Scrolling through Twitter, you can come across some amazing things. One afternoon I spotted a post by graphic designer, Ellen Brown, which stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a stunning painting of Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn as Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940). Ellen had managed to not only imitate Kahlo’s style but also incorporated elements from the game that mimic the original painting enough that I had to do a double-take the first time I saw it. Excited by the beautiful work I dove deeper and found Ellen had also created a few other portraits of video game character as famous paintings. Ellen’s paintings are spot on and give us a new way to admire the characters they portray. Intrigued, I really wanted to know more.
Speaking with Ellen, I was surprised to learn that the paintings came about a way of practicing her art in a fun way. “At the end of last year, I took a break from making personal art to try catch up on all the games I wanted to play.” said Ellen. “When I finally got back to making art in my spare time again I eased myself back into it by doing studies of classic paintings. I was painting Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring and just kind of ended up adding Senua from Hellblade’s headband into it – I guess I still kind of had games on the brain? It’s not really a very original idea because there’s already a bunch of images out there of pop culture painting parodies, but I feel like this project is a nice way to combine my two passions – art and games.”
Ellen’s got talent for sure and it comes from a lifetime love of art. She admits, “I’m not really sure how I got into art, to be honest. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t drawing and my parents were always really encouraging of it. I ended up going to Abertay University, which is a university in the UK that’s known for teaching game development and studied how to make art for games. We were taught stuff like 3D modelling, animation, and digital painting. I specialized in creating 2D art assets and used to make little games for fun with friends. After [university] I worked at a games company doing that for a while but I’ve ended up becoming a graphic designer which was largely self-taught.”
The three pieces Ellen has painted so far, including Atreus and Mimir from God of War as David with the Head of Goliath (Caravaggio 1610), left me wondering if she had plans for any other characters as classic portraits. Ellen let me know that she’s currently working on a piece with Hank and Conner from Detroit: Become Human and I can’t wait to see which painting she’s basing it on.
There are plenty of other characters out there that she’d love to paint. “I’d love to do a Femshep painting – I love the idea of mixing sci-fi with something really old school so I’d love to see her in the N7 armour as Rembrandt’s Man In Armour.” Ellen told us. “I also love all the Witcher ladies, though I think Yennefer, in particular, would work great as Gil Elvgren’s Riding High witch pin-up girl and Clementine from Telltale’s Walking Dead deserves some sort of mad zombie battle scene but I’m not sure what could do her justice.”
Thanks to Ellen for giving us a little background on her work! You can see more of her illustrations in her online portfolio at EllenBrown.myportfolio.com.
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Image Credits: Ellen Brown
Editor’s note: Interview responses were lightly edited for clarity.
Hailing from New York, Jessica Fisher is a writer, artist, and all around geek. In addition to Geek & Sundry, she writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter as @miniktty.