Elena O’Neill is another graduate of Plymouth College of Art and we’ve used several of her beautiful patterns on our postcards.
What first got you interested in illustration as a career?
I have always wanted to follow a career in art and design, but I never really knew what part. I developed my love of pattern design while studying my A Levels and was struggling to find a course that was similar to graphic design but more ‘arty’. Our Product Design teacher took us to see the New Designers exhibition in London and it was there that I saw all of the amazing work that illustrators created. After visiting New Designers I knew that I wanted to be one of them, and ultimately end up exhibiting at New Designers myself. I immediately changed my university applications from graphic design to illustration. I was lucky enough to be accepted onto Plymouth College of Art’s illustration course and eventually fulfilled my dream of exhibiting at New Designers!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am inspired by everything around me including animals, nature, hobbies and shapes and patterns. I also love to get inspired by my followers and really enjoy creating patterns that they have suggested!
Tell us about your process and the tools you use:
So I generally start by selecting a theme, animal or shape for a pattern. I then gather imagery and reference material from Pinterest or Instagram, and then I start creating. Sometimes I go straight in with the paint, sometimes I use pencil lines to guide me, it depends how I’m feeling. I then try and push that theme to its limits, exploring it fully and experimenting with different poses or icons. I try to have at least 10 different images per pattern, as it gives the pattern more interest and makes it less obvious where it repeats. Once the painting is done I scan it in and use Photoshop to arrange the illustrations into a repeat pattern. I like the illustrations to all fit together as closely as possible, as I like the way it leads the eye around the piece and I enjoy the challenge of getting it to work together.!
Describe your illustration style in 3 words.
Colourful, detailed and textured.
What would be your dream commission, and who would it be for?
I’m not sure who my number one would be! I have a long list of who I would love to work with, but I generally prefer to commission my own projects for my own customers as really enjoy the freedom. That being said it would be amazing to be able to walk into Paperchase or Waterstones and see my stationery for sale in there!
What advice would you give to other illustrators and artists?
My advice would be to just go for what you want. Don’t hold back because you haven’t found your style or you think your work isn’t good enough. When you first start out, the amount of people who will see your work will be small, so don’t be embarrassed about getting it out there! You can use your small audience to gain feedback and grow in confidence about your work. Its better to try and fail, than to not try at all! Also don’t get too focused on finding your style, just do what you love and you will find it in time.
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of plans for the future! Right now I’m focusing on growing my stationery business, and I have a lot of ideas to expand it! I would also like to start exhibiting at trade fairs which will be really exciting!