A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life of Carson Ellis

by Grace Bonney

photo by amy martin
In last week’s radio show, I thanked a number of people, places and programs that have been inspirational to me over the past few years. At the top of that list was the incredible artist and illustrator, Carson Ellis. I’ve been following Carson’s work for at least as long as I’ve been blogging. Her unique style and ability to transport viewers to a different time, place and world is truly spectacular. And, for me, her work has never been more perfectly showcased than as part of the book series she created with husband, Colin Meloy. Colin wrote the completely wonderful and endlessly imaginative book series Wildwood Chronicles and Carson brought his words to life with illustrations that meant so much to me, I asked Carson if she would turn one of them into a simplified tattoo design I could use. I read Wildwood while Amy and I were on the DS Book tour and it’s hard to put into words what that book – and Carson’s illustrations – meant to me. They transported me to a time and place that was so hopeful, exciting and imaginative (during a tough time in my personal life when I needed a bit of an emotional escape) that it feels forever imprinted on my mind.

Carson’s work, of course, spans well beyond her illustrations for the Wildwood Chronicles and always showcases her deep love of animals and nature. Carson lives outside of Portland, Oregon where she is surrounded by beautiful forests and nature that continually inspire her work. She was kind enough to let us into her world for a day to see what her daily life is like. From feeding her family’s chickens to wooing horses with apples and working on a new picture book, her day is full of special family moments and beautiful artwork. Thanks so much to Carson (and her entire family) for letting us peek inside her life. xo, grace

*Images above by Amy Martin and Carlie Armstrong

Click through for the full post after the jump…

7:30 am: We are all up, thanks to this little imp.

8:30 am: Baby Milo and I feed the chickens and let them out.

9:00 am: Colin gets home from driving Hank, the 7-year-old, to school. He sees me walking around taking pictures of the chickens and hollers, “A DAY IN THE LIFE…OF CARSON ELLIS!”

9:15 am: This horse is my neighbor. She comes running when she sees me because I feed her apples. There are lots of things I complain about but this isn’t one of them.

9:30 am: Milo and I putter in my greenhouse. I don’t complain about this either. I’d show you a picture of all the lettuces I started but the mice ate them, those dicks.

10:30 am: We drive into Portland for a Valentine’s Day brunch at Junior’s. We used to eat here all the time back in the day but it’s changed ownership a couple of times and it’s been years. I am a lame, grumpy wife and don’t want to come because we got home from a book tour yesterday and I have so much work to catch up on. Colin talks me into it though and I’m glad. It’s really sweet. I keep saying, “I’m glad we came.” And then on the ride home I go back to bitching about how much work I have to do.

1:00 pm: I nurse the baby and clock in.

1:00 pm: I’m working on a picture book; the first I’ve written myself. It’s about homes. I’m starting a new spread today; tracing this sketch on a lightboard.

photo 4
4:45 pm: 3 1/2 hours later this is what I have to show for myself. I work very, very slowly.

5:00 pm: I feed Sugar and Danny some hay and try to endear myself to them.

6:00 pm: Hank and I have a sushi dinner before Aspergers Game Club: second Friday of every month at the West Linn Lutheran Church. We are not Lutherans but one of us is autistic and lives for video games. While I pay the bill, he tears that chopstick wrapper into little pieces and sends them away on the sushi train conveyer belt.

10:30 pm: Everyone is sleeping but me. I’m drinking wine and knitting because that’s how I party.


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  • Wow, what a beautiful day-in-the-life. I loved it. Thank you Carson!! And, I’m crazy about your handwriting!!

  • this really cheered me up! i love carson ellis. i loved seeing her daily art progress too, and the horse on the other side of the fence…!! ditto what @katie said–thanks for keeping it real, girl!

  • Seriously, this was SO REFRESHING to read. Thanks, Carson – I admire your work tremendously!

  • Long time fan/illustration nerd who always knew Carson & her family were rad. This is just concrete proof. Also, mice really are such dicks!

  • Yes! This is hilarious and beautiful. I love how honest Carson is about grumbling about work. I love their work. Carson’s illustrations are just my favorite.

