Interview With Ellen Manning

Ellen Manning is a Texas girl living in West Philly. By day she is a Graphic
Designer while most of her personal work is centered around social issues
and relatable topics we face in today’s world.


Where are you from and how do you think that has affected your life and art?

I’m from Texas, from a small town called Keller. It’s in North Texas, near Fort Worth. I don’t know how it’s really affected me but when I moved here I felt a real culture shock. As much of a culture shock as you can get when moving within the United States. I just feel like everything in Texas and in Georgia is slower, sleepier, kinder. Not that anyone is mean here but people were more approachable where I lived. I mean, I lived in middle class suburbia. I was definitely like an art kid, I was definitely weird or different from the rest of my school. All of my friends that I made there were all the art kids, none of
us were extremely popular. I wasn’t really confident with my art then because my high school teachers were more like still-life painters. There’s nothing wrong with that but it was very formal and also half the art teachers were also sports coaches, sports were huge in my high school.
My senior year they were cutting the ceramic department and it was just completely gone, that was one of the most important things in the school and I was not confident at all in my art. I hated my art, I didn’t want anyone to look at my sketchbook. I didn’t like to draw realistically, I just didn’t. I started taking advanced art classes and one of my art teachers said it’s not real art if you don’t know how to do realistic paintings. As 16 years old I just thought, “I guess I’m an abstract artist.” Which I’m not! But that’s what I was told. I’ve always loved cartoons, I’ve always loved drawing stuff like that. So, I was looking into art schools for college because I was like, “This is the only thing I know how to do. I’m not super confident but I feel like this is all I really know how to do.” My art teachers were like, discouraging me from going to art school. They would say that I should get a more well-rounded education. I was like, “No, I only want to do art.” I wanted to focus on illustration because I just love making stories. There was not really any kind of art school in Texas, me and my dad went to a lot of them and it just wasn’t right, it was all Fine Art.

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Why Philly? Why live and work here?

I moved here two years ago with my boyfriend. I stayed in Savannah a year after I graduated and I wanted to leave as soon as I graduated. I was like, “I need to go, I need to work, I need to do art and there’s just nothing for me here.” I did some freelance stuff there and saved up money for a year so I could move. I just wanted to move somewhere in the north that’s a big city that was literally my goal. I was interested in Portland and Seattle but I feel like we just felt more comfortable coming to Philly because my boyfriend is from Bensalem so he has friends up here and connections.
I was actually working at the Whole Foods in Savannah and my boss there used to
work at the Center City Whole Foods so he connected me to the new Whole Foods that
was opening here. So that’s how I got my first art job, from that connection. I worked
there for a year then the artist position was eliminated… Then I got this job in King
of Prussia and I love this job. I love it so much and I feel like I’m learning a lot. I feel
like it’s a good work-life balance, I thought I was going to leave Philly sooner but I’m
actually really happy here now. When I first moved here I lived in Chestnut Hill and it’s
beautiful there but it’s very family-oriented. I just wanted to move closer to where
things were happening. I have some friends who live in West Philly and I wanted to live
there so now we live in their complex. I love my place, I got a cat, I’ve always wanted my own cat. Me and my boyfriend always do really fun stuff. The first year I lived here I hated it, I was like, “There’s nothing good here.” But that’s how I felt when I first moved to Savannah too but I ended up loving it. Now I love Philly and I never thought I was going to say that. I think that eventually I’ll want to go but right now I’m pretty happy where I am. I feel like as long as I’m happy it works and I’m really getting more into the art scene and really enjoying exploring Philly more and more.

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Other than art, what do you like to do in your free time?

I guess since moving here I’ve actually really liked going hiking more. I couldn’t do that
in Savannah because it was humid, like tropical. My boyfriend loves going outside,
he can’t survive without it. I’m more like, I need to have some kind of city life. I’m
not totally a city girl, a suburb girl maybe but I need some kind of connection to
entertainment and people. I do like going to bars, I love going to art shows. One of
my favorite things I do on the weekend with my boyfriend is go to South Street
and literally all we do is thrift shop. It’s kind of a problem. I collect VHS tapes which is
kind of ridiculous and stupid but nostalgic. We have so much stuff, so much antique
furniture, not high-end stuff but antique. We have so much art on our walls, art that
we found at Goodwill, art from my friends, just all over. In my room I have this setup
where it’s this huge tube tv from the midnineties I think. We literally brought in like
four different huge tvs and they were so heavy. We had to test them in our house
and they didn’t work. Our neighbors probably thought we were ridiculous
carrying these tvs out. We finally found one that worked, and I have this huge curated
(haha) VHS collection of old movies and tv shows that I love. I love being home
but more often than not I’m out doingsomething.

Find Ellen on or on Instagram @Ellini

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