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AY Magazine, A Santa For All Seasons,  July 18, 2003

By Lorie Thompson, Sun-Times Staff

"It was such an honor to be chosen to have my art represented on the Arkansas Children's Hospital Christmas card," local artist Ellen Hobgood said. She started painting santas last year for Christmas and because of the overwhelming response, is still painting them now.

"My son had to have a biopsy done on his leg, so we took him to Children's Hospital," Hobgood said. "While there, my agent told me to go to the second floor to see a santa painting donated to the hospital and that I should do one of my own. I got lost and ran into a man and a woman. I saw his name tag said chairman and took the opportunity to ask where I could go to donate a painting to the hospital."

The man she found happened to be the chairman over charities and the two exchanged cards. It wasn't until after their meeting that Hobgood learned who the man was. "My husband's commander at the Air Force told me I met the man over all income that comes into the hospital and he said to keep pushing," Hobgood said. "I called back and was allowed to submit my work. In the later part of March I received notice that the hospital auxiliary was looking over my work. In the later part of April I received a notice from them that my work was chosen for their Christmas cards. I cried when I was accepted. They were thanking me for my submission and I was thanking them."

This one santa picture has produced a chain of events for Hobgood. She also donated a painting to the Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) Auxiliary's South of the Board auction and has received interest from others on her paintings. "I feel that if it's meant to happen, then it's going to happen," Hobgood said. "Every experience is just that much more wonderful. An art collector in Little Rock bought one of my santa paintings sight unseen then bought another one so he could have one for his office and one for home. And I was told the Arkansas Museum is looking into buying his collection one day. Also, a couple of designers have bought my paintings. They are already asking for this year's santa."

After receiving news that her painting will be turned into a Christmas card for ACH, she painted a 36 x 48 santa which she gave to her agent, Becky Rounsavall, owner of Salon/Art 411. "The joy of Children's Hospital calling and saying they would use my painting brought out the joy in me and it poured into the painting I gave to Becky," she said.

Hobgood first received inspiration for her santas from old Christmas cards, but now she is moving into live models. "I am looking for anyone who has that magic, that look in their face," she said. "I have already picked a flagger from Rose Bud as a model. I have taken many pictures of him from many angles."

Though each Santa has glasses and the eyes have to have that special sparkle and endearment, each are painted differently. "Sometimes I paint them with animal fur instead of white fur," Hobgood said. Also, from the tilt of their head to the color of their robes, each santa is different from the next.

"Each time I do a painting, it is an original," she said. "I may use a similar background or even parts of the santas but they are never the same, I believe that that particular painting belongs to the person who buys it and that's what makes it their painting. I try to do them all differently because a person is paying for an original piece of artwork and they don't want one someone else has."

Even if she tried to make two paintings alike, it would be next to impossible. "I never work from the same palette." she said. "I don't want to be predictable, then it gets boring. I don't want to work with repetition. That is the one thing I like about santa, there are so many different ways to paint him, he never gets old."

Another favorite subject of Hobgood's is Sugarloaf. "I enjoy painting Sugarloaf as well," she said. "You can paint it during different seasons and in different lights."

Another added feature found in most of Hobgood's paintings is a ladybug. "A lot of my paintings have a ladybug hidden in them as well as some of my murals," she said. "I've gotten to where they aren't just red anymore, some are just the ouline painted in."

Whatever the subject, her paintings are finding a following. "I have had paintings in there (Salon/Art 411) five minutes before selling and some have lasted five months before selling," she said. "I do tell people that if you see one you like, get it because it may not be there the next time you come back."

Though her santas are popular, Hobgood still works on other projects. "For awhile, I had so many orders for santas that I didn't have time for my murals," she said. "But now I am working on them again. I just completed a mural at Cutting Edge."

Hobgood is also teaching oil painting to two students. "Everyone possesses an artistic side," she said. "It just branches out in different ways. I have two students that are doing wonderful and I am going to have a third shortly." Though her students just started in February, they are already showing a talent for it. "I am teaching them how to paint objects on hand and items in photographs as well," she said. "I am also teaching them that it is okay to change up the idea, it doesn't have to be just like the picture."

Since she started the santas in October, Hobgood has sold over 70 pieces.

