Illustrations of Eleanor Taylor portray and manifest the ideas of surreal worlds where myths and metamorphosis create a basis for telling complex stories pertaining to our habitat, civilization, environment and their inter-connectedness. She creates her unique and thought-provoking artwork from pencils and collage drawings to give them a multi-layered look and depth to focus on a theme that is an interpretation of life, death and everything else between and beyond. We asked Eleanor a few simple questions about her art and her answers give an insight into her creativity:
Please tell us about yourself:
I was born and grew up in a small town called Alton which is about an hour away from London. I now live and work in Brighton which is a small vibrant city on the South coast of England. I work as an artist and illustrator from a tiny studio flat but it feels weird to call it work as I find it fun (most of the time).
From the age of seven to sixteen I was home educated. Without much social interaction I lived a lot in my imagination making up stories and creating other, more exciting worlds. My parents were very encouraging. It was my mum’s idea to study the minimum requirement of subjects so I could spend the rest of the day making an art portfolio to get into the local college. After two exciting and experimental years at Alton College I went on to Norwich School of Art to study Illustration.
When I graduated from art school I moved back home for a year. A lot of friends had moved to London and other cities and I felt pretty isolated and unsure about my future. I worked in a local supermarket and then as a carer. My biggest fear was being trapped in a small town having to work jobs I didn’t want to do. So I escaped into my work and out of all the monotony and worry came some good work. I applied to Royal College of Art to do an MA in Communication Art and Design and got in. The next two years were amazing and intense – there was so much on offer and not enough time in the world.
Since leaving the RCA I have had my fair share of struggles probably like every other artist out there trying to make a living – working rubbish jobs to be able to make more work in my spare time. Moving to Brighton was such a positive experience as the pace of life is much slower here and I can focus better on my work.
What does your art mean to you? What is its place and effect on your personal life?
It’s hard to separate living my life and creating art. They are intertwined and bound up in each other’s happiness. Art is a kind of obsession and medicine that gives me great satisfaction (sometimes frustration) and enriches my life. I don’t think I would be a very happy or easy person to live with if I didn’t have some kind of creative outlet.
Depending on the size of the image, usually anything from a day to a week at the most. It can be quite labour intensive as everything is hand drawn and built up in layers a bit like a screen print. For me it is important to spend as much time as possible coming up with a decent concept and refining roughs and compositions. I usually find this part the most challenging. Once the concept is sorted then I can get onto the fun bit of creating the image. I usually find that this is when my work picks up pace and I can complete the image fairly quickly.
What creative challenges and hurdles do you come across while on work?
I come across many challenges in my practice. I think it’s good to be critical and to recognize and address any weaknesses to be able to move on and grow as an artist. The current challenge for me is to free up and gravitate from being so digitally focused in my work to making more handmade images.
With a strong emphasis on drawing and texture, I create atmospheric environments alluding to ancient mythologies or mystical practices. Plants and the environment are used as symbolic tools of communication. I like to keep my work contemporary by my use of colour using a limited palette with a mixture of acidic brights and muted tones.
What equipment and material do you mostly use?
I use a combination of different materials which I constantly update and replace. At the moment I am really getting into using ink and masking tape to create shapes and washes. A firm favorite that has always stuck with me are my Pitt oil based pencils which produce a lovely intense black and can be sharpened to a fine point for detail. I enjoy experimenting with different brushes and am trying to perfect a dry brush technique. To create texture in my work I use compressed charcoal, chalk pastels, an ink roller and spray paint. I like to create all the elements of my images by hand and then use Photoshop to layer up the images and change the color.
In 2011 I won the Sheila Robinson Drawing Prize at the Royal college of Art. A year after graduating I was also shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Since going freelance in the last year I have worked for the New York Times, which has always been a bit of a dream of mine! I have also just completed the commission of a life time for a very well known book publisher but not sure if I can say much more as it’s just being sent to the printers!
What are your future projects and ambitions?
As well as continuing to work on commercial briefs, I want to focus on some of my own personal projects and prints with the hope of taking my work into screen prints and eventually (when I have time) lithography!
Here are a few things that I have been enjoying recently:
For my birthday I was given a beautiful book of Eric Ravillious’ works as an artist and designer. I like his work as it is beautiful and functional.
I also like to visit exhibitions and shows as much as I can I am really excited as in a couple of days I am going to pop along to the new ‘British Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain which looks to be very inspiring!
Being an illustrator can get pretty lonely especially if you don’t share a studio. So I like to listen to Podcasts – in particular ‘Your Dreams, My Nightmares’ with Sam Weber who interviews guest illustrators/designers and comic makers. It’s so good to hear other peoples’ experiences in the freelancing world and know I am not the only one struggling at times.
To keep myself motivated I try and go out everyday and take a walk on the sea front to blow away any cobwebs. I also practice yoga which is great if you have been bent over a desk all day!