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Comic Book Dreams Lead to Lifelong Pursuit for Local Artist

Matt Ellrod began his artistic career at a young age.

Stop by the Carrollwood Cultural Center, and one thing is clear: local artists are making their mark in Tampa Bay.

One of those artists is Matt Ellrod, who has displayed his artwork at the center, 4537 Lowell Road, and will be featured there next month.

We recently talked to Ellrod about how he got his start and how the community can view or purchase his work.

Patch: How did you get your start as an artist?

Ellrod: As a pre-teen in Maryland, my brother Rick and I made our own comic books, and we were sure we would work for Marvel Comics one day. When I was 11, my parents signed me up for a Saturday morning charcoal drawing class at the local rec center. My teacher, Barney Loiselle, had to twist my arm to try oil painting.

I finished my first painting at age 11, and continued through high school and music school. I took a break from painting after I moved to Florida and began practicing law in 1983, but picked up the brush again in 2001, concentrating on portraits.

Patch: Who or what influences you?

Ellrod: The reaction that people have to my portraits gives me the most pleasure. My goal is for the subjects to look as though they could come alive and step off the canvas. Artists in the late 1800s such as William Bouguereau are my favorites, and I have learned a lot taking workshops from modern masters such as Nelson Shanks and Marvin Mattelson. My wife Louise gives me invaluable feedback and encouragement.

Patch: What does your work say about you as a person?

Ellrod: Lawyers can be human beings too! Seriously, most people think that art is probably a release from the stress of a law practice, but I'm a pretty easy-going person in any circumstance. It's great to have a hobby that leaves something permanent behind and gives so much enjoyment to others. Oil portraits are something that can be handed down and treasured for generations in a family. I'm also a natural teacher and teach portrait classes from time to time.

Patch: What are current misconceptions people have about artists?

Ellrod: Artists are supposed to be absent-minded and disorganized. Actually, succeeding in creating a realistic painting requires a lot of planning and discipline.

Patch: How can people in Carrollwood see your work?

Ellrod: About 20 paintings of my paintings will be on display during the month of October at the Carrollwood Cultural Center. My work can also be found on the internet at mattellrod.com, but there's nothing like seeing an artwork "in person."

I am honored to have the opportunity to show my work at such a wonderful, family-friendly facility. I also participate in art shows at other local galleries, such as the Old Hyde Park Art Center and the Progress Energy Gallery in New Port Richey.

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