BY GEORGE LEE
Last year's Summit Awards® Gala was a coming out party
of sorts for Sharon Ellingsen, P.Eng. Twenty-five-plus years
since graduating with her first university degree, the Calgary
resident was on the cusp of advancing from engineer-in-training
to full professional, and here she was at APEGGA's major awards
and social event of the year.
But the Summit Awards® was a coming out party in a second
sense, too. Ms. Ellingsen was also demonstrating to her new
peer group that she's an artist as well as an engineer, and
her head study, a clay sculpture with blue patina, was the
first display of her artwork before a large group.
"Each art piece is only one perspective on the truth,
and that's a heck of a lot better than none," quips Ms.
Ellingsen, who recently began a consulting venture, SLE Test
Engineering. "My artistic work is an exploration of form
and planes in space, an expression of the three-dimensional
and the natural flow of movement, all caught for a moment
She and her partner of 22 years, a psychologist, operate their
practices from a commercial property in Calgary's Inglewood
district, and Ms. Ellingsen plans to add an art studio.
The figure most interests Ms. Ellingsen, the artist, and she's
drawn and painted many of them in pencil and in oil. But the
medium she enjoys most is clay and sculpture. The electrical
engineer has completed fired clay sculptures, as well as cement
and Bondo castings. Now that she's finished a welding class,
she looks forward to venturing into another style of sculpture.
For the second year in a row, she'll show her work at the
Summit Awardsâ. Building on the success of last year's
show, APEGGA is again using the gala as a venue for the artwork
of Association members and their families. The awards gala
takes place April 25 in Calgary in conjunction with the APEGGA
The Path She Travels
For Ms. Ellingsen, the confirmation that she's an artist is
part of what some would consider an unusual journey. In 1975
she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in social psychology
with a minor in visual art. "Although the arts faculty
was the simplest choice to make, coming straight out of high
school with no role models, I will always value this degree.
It gave me a matrix of perceiving and analyzing the world
we live in, and it gave me the tools to consciously live an
examined life," she says.
Her social services work took her to group homes, street shelters
and seniors' private homes. She's also been a mechanical draftsperson
and a graphic artist.
Two decades in the data telecommunications industry - with
Cell-Loc Inc. and Novatel Wireless in Calgary, Harding Instruments
in Edmonton and Develcon Electronics in Saskatoon - provided
her with an electronics technical background.
In the 1990s she took a leave of absence to earn her bachelor
of science degree in electrical engineering, and in 2002 she
became a P.Eng. "I'd determined that I should move up
from a technical track position to an engineering professional
because I needed more challenge, responsibility, autonomy
and opportunities to learn," Ms. Ellingsen explains.
"Looking backwards down my career path, I see every step
built on the step before. My path is linear, although it walks
across conventionally defined boundaries. On the one hand
I find myself always positioning myself for change, on the
other I am always surprised at the content of that change
- and that I've found the bravery to accomplish it."
Two Kinds of Commitment
Professional changes and challenges find a complement in Ms.
Ellingsen's art. "Both art and engineering ask for concentration
and commitment. But my technical activities involve planning,
analysis, compartmentalizing, strategizing, whereas my artistic
endeavours draw my focus into the moment. The physical demands
of hand-eye coordination pull for a personal clarity, a synthesis
of head with heart or gut.
"Working in these two areas gives my personal life balance.
Channelling artistic as well technical expression through
my brain nurtures crossing conventional boundaries for innovative
problem-solving." That enhances "personal participation"
in her profession.
The Calgarian found last year's show rewarding and encourages
other APEGGA artists to display their work. "I overlapped
circles I've normally kept separate, and I received wonderfully
positive regard. I had fun, made good connections and left
to explore the possibilities of an integrated artist/technical
For those professionals who haven't bridged their lives into
the arts, Ms. Ellingsen offers the following two quotes as
"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for
lack of a little courage."
"Whatever you can do, or dream of doing, begin it.
Boldness has magic, power, and genius."