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Kepler Mother's Day portrait 2021.jpg
(Image: Ellie White)

Artist of the Week: Ellie White

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?
Ellie White: I've loved drawing for as long as I can remember, but I started drawing pets in 8th grade (about two years ago), and I started drawing more during the pandemic. I've had more time in the past year to pick up commissions regularly and to try drawing new things. My favorite medium is graphite pencil. I love drawing in black and white because I can add contrast to make a subject pop. Also, one key technique I use to draw light or curly hair requires an eraser, and graphite drawing is an awesome medium for erasing (with colored pencils, it's much harder to fully erase something).

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
For each animal, I use a slightly different drawing process based on the fur texture and the style of the portrait I'm doing. When I'm starting a curly- or light-haired animal, I'll shade the entire face before using a fine-point eraser to define the fur, while if I'm drawing a dark-haired cat, I might choose not to shade before adding texture with a soft pencil in order to create a more defined fur texture and draw more efficiently. Although the shading process is slightly different for each portrait, I always start with a sketch and then draw the eyes and nose. I think the eyes are the most important part of a portrait to get right, so I always start with them.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
My inspiration comes from my love of pets and animals. To me, pets and animals are all beautiful and have unique personalities, and I find that I get to appreciate the beauty of an animal in a new way after I've drawn the animal. For example, after drawing my 18-year-old cat, Kepler, a few years ago, I've learned to really appreciate the detailed patterns on his face and the detail in all the little hairs around his nose.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
I love drawing animals!! It's incredible to try and draw a dog's wet tongue or nose or fur, or draw a cat's eyes and fur and whiskers, or even to draw an octopus' tentacles! I find it really challenging and rewarding to try to capture life on a page, and that's why I love drawing animals. I love drawing the loving look on a pet's face.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
One piece that means a lot to me is a recent drawing of my cat Kepler that I made for my mom for Mother's Day. This drawing is special because it shows my old 18-year-old cat from before I was born (when he was about 2 or 3). I loved seeing how he looked as a young cat, with his long thick fur and bright young eyes. In the reference photo I used, he was sitting on a fence (something he could never do today because he's blind and stiff), and I decided to draw the fence and the background of the photo as well. I loved drawing the blurry background and the bokeh effect created from a short depth of field.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
The pandemic has significantly affected my art because my online school took up less time than in-person school would, which gave me more time to spend drawing. Realistic drawings also take many hours to complete, so improving my drawing was a good way to spend my time productively during the pandemic.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
You can check out more of my work on my Instagram (@seattlepencilportraits), or if you'd like to purchase a portrait, you can reach out via email to

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
With summer just starting, I'm looking forward to drawing lots of pets and continuing to improve my skills in graphite and beyond. I'm continuing to donate 100% of the profits from my portraits to Water1st International, a nonprofit building clean water projects around the world, and so far, I've raised over $1,750 for this organization just from pet portraits.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I love having a decaf latte every morning, but if it's hot out, I might opt for a cold brew or iced coffee.