By Glen Kessler
In late October, we lost a great one. Artist and MAA member Ellen Yahuda began her painting career in earnest in 2017 with me at The Compass Atelier, the art program I run in Rockville. During her three years in the Master Artist Program, she impressed upon everyone who knew her her no-nonsense approach to life.
Sadly, Ellen passed away just a few weeks after a cancer diagnosis.
Ellen was a dogged pursuer of knowledge, a fierce debater, and a loyal friend. I will never forget arguing with her one week, hugging her the next, then arguing again the next. That's just how she was--nothing was ever given. She always needed to know why something was the way it was, not satisfied with simply reciting rhetoric. I respected it and then I came to love it, and her.
And that's how her artistic vision manifested--unapologetically tough paintings of her family's factories built up with thick impasto and harmonious color. Equal parts intimate and brash. Her artwork flourished in the program and as she began exhibiting her work, she found sales and prizes awaiting her.
Ellen’s first-ever show was the MAA Paint the Town Labor Day Show in 2019. Not only did she win a prize but she sold the painting. She would go on to win many prizes across the area, including a second-place award at the Labor Day Show just this past September.
Ellen Yahuda (far left) poses with other award winners at the 2022 Paint the Town Labor Day Show.
Ellen was never satisfied with success and always sought to learn new skills to test her boundaries. She took on figure and portrait painting during the roughest days of the pandemic and there again achieved great success.
“Whenever we talked, she sought out and lifted up what we had in common, what we could connect with each other. fellow MAA member Margo Lehman wrote in a Facebook post about Ellen. “I am quite sure she did this with everyone she met.”
“Ellen was so full of energy and humor,” MAA President Jennifer Barlow said. Artist Jenny Wilson has likewise spoken of Ellen’s “goodness and loving nature.”
I am proud to have called Ellen a student of mine and later a friend. I am sad that the world must now carry on without her indomitable spirit.
MAA member Glen Kessler is founder and executive director of The Compass Atelier in Rockville and has established the Ellen J. Yahuda Memorial Scholarship to offer financial assistance to one Master Artist Program student per year.