I have been making art most of my life, working as a studio and plein air painter since earning my BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1981. I paint in response to the land; inspired by wild spaces, churning nature, rugged edges, and distance. I am further inspired by words that strike me and evoke imagery as I read.
My studio and plein air practices feed each other. Working directly outdoors allows me to connect with nature as I explore the idea of “place.” In studio, I work in a variety of media to deeply explore ideas and inspirations, free from changing conditions. There, I can linger in the surface and rhythm of a painting and further develop imagery from my plein air work, sketches, and photographs. In all my work, I share my story of being in a particular place at a particular moment in time.
Whether in the field or studio, my paintings offer a narrative of color, line, form, movement, light, and pattern through rolling fields, extreme edges, moving water, and dramatic skies. I am also attracted to man-made lines and patterns from plowed and excavated fields, vineyards, power lines, roads, and structures. Features of the landscape become “characters” in the story I paint.
Much of my work is inspired by the landscape of western New York—especially Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes. I am endlessly enchanted by art-making travel to Ireland. Many of the sites I choose to paint are views I see on my daily travels. With my van as a mobile studio, I’m ready to paint when I see something wonderful. I frequently paint with other plein air artists which fosters an important sense of community and a dynamic classroom that keeps my learning alive.
I choose to work with oil and encaustic paints. I love oils for the reasons so many do—the look and feel of moving the paint. Working with encaustics is perhaps my most adventurous practice because inspiration comes from the material itself. Encaustic is unique because of the artist’s ability to paint, build, remove, carve, collage, print, and combine with other media. Working with heat and flame adds another satisfying element of interaction and surprise. I enjoy exploring the tactile properties of the wax and the new conversation that comes with each piece.
The art I have included on this website represents my recent and favorite work--it is not a full collection of what is available in physical galleries or my studio. I frequently add new paintings and news. Please contact me if you would like to see more of any body of work, if you would like more details about any paintings, or if you would like to arrange a studio visit. Contact me.
Phyllis Bryce Ely earned her BFA in painting and printmaking from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1981. She paints en plein air and in the studio, and is regarded for her landscapes and depictions of upstate New York, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes region, and her travels. She paints primarily in oil, encaustic wax, and oil with cold wax medium.
Phyllis's work has been juried into in international, national, and regional exhibitions including the International Encaustic Artists’ Survey of Contemporary Encaustic at the Chaffey Community Museum of Art in Ontario, California (2019) and the IEA’s Hopeful Darkness at the Atlantic Gallery, New York City (2017); Utopia/Dystopia at Main Street Arts Gallery (2017) in Clifton Springs, NY where she was awarded "Best in Show;" Made in New York 2017 at the Schweinfurth Arts Center; and multiple inclusions in the Finger Lakes Exhibition at Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, when in 2013 she received the Gertrude Herdle Moore/Isabel Herdle Award given by The Gallery Council. Phyllis has received honors and awards at the Sonnenberg Arts Festival in Canandaigua, NY, the Memorial Art Gallery’s Clothesline Arts Festival, and other juried exhibitions. In 2017, she was awarded the Record Archive award for painting at the Rochester Contemporary's 2017 Annual Members Exhibition.
Phyllis was invited to participate in the Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s Landscapes and the Unbuilt, a 2019 exhibit that reflects artist interactions with land and natural places. In 2018, Phyllis was commissioned to create the 2018 Park Ave Summer Art Fest poster. The poster, an encaustic painting, received the International Festival & Events Assoc. Pinnacle Award “Gold: Best Commemorative Poster.” That same year, she presented “Not My Father’s Iceberg,” a solo exhibit at Main Street Arts Gallery in Clifton Springs, NY featuring paintings made in response to her father’s Arctic photography while serving as a Navy photographer aboard an icebreaker in the 1950s. (see Father-Daughter Gallery.)
Phyllis is represented by the Oxford Gallery and frequently shows with other regional galleries in New York. She is an active member of the Genesee Valley Plein Air Painters, International Encaustic Artists, and Working in Wax Group, and is a past plein air, drawing, and painting instructor at the Creative Workshop of the Memorial Art Gallery.
Her studio is in the Hungerford building in downtown Rochester, home to four floors of creative people in a rambling former factory in Rochester, NY. Phyllis shares a lively workspace with two talented friends (Anne McCune and Maureen Outlaw Church); together, they hold open studio hours with other Hungerford artists First Fridays (5-9 PM) and Second Saturdays (10 AM-3 PM), and by appointment.
Phyllis’ work is included in many private and public collections including Bausch & Lomb, Xerox Corporation, Mobil Chemical Corporation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Nixon Peabody LLP, Jewish Senior Living of Rochester, and Rochester Community Savings Bank.
Phyllis lives on the Lake Ontario shoreline in New York state with her husband, Mark. She is the proud mother of Hannah Bryce Ely, CMI, biomedical illustrator, www.hannahbryceely.com.