Ellie is an illustrator, printmaker and textile designer living and working in East London. We spoke to her about her work, her inspiration, her hot water bottles and staying on the 'acceptable side of spooky'.
What's preoccupying you at the moment?
I've started writing stories and making bullet points about disgruntled characters. Mainly confused animals looking for more meaning, finding their way. I'm enjoying grappling with language and thinking about plots. It's odd how different my writing is from my work, is potentially much darker!
Apart from illustration what do you do?
I'm also a printed textile designer. I design and then screenprint my fabrics in a printmaking studio in East London (East London Printmakers) where I'm part of a co-operative and I work there regularly.
My fabrics are also very illustrative and are often composed of silhouette creatures mixed with men. They're on the acceptable side of 'spooky'.
Can you describe your working environment?
I mainly work in two places. I have a desk space in a shared studio in East London, which I share with five others. It's very light but very chilly in the winter and I'm constantly wrapped in blankets. A hot water bottle strapped to your front and back is excellent.
I also work in the much warmer print studio which is in the same building but downstairs. That involves lots of moving about and aerobic exercise! The building is just below a railway line and the sound of the trains scraping by can seem quite chilling in the winter! But they can influence you to get busy too...
Where do you take inspiration from, beyond the work of other artists and illustrators?
I like watching people, especially taking mental notes about habits, how someone might glance at somebody else, that sort of thing. I also often go and draw or just absorb things in anthropological museums. So in London I love going to the British Museum or the V&A in particular.
I'm magnetted to some of the peculiar anthropomorphic design objects, such as ancient clay jugs with faces on, Egyptian animal mummy-cases. There are some beautiful Indian minatures in the Asian section of the V&A. I'm often noting down colour combinations of paintings, I like to use words to describe them as it helps me work out how I feel about them too.
Can you describe how you make images?
When I'm not working towards a commission, I usually make images quite spontaneously but sometimes I have a very particular idea of an effect – that's especially true when I'm making a new fabric design. I suppose everything that inspires me goes into a sort of cooking pot that constantly changes.
I sometimes set out to create a particular feeling in a picture; I'm quite fascinated by things that are dark and ominous but somehow carry a lightness, and something almost merry too – I think I'm very inspired by early medieval paintings where the figures and landscapes are often flat, and whatever the individuals are doing, they bear the same non-extraordinary facial expressions, I find that really funny. For example someone in a cauldron with the facial expression you might wear when tying up your shoelaces, or eating a rice cake.