Metal sculptor Elon Ebanks clearly loves his life. A big man, not only in stature and booming voice, but also in personality and attitude towards life, Ebanks exudes positive energy. From his ocean view studio in Vista, he creates larger than life metal sculptures, one of which was recently installed on the median in front of Chase Bank on Lomas Santa Fe in Solana Beach.
Spending his formative years on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, Ebanks developed self-sufficiency early in life. He says of his life-equipping influences, “Growing up on a small island, the people were capable of doing many things.” Surrounded by positive role models, Ebanks remembers constantly working hard at multiple jobs as a child. Earning enough to be self-supporting as an apprentice auto mechanic by age 14, his mentor passed along simple words of wisdom that resonate with Ebanks to this day: “The word ‘can’t’ is a lazy man’s hiding place.” Ebanks adds, “One can only get rewarded by doing, especially from something you created.”
“What drives me is the freedom to do what I love to do.” He continues, “Sure you’re happy when something sells, but I do what I love. That’s what brings real joy.”
A wine glass and remnants of a cigar remaining from a previous session on his weathered outdoor worktable serve as evidence that he enjoys the process.
He continues, “When I tap into my creative process, I don’t get tired, I don’t get hungry. I just want to create.”
The former board member of the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild and past board president of the San Diego Art Institute has enjoyed performing demonstrations of metal sculpting for the San Diego Museum of Art and the Port of San Diego, and continues to demonstrate his creative skills each year at the San Diego County Fair.
Initially coming to the U.S. on a visa to visit his natural mother in 1965, Ebanks returned to his birthplace of Belize to secure legal documents that enabled him to reside and work in America. Immediately drafted into the U.S. Army, it was only after receiving a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam that Ebanks was able to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1970.
After completing a comprehensive 750-hour welding course, Ebanks became a certified welder and subsequently worked in the metal trades at the Nassco shipyard and Energex LTD. In 2004 he retired as a welder from federal civil service at Camp Pendleton.
Self-taught in methods of sculpture, fabrication and metal forming, for many years Ebanks made wall sculptures as gifts. After his sculpture was featured in a 1997 article in The Beach News (predecessor of The Coast News), he began taking his art seriously. His interest in sculpture expanded after working with James Hubbell building schools in Tijuana, Mexico, and while welding bronze sculptures part time in a foundry.
“Nature is the best teacher,” states Ebanks, who remains heavily influenced by his first sixteen years of life in the Caribbean. “If you look closely at nature, you’ll never run out of ideas.”
He continues, “Everything in nature is in rhythm — nothing is out of proportion.” His love of rhythm and proportion influenced his guitar sculpture in Solana Beach, as well as eight works currently on exhibit in the Carlsbad Sculpture Garden, located at the corner of Laguna Drive and Elmwood Avenue in Carlsbad.
“My mind is a wheel that never stops turning,” states the artist who began seriously learning to play guitar after his retirement from industrial welding. “I’m constantly learning and trying to make myself better.”
In addition to his recently installed guitar sculpture in Solana Beach and his abstract sculpture at the intersection of South Melrose Drive and Sycamore Avenue in Vista, his eight musically inspired sculptures will be on display in the Carlsbad Sculpture Garden through 2013.
Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.