Happy Hump Day Everyone! I'm very excited to announce that today I'm launching a feature column known as Creative Flair, in which I will interview amazingly talented folks who have a lot of flair to share :) To kick-off the first column we have Eleanor, who was kind enough to be our first victim- I mean creative :P
In a few sentences describe yourself and what you do.
I'm a photomontage illustrator living in South London. I'm currently the artist in residence at a school, meaning I have a great studio to work in when I'm not running workshops with pupils. My first book 'Collage & Keep' is out in September this year, and there's more to come! Also the usual stuff about liking cats and tea etc...
How did you first get into illustration and what's your favorite part about it?
I didn't really mean to be an illustrator: I always thought I'd go into graphic design. My university tutor basically had to tell me to shut the hell up and get on with it for me to really get going. It took me 2 years of experimentation before I found my style, and consequently my confidence. Ever since then I've been working to refine it. You never reach the end of that journey. My favourite thing is having the opportunity to offer something no one else can. I love the satisfaction of finishing a job where the art director is happy and you're happy and you can know that no one else would have approached the brief in quite the same way. I also like that every time you do that, you're putting a little bit of yourself out there.
You have a very distinct illustrative style. How did you define your niche?
I take a LOT of photographs. I sorted through reels and reels of negatives recently from the last 6 years - it took hours. At university, I remember suddenly thinking 'I like taking pictures and I like illustration...maybe I should merge the two?' And that's how I became a collage illustrator. Throw in a pot of quink, lots of colour and a bit of hand drawn type and that's my brand. I constantly strive to be unique in my visual language. Trends come and go in illustration, but if you're working in a way that is individual and has no expiry date, you're onto something.
Do you have any creative heroes that you admire and have inspired you?
Where do I begin? David Hockney, Hannah Hoch and Kurt Schwitters have all influenced me in some way. The recent Matisse exhibition 'Cut Outs' was particularly inspiring. As for commercial illustrators, Sara Fanelli remains one of my favourites, as does Martin O'Neill, Carson Ellis, Keith Negley, Jonny Hannah...I could go on. Wes Anderson, for being clever with colour and generally just clever. Numerous authors - Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Yann Martel. I won't even start on musicians.
What is your favorite piece of work you have done and why?
I think I'm most proud of 'Collage and Keep'. It's been two years of work and a long journey. It's hard to pinpoint an individual image, but I suppose my 'Looking into London' illustration is a favourite. It will be displayed in the London Transport Museum this summer, and it captures the diversity of a city I love a lot.
Do you have a dream/goal that you wish to aspire?
Ultimately, I want creativity to be accessible to everyone. The great thing about collage as a medium is that anyone can do it. If I had a pound for every time I hear someone say 'I can't draw' or 'Oh I'm just not a creative person' I'd be rich. I think collage lends itself to people who have this roadblock in their minds. I work with a lot of 11 and 12 year olds who have already convinced themselves that they aren't creative. There is so much truth in Picasso's quote "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." We have a responsibility to nurture our creativity, especially as adults. I want to help people do that, and it's what 'Collage and Keep' strives to do.
As a self-employed illustrator, do you have any advice for those starting out?
Persevere! The first few years out of university has a staggering drop out rate for really talented illustrators. Keep your website updated, keep sending emails and keep working. Be patient. No one is going to become the world's most successful illustrator over night - it takes time, but you have to put the time in. Finally, keep perspective. Don't look too much at what your peers are doing, but focus on refining your style. Have a clear vision of what you're trying to achieve and go after it. Oh, also be organised. You're a real person now, the tax returns won't do themselves.
As a travel junkie myself, if you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I've travelled to some great places this year, including Paris and Singapore and NYC next month, so I've got itchy feet. My brother moved to New York two years ago and I've always thought 'I'd love to do that but I probably never will.' I have realised that a big move like that is completely possible if you're willing to take the leap, especially with something as flexible as freelancing. San Francisco is on my radar. Watch this space.
Early bird or night owl?