and started cheering wildly, “What a beautiful set!”
You see, Elly creates all of her worlds by hand. She paints the pieces, then assembles them in a “paper theatre” and photographs them. She also shines light through colored filters to give her world the desired mood. Her results are, quite literally, brilliant. I can’t conceive of a more poignant way to tell a story than to use light as a paintbrush.