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Artist Ellie Craze to turn First Friday gallery into a mystic dreamscape

Senior drawing major Ellie Craze poses for a portrait in her studio in the Art building on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Tempe.

Senior drawing major Ellie Craze poses for a portrait in her studio in the Art building on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Tempe.

On First Friday, one ASU art student will enchant 909 Cooperative’s gallery space with her sense of mystic whimsy.

Senior drawing major Ellie Craze will be holding a solo exhibition of her artwork in a collection titled, “Nowhere to Be.”

Craze said the thread tying her pieces together is the concept of imagined space.

“It’s kind of like spaces I imagine myself being in because this has been such a trying year for my soul and my patience,” she said. “I think a lot of it has to do with creating a space that I need for that moment, and I am kind of able to get lost in it when I’m making it. It’s been really helpful and soothing, therapeutic.”

Craze said this imaginative theme is common throughout most of her artwork, and has been an element of her style for quite some time.

“When I was like nine, probably, I got this huge drawing I did in this library exhibit,” she said. “It was this huge landscape of mountains and fairies … but it was funny because I showed my mom some of my work now, and she was saying how much it reminds her of my older drawings.”

Having been interested in art from a very young age, Craze said she really got hooked when her parents sent her to the New School for the Arts & Academics in high school.

getting things framed and ready for my show in 2 weeks! #art #artistsoninstagram #illustration #mushrooms

A photo posted by Ellie Craze (@smellycraze) on

“What really got me was the fact that you could be an artist and not have to have a really structured job,” she said. “I think I’ve always known that I hate just sitting down and working on a computer or something.”

Craze said that while going to school for art helps her develop and stay productive, it can also be a hindrance, which explains why she hasn’t done a solo show in several years.

“It’s really hard to do (a show) with school,” she said. “I’m always pumping out art but I’m not always having free time. School kind of makes you so tired and doesn’t give you the drive to go out and find places to show your art … it’s basically been a lack of trying.”

A busy schedule isn’t the only challenge Craze faces when making art. She also mentioned she is partially color blind.

Craze said she first began to notice this when she was struggling to complete a color exercise that required students to differentiate two very similar colors for a class, and after taking several tests, came to realize she had difficulty separating certain colors visually.

However, Craze still manages to pull together some pretty phenomenal pieces by using a broad spectrum of colors instead of several variations of the same one.

Fellow creative and friend, Sam Bee, spoke highly of Craze’s work ethic as well.

“When I come down to Phoenix and I plan to hang out with Ellie, she’s usually sketching something,” he said. “She’s very diligent. But in the same way she never seems like she lets it get in her way. She has work and sees her friends simultaneously, and they never impede on one another, but actually benefit one another, which is really cool.”

Bee said that over the time he’s known Craze, he has seen her talents grow and develop.

“Her work has become much more imaginative and introspective, and she’s done a really amazing job of creating surreal dreamscapes,” he said. “They really capture her persona and how she sees the world around her … I’m really proud of her.”

Craze’s girlfriend and fellow art student Sophia Jacobs, a museum studies senior, also said she has seen an evolution in Craze’s work.

“She’s definitely grown as an artist,” she said. “(Her style) is a mystical, introspective illustration style. She’s also gotten really into watercolor recently, so she’s been able to develop a lot of depth with that. When I first met her she was mostly just doing marker and ink. It’s definitely mystical and sort of dreamy. I feel like she might be drawing it from an internal space.”

Jacobs said the way Craze’s style combines cartoon-like illustration with realism is what makes it so appealing and unique.

“She’s the most creative person I know,” she said. “She’s able to think of a new concept so quickly.”

Those interested in catching a glimpse of Craze’s dreamy fantasy can see her show from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5 at 909 N. 5th St.

Reach the assistant arts editor at or follow @isabella_m_cast on Twitter

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