The young and the talented

WAXHAW – Nine-year-old Ella McElroy has loved art as far back as she can remember.

(Above) Ella McElroy with her award-winning painting of a hawk, Charlotte Latin School’s mascot.

(Above) Ella McElroy with her award-winning painting of a hawk, Charlotte Latin School’s mascot.

“Ever since I could hold a crayon, I was all over the place, drawing,” Ella said.

What started out as a fun pastime recently has grown into a hobby that’s won Ella an award and captured the attention of a handful of art lovers. That success has motivated Ella to continue to hone her skills as an artist, branch out and try some new things.

When Ella was younger, her parents noticed her raw talent and encouraged her to participate in classes with Small Hands, Big Art. There, Ella learned the basics before studying art more in

“(Her skills) were a little above her age. Small Hands, Big Art encouraged her and exposed her to different kinds of art pieces,” Brenda McElroy, Ella’s mom, said.

One of the things McElroy noticed early on about her daughter’s ability was Ella’s eye for color. Ella never wanted just the four primary colors when painting on her Melissa & Doug easel, McElroy said. Rather, she wanted as many shades and combinations as she could have.

“She has a fantastic eye for color,” McElroy said. “I’m always impressed when I have been there at her class, when she’s choosing her colors and going through huge buckets of paint. She sees it in her head before she sees it on the (painting).”

By the time she was in second grade, Ella and her parents realized her skills had grown strong enough to begin taking private art lessons with a first-grade teacher from Charlotte Latin School, where Ella attends. Ella has lessons once a week, and part of her lesson time is dedicated to independent study, which gives her more freedom to create what she

One of Ella’s first shining moments occurred in the first grade when the Mint Museum in Charlotte selected one of her paintings to be displayed and viewed by museumgoers. The same work was later selected for inclusion in a “Celebration of Young Artists” exhibit in Italy.

Ella’s latest success story occurred recently, when students of all ages at Charlotte Latin competed in a school-wide fine art contest. Ella’s painting of a hawk, the school’s mascot, took first place, beating out entries from third-graders, 12th-graders and every age in between. The painting subsequently was selected from thousands of entries as one of the Top 10 in Ella’s grade division in a contest. It’s now framed and hanging on the wall in Ella’s family’s living room.

Various endangered species of animals have inspired Ella’s artwork. She recently completed a painting of the face of a cheetah and hopes to continue creating similar artwork and selling the pieces to raise money for organizations that care for endangered species.

“I like painting animals, endangered species, and I want to raise money to protect them,” Ella said.

Ella recently created, at the request of her aunt, an impressionistic piece based on a Vincent van Gogh painting. The piece included an old house with big trees and a road.

“It was challenging for her,” McElroy said. “It was 28 (inches) by 40 (inches), a very large canvas, and it took her a while.”

School takes up much of Ella’s time, but she’s hoping to use the summer to work on new paintings including a flowerpot and a potential horse painting, as horses are one of her favorite animals. Ella hopes to start attending art festivals as her repertoire grows to show her work to the public.

And her biggest influence, other than endangered species? “I like van Gogh. I like how he does his paintings, the types of scenery (he paints), the details that he does.”


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