The parents of Ellie struggled with ideas of what to put on her gravesite. They wanted something that would let people know who Ellie was. Ellie’s artwork had been chosen by the Children’s Art Project of MD Anderson Hospital. Originally it was thought that the artwork might be reproduced into a tombstone. When I met Ellie’s parents I suggested a likeness of Ellie, and the sculpture evolved from there.
The sculpture project was a creative endeavor involving Ellie’s family and myself. Her parents decided on the seated pose- legs out to the side, this was a typical pose for Ellie. We opted for putting her artwork on a sketchbook on her lap. With a sketch book created in bronze children who visit the sculpture can do a rubbing of the artwork with paper and crayon.
A computer-generated sketch was created for approval by the parents.
Ellie loved butterflies so we put a monarch on her finger. Real monarchs regularly visit the gravesite. Originally the sculpture was created on a metal plate, but further on in the design process we did away with the plate deciding to place her in the grass, so that she would look like she just decided to sit down and sketch.
Another element of the sculpture is her bunny Floppy. She took it with her everywhere and wore off the fur from the end of the ear by rubbing it under her nose.
The real floppy was buried with Ellie so I worked from photos. Floppy was placed behind Ellie; head resting on her leg looking up at her, jealous of the attention Ellie is giving the butterfly.
In creating the sculpture we found one of Ellie’s friends who is the same size as Ellie was. She posed for the sculpture. I took photos all around including details. I also acquired many photos of Ellie from her parents. I used these as reference.
The most difficult part of the sculpture was her hair. Most photos showed Ellie with a wig or no hair. One professional photo gave good reference of her hair, however it had been consistently combed during the photo shoot. We messed it up a bit, tucking it behind her ears, as Ellie would often do, and the final touch was made.
A second casting of this sculpture will reside in a prayer garden at Ellie’s home church St. Marks United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.
Articles I have written concerning Ellie
Heights Artist Helps Children With Cancer through Artwork
A life remembered helps 6 children go mad over art