  • I am trying to find time to write and illustrate my own book, while trying to keep up with client work…challenging – and comforting to know others are out there struggling along with me.

  • Carson’s work is gorgeous and an inspiration! Her grumpiness sounds like me (except I would be an overworked single mom) always too much work to do. But a busy illustrator is a good thing! Thank you for introducing her work *DS! I’m surprised I am only just hearing of her now.

  • I just devoured the latest Wildwood book and, as usual, was completely entranced by the illustrations. What a great peek into her life and home – they seem like such a great family!

  • I love Carson’s work and love those books. Can’t wait to read the last one. Thanks for giving us a peek into her life!

  • This was awesome. I always loved Carson’s work, seeing a bit more about the person behind it makes me love it more. BTW, these Day in the Life posts are wonderful!

  • Sigh…perfect! Cozy home and I love the Wildwood books! Thanks for sharing your home.

  • This is just the best interview ever. I love how her voice shines through even in these short little captions. Her work’s been an inspiration to me, too. Great feature!

  • This is so fantastic. Thanks for sharing, Carson! We love your work here on Bainbridge Island.

  • I love your life. Thank you for proving that strong, independent, successful women can still be domestic.

  • This has to be one of the best “Day in the Life” segments ever! Funny commentary, great photos, and it’s all so charming. I really connected with that last photo…I, too, drink wine and knit :)

  • Thank you for your honesty…I sometimes read these and it seems like everyone’s days are just full of peaceful, tender, perfect moments with only smiles and rainbows…. Where’s the part where we curse at the unknown person whose gum we’ve just stepped on? Or the road rage when people DON’T USE BLINKERS? Or the times we’re exhausted and feeling like eating a giant cupcake or three? We all do things we wouldn’t include in a segment like this (every day!) but I love that you include “I am a lame, grumpy wife… bitching about how much work I have to do…” because now I really feel like you’re an actual person and I, too, can have a rewarding life without having to be zen 100% of the time. Even in a “snapshot” style format, those less-than-perfect moments deserve a spot for the sake of authenticity. Again, thanks.

  • Thanks for the peek into your world, Carson, love the farm scene! (Slugs are dicks, too.) And really, is there any other way to party but alone with your knitting?!

    Grace, would love to see your tattoo that Carson designed!

  • its so refreshing to hear Carson being real and complaining about stuff. She can come knit, drink wine and moan about her chores with me anyday. I can teach her, Milo and Hank to grow barley fodder for the chickensa and llamas and I can complain about what dicks the voles and moles are being in my yard. Sorry, no sushi train restaurant in our hood, but there is a sushi boat place in Japantown I know of.

  • I usually never get to the end of reading these, but you are just perfect!! And so is your family! I find comfort in what you have written and i would love to read more.. Gonna ask my friend google about you straight away.

  • This way such a happy read for me on my way home after a long day! I must dug out my wildwood book and thumb through some of your amazing drawings again. Thanks for having an authentic voice. E

  • ” …but the mice ate them, those dicks.” So perfect.
    Can’t wait for the book about homes, as I’m rather obsessed with structures people choose for homes.
    Thanks for the tour!

  • Everybody has stuff going on in their lives, don’t they? Thanks for sharing this peek into yours. I’m super jealous of your greenhouse because we have so much snow on the ground in PA, and all I want to do is plan my garden.

  • I loved this vignette — I love the Wildwood series for the same reason as Grace – it’s a wonderful imaginative world I can get lost in as needed. And, it’s so interesting the things that fill people’s days – all the things that are work and nonwork.

  • This is fantastic! I’m not familiar with Carson’s work (although I’ll be googling her just as soon as I finish this comment!), but these photos alone are making me swoon for farm life and llamas! Or are those alpacas?

  • So after reading this, and some of the comments, I went out and bought the first book in the series. I love the illustrations. I’m going to start reading it tonight with my son! Thanks, DS for introducing me to this artist and the book.

  • I really enjoyed this. It is what I consider a perfect day. I live on Maui, and the window into Carson’s creative life makes me want to move to Oregon and discover the woods with my dog, Molokai, and allow the experience be a part of my writing. Thank you for this. Aloha.