Interview with artist Eleanor Taylor

Posted by Nate Williams

Eleanor Taylor is 25 years old and comes from Brighton in the South of England. She grew up in a small town in Hampshire before embarking on a course in illustration at art school. After graduating she worked for a year in a supermarket and school while spending the rest of the time in her room drawing and building up her portfolio. The following two years were spent studying an MA at The Royal College of Art in London. Eleanor graduated in 2011 and moved to the coast. She has been published in Ambit and Granta and was recently nominated for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012.

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How did you get into illustration?

I was home educated until the age of sixteen. Creativity was encouraged and in my free time I was always drawing and making things. I took the minimum amount of exams to get into the local sixth form to take a two- year BTEC art course. This was one of the best times in my art education - I probably learnt more in those two years than the whole of my BA and MA combined! I went on to art school to do a BA, starting out in Fine Art Painting but realizing within the first three weeks that I had taken the wrong course I managed to switch to Illustration and haven’t looked back since.

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What other types of jobs have you had?

I have yet to live off illustration as and only source of income. In the past I have worked in a kitchen, as a cleaner in an old people’s home, a super- market assistant, carer and teaching assistant. Now I work in a small shop a few days a week. It’s not ideal but it gives me the drive to succeed and pays the bills!

There are lots of plants in your work, why is that?

As a child I spent a lot of time in the garden playing. I always liked to creep into bushes like an explorer and go as far back into the foliage as I possibly could. The suburban garden was transformed into a tropical paradise. I see myself as that same explorer when I draw. Plants contain their own symbolism and folklore and artists throughout history have always studied them. I find this reference to still life and nature really interesting because I am constantly fascinated by their strange  their worldly beauty and seductive qualities of shape and colour.

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Can you explain why you like to use lots of different mediums? (pencil,ink, collage, etc)

I am always experimenting. For a long time my work has been purely monochromatic. It felt natural to only work in shades of black and white to explore different approaches in mark making. But recently I have been introducing more colour and discovering that through digital techniques I can bring all these different mediums together.

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What is your favorite type of commercial project and why?

One which involves lots of naked ladies and plants or a botanical guide would suit me fine.

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How would you like your work to be used in the future?

I have lots of ideas - pattern design, book covers, editorial illustration, gallery shows, animation, comics, rugs, mugs and trinkets. Even if I don’t achieve all these things I think its good to keep options open and be resourceful.

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Is your work more conceptual or decorative?

This is really dependent on the project. The decorative and conceptual cannot be entirely separated – they need each other. Some pieces are more decorative and some have greater conceptual meaning but all have a little of both. If something is beautiful or strangely beguiling it will pull the viewer in and it can a powerful tool to bring a concept across.

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Do you have an art rep? Why or why not?

I don’t have an agent. I have always liked the idea of being very self- sufficient and I think it particularly important in the early days to gain experience from dealing with clients myself. However when I become more established I might look to an agency to help.

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Please describe a typical day?

I get up at 8. I am not a morning person so it takes me a while to adjust to the day. I like to read the news online and check emails then I start work around 10. I set myself small goals throughout the day – it’s always a good feeling to tick everything off a list! During the day I just like to immerse myself in drawing. When the evening comes I move on to computer-based work. Scanning, colouring in and updating my blog or website.

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What is your working environment like?

I have recently set up a space in the tiny studio flat I live in with my boyfriend. We have desks on opposite sides of the room and thankfully we work very well together. We have about three or four extension leads to support our growing collection of electrical equipment - scanner, printer, light box, desk lights, record player, computers etc. There are lots of plants in the room and plenty of light. I like to feel as close to being outside as possible.

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Who are some of your favorite illustrators and why?

Sophia Martineck (http://www.martineck.com/e/) – Her beautifully drawn depictions of small town life are very absorbing with an incredible attention to detail.

John Broadley (http://johnbroadley.blogspot.co.uk/) - He creates interesting narratives inspired by medieval comics.

Aart-jan Venema (http://www.aartjanvenema.com/) – His painterly work is wonderfully produced and very different to a lot of the flat colour work that is out there. It makes me think of a cross between two of my favourite films – Holy Mountain and Fantastic Planet.

What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

Never eat defrosted seafood.

Top 5 favorite things in life

  • Drawing
  • Films
  • Reading
  • Yorkshire Tea
  • Curry

Top 5 bands/singers

  • The Wickerman by Magnet and Paul Giovanni– the best musical ever made!
  • The Sound of Monsterism Island by Various Artists
  • Pete Fowler has created a wonderful place, which I like to visit when I sit and draw.
  • Valerie and her Week of Wonders composed by Lubos Fiser - ethereal, folk, procession like.
  • Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky – I listened to this non-stop whilst making a particularly labour intensive drawing. I think it somehow infiltrated through to the drawing.

Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?

More about ELEANOR TAYLOR at: Profile / Website / BLOG