Her paintings take varying amounts of time. "I can't say how long a painting will take," she said.

"It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of days to even just a couple of hours. It just depends on the painting and the inspiration. We live in a day where you get paid by the hour.

Some people just don't understand that you're paying for more than those hours, you are getting 20 years experience in that painting. You're paying for expression of thought or emotion."

When younger, Hobgood could spend many hours a day painting, but not anymore. "Now that I have a family, painting is taking time away from them," she said. 

"So where I used to paint 16 hours, now I'm doing good to get in three or four hours a day and I am real lucky if I can squeeze in six."

At this tme, Hobgood is not sure how anyone can order Arkansas Children's Hospital Christmas cards with her santa print on it, but you can contact the Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"We are going to see if we can sell them at Salon/Art 411, or if we can at least get brochures for people to order them," she said.

Hobgood's work can be seen at Salon/Art 411 located at 411 West Main St. in Heber Springs. Salon hours are 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Wednesday - Friday. For more information, call 501-362-5595.

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Christmas Card Santa Comes To Town, December 10, 2003

By Lorie Thompson, Sun-Times Staff

When local artist Ellen Hobgood decided to donate one of her well-known Santa paintings to Arkansas Children's Hospital, she had no idea she would be chosen as this year's featured artist and that her painting would become on of their Christmas cards.

"Children's Hospital gave me a nice plaque commemorating the event and the cards became available about mid-November," Hobgood said. The cards are currently available in Heber Springs at Jitterbug Coffeehouse, Heber Springs Glass and Salon Art/411. 

Hobgood's Christmas cards are also listed in the holiday gift guide of At Home In Arkansas magazine.

"They were also featured on Channel 11's newscast and in a Sissy's Log Cabin ad," Hobgood said.

Hobgood's cards were also ordered by Bailey, Banks and Bittle on the Plaza in Little Rock.

"They ordered the cards embossed so they could send them to their clients," she said. She even had one customer send a card to Germany. "That's the farthest any of my paintings have gone," she said.

Hobgood has been busy since July when she and six other artists moved into their own studio on Main Street, Common Ground.

"It's still a work in progress," she said, "but it's getting there. It is definitely like walking into an artist's studio."

Hobgood's Santas, landscapes, and portraits bring customers from all over.

"My work is in the Red Door Art Gallery in North Little Rock; Third Mountain Gallery in Mountain View," she said. "And Toby Fairly with T Lamarr Interiors Inc. in Benton is looking to use some of my paintings in her room designs. 

Having her Santa painting so well received at Arkansas Children's Hospital has made Hobgood want to donate more. "I am looking into donating my paintings to American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association in Memphis," she said.

With all her good fortune, Hobgood is still amazed. "God has truly blessed me," she said. "When I was painting a year ago, I was painting in my living room with my three boys, 10, 4 and 2, around me. Now, in my own studio, I have more focus."

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AY Magazine, December 01, 2009

Afforded me the greatest glee!

Ellen Hobgood’s Santas have been bringing Christmas cheer for seven years.

Hobgood began her "career" in high school. "I designed homeroom door decorations and bulletin boards for teachers who didn’t want to or who didn’t have time. One year, I decorated six doors," Hobgood said. However, she didn’t pursue a professional career for a number of years. "I painted the first Santa while working at Salon Art [in Heber Springs]. We were trying to come up with a design for Christmas cards. I completed the painting and it sold in less than an hour."

The cards never materialized; however, Hobgood had a chance meeting with John Bel, president of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) Foundation. She submitted a Santa for the ACH Christmas card … and the rest, as they say, is history. Hobgood soon began painting her own Santas, which coincidentally share the same nose and eyes as another iconic figure she was painting — clowns. Hobgood often commissions Santa paintings; customers request the ironic figures be modeled after fathers, brothers, husbands and other men. She historically has sold as many as 80 of the paintings annually. Since opening the Ellen Hobgood Gallery and Studio, she’s expanded to include the Santas on sweatshirts, greeting cards and smaller paintings. Hobgood began painting ornaments a few years back. They began as gifts for student athletes and soon requests came flooding in. When, AY spoke with her at the beginning of November, she’d painted and sold about 60. The ornaments are available in two sizes and start at just $12 each.

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