When Dallas artist Jill Elliott first ordered one of her watercolor paintings (a grid of color swatches against white) as a custom wallpaper, she was simply trying to find a pattern for her downstairs bathroom. “If I discovered colors I liked, the design would be too busy. Or if there was a print I wanted, it didn’t come in any joyful colorways,” she laments. After Elliott had her custom paper installed and shared a photo of it on Instagram, requests came flooding in about where to buy it.
Prior to her Insta-famous wallcovering, Elliott had been writing about and teaching art, hoping to foster a community around the wellness benefits of creativity. She quickly realized that wallpaper might be better aligned to her skills and goal. “It brings together the artistic practice, the mindfulness of it, and then the paper can exist in somebody’s space and influence how they live in their home,” Elliott says.
Starting a wallpaper company might have been a big leap for another creative, but Elliott had years of professional experience working in concept design and visual merchandising. Two years on, Elliott’s Color Kind Studio is about to expand into fabrics and rugs—and that first vibrant grid design remains the company’s best seller.
Around the time she launched her business, Elliott felt an itch to take her personal artwork in a new direction with oil paints. This medium allows her to experiment with a looser, more layered style as well as a larger scale. “I shouldn’t have been launching a business and wanting to explore something new, but I needed studio time that was still about expression, play, mistakes and learning,” the artist reveals. “With watercolor, I was always painting and wondering, ‘Can this be a wallpaper?’ ”
Most recently, Elliott has been exploring transparency in her personal paintings after taking a class with artist Robert Szot, who works with oil paints thinned down to a translucent wash. “It’s a blend of what I love about watercolor and oil,” she explains. Elliott makes a small collage every day from papers she has painted with watercolor and then torn into pieces. She never knows what will influence her paintings or her wallpaper designs. “I try to keep them separate,” Elliott notes, “but the best times are when there is a flow back and forth and the two practices are speaking to each other.”