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Elena ElBy REBECA KUROPATWA

Born in Ukraine, Elena El made aliyah with her family when she was 18 years old and lived near Haifa.

While in Israel, she continued her education in Fine Arts and, 16 years later, decided to make the move to Winnipeg (in 2006).
It was in Israel that El began her career as a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator, while doing fine art on the side – all crafts she was able to transfer over to her life in Winnipeg.
“In Israel I was a children’s book illustrator and illustrated more than 15 children’s books that were sold in the finest book stores in the country,” says El. “These books were education books for kids. Projects were drawn not just in Israel, but all over the world. For example, I did projects for kids in Korea for learning in English.”
While she did some fine art in Israel, El was known as an illustrator. But, in Winnipeg, her fine art career began taking off as well (though she also continues working in graphic design).
El started up her own business, called, “ArtEl Studio” (artelstudio.com) and her specialty is Winnipeg cityscape paintings (mainly in acrylic). For those who went to Folklorama 2017’s Israeli pavilion, you may have spotted El as one of the vendors on the way into the show displaying her artwork.
(El’s work is also now on display at the Shaarey Zedek synagogue.)
El’s passion for art began at an early age, she recalls. “My mom, she just paid attention. I was young. I was drawing all the time, looking at books and all that. She decided to enrol me in a children’s school of art. When I started, they started me at the second year level, because I was that good. I just liked it, drawing since I remember myself.
“In Israel, they have a big school of fine arts and graphic design located in Haifa. The one in Haifa was closer to me location-wise – WIZO Haifa College of Design and Education. It was design and illustration and fine arts, so I just enrolled into that college. And it just was all together. When you finish, you can choose what your specialty is. I took graphic design and ran my own business as an illustrator.”
The move to Winnipeg was fairly easy for El, as she has friends that made the move before her and the Jewish community was eager to support in any way possible.
“The fact that Winnipeg has a big Jewish community was one of the reasons for moving here,” says El. “I like the city – multicultural, and nature, and everything.
“Since I arrived, it was fantastic. All these people told me what to do, where to go, where to visit. It was a warm reception. Even today, I know I am sometimes volunteering – the Jewish community asked me to do volunteering job greeting people who come to visit. So, I meet with them and explain to them about Jewish community, about Winnipeg, about life here. It’s kind of giving back what I received when I came.”
At El’s exhibition at Shaarey Zedek, she is displaying her original acrylic paintings – most of which are local cityscapes and a couple of Judaic pieces. They will on display on the lower level of the synagogue for about a month and a half – at least 10 painting of various size and scope.
While she would be happy to talk to people who may be interested in buying her paintings, El is hoping that, at the very least, people might discover some unknown beauty about Winnipeg.
El enjoys the balance between her graphic design work on the computer and her time in front of the canvas. She also spends a lot of time walking and taking photos that she uses as a memory bank when painting. “In the summertime I may do some sketches outside,” says El. “Wintertime is problematic. My water would be frozen. So, I paint only from my own photography.
“I’m trying to show the positive side of the city. We all know negative comments and all that. I think it’s a beautiful city. I really enjoy it. People hopefully can stop for a moment in the routine and look around and see what I see. That’s why Winnipeg is my subject.”
El’s studio is on the 2nd floor of the Cre8ery Gallery and Studio (http://www.cre8ery.com/) at 125 Adelaide St.