Out of Uni Interview: Tips and Advice with Ellie Green

By: Robbie

Hello Ellie! Tell me a little about your work… What do you like to make? What inspires you to make what you make?
Hi! I mainly draw buildings, architectural details, and there’s usually a typographic element in there too. I have recently started to try and extend my style to include other subject matter, such as portraits. I am usually inspired by stumbling across an interesting building as I’m walking along. Usually a particular shopfront/sign/archway will stop me in my tracks as I’m going about my life, which is pretty handy because it means I never have to search for too hard for inspiration! I will then take a photo of what I’ve seen and use this as a basis to work from in my Illustrations. I use a range of materials such as graphite, brush pen and chinagraph pencil to create different textures in my drawings, and build them up layer by layer on tracing paper. I then scan these in and work digitally to build up the image in a limited colour palette. I discovered this way of working originally by preparing some work for lithography printing, and found that I really enjoyed this methodical approach and so continued with it!
As a whole, how was studying Illustration at uni for you? What do you think you learnt about yourself and who you wanted to be in terms of a creative?
I think I was learning the whole time, even though I might not have realised it at the time. It felt like I discovered a whole lot about myself and my work in the last two terms of uni, but I’m sure the first two years were building up to that point. I often struggle with the error part of ‘trial and error’, but whilst studying Illustration in Bristol, I started to realise how important that part of the learning process is, even if it’s not the most enjoyable side. Even down to learning what sort of people I get on with best!I definitely learnt a lot about myself at uni, and this is just as valuable as learning about the subject you’re studying. I started uni being interested in loads of different things, but not knowing what to do with these interests. And I’ve come out of it with a means of expressing them, and developed other skills I didn’t even know I enjoyed, such as writing.
Did you have any plans or rules to live by during your time at uni?
Not really! I knew from the beginning I loved Bristol, so I just tried to enjoy the time I had there. That will probably surprise people I know as I’m a serial planner.
We studied together at uni, we lived together for a bit in a lovely house! Did you find it important to be around other illustrators and creatives at uni, and if so why?
In third year when I really started to make the most of the studio environment, that was when I had the best times, and learnt the most about the way I like to work. I never found that working in my room. I wish I’d realised it earlier to be honest! Whether it’s just from being inspired by your friends’ working methods, or just having more fun so you’re in a better mood to create work, it definitely has an impact. Not even just classmates, but visiting illustrators and creatives too. Seeing what other people are creating opens your eyes to what’s possible. I think you can become too set in your ways otherwise.
Living in London, do you still find it important to surround yourself with other creatives? And if so, how do you go about doing this?
Yes I do, but in a more intangible way than at uni. Without that studio environment you have to find connections elsewhere. I like meeting creative people and finding out what interesting projects they’re working on, how that feeds into my own interests and how everything links together in some weird way. Sharing in the discovery of interesting events, exhibitions, fairs, and getting excited by those things with people is fun too.

I feel like a lot of people can be discouraged by the idea of moving back home after their 3 years at uni.. After you moved back to London you kept busy, created lots of lovely work and began writing articles about your favourite zines! How was it keeping motivated for you and how did you keep motivated?

I’m not going to lie, it has been a very tough year. I was excited for graduate life but it does come with a lot of set backs. Uni shapes you as a person, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the world of work. I made the decision to move back home because I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career when I finished uni, and I wanted a bit of freedom to be able to decide. Motivation has been a really difficult thing over this year, but after a few months of being unemployed and getting fed up of not creating work, I really tried to fight the lack of motivation and worked hard on trying to build myself a routine whilst looking for full time work and making my own work. The best thing for me was forcing myself to have that routine when I was at home every day. Starting the day with a walk in the park and trying to go swimming regularly really helped me feel more energised and ready to create stuff.

Do you feel that living in London has inspired and benefitted your work?

In a way yes. Particularly because of my interest in architecture, there’s always new parts of London to see and be inspired by. But I think there’s plenty going on in Bristol too that is equally inspiring.

I’ve read all of your zine blog posts and I love them! What was your inspiration to write these? Do you think it’s important to venture into different creative avenues?

My inspiration for writing these was because over the years I’d built up a good collection of zines, but after looking at them once, I would often just stack them away on a shelf. This felt like a shame, so I wanted to rediscover them, and talk about them so that other people would want to read them too! I have always written a lot in sketchbooks alongside drawing, but I think it was through writing my dissertation at uni, I began to properly realise I enjoyed writing. I do think it’s important to explore other avenues, it stops you from getting bored of one thing! And they often feed into each other in ways you wouldn’t have guessed.

Sometimes I still consider the points I learnt at uni when making decisions.. Do you reflect on the lessons you took away from your time at uni and apply them to your current creative life?

Yes. I think at the time in third year when I started to find my style and really enjoy making work, I remember it finally felt right, and not so difficult and frustrating any more! Obviously things in life have to be difficult sometimes, but I think I’ve learnt to trust my instincts a bit better, and know that the right decision for me is usually the one I don’t have to think too hard about. It just comes naturally and feels right.

For me, I like to go on days out to new exhibitions, read lots of comics and watch lots of Netflix. But how do you like to enjoy your downtime?

These days I don’t have a lot of downtime, so I usually fill it with making time to see people. But I would like to make more time for creative things, like going to exhibitions. I guess the best thing is if you can combine the two! I find that in my downtime I have to get a good balance of relaxing and doing something mindless, and doing something slightly productive to stay motivated. When I’m not ‘relaxing’, I’ll go swimming, practice with my Samba drum group, and try and make some time to learn German! (I’m not getting very far with that one…)

What’s next for the creative life of Ellie Green?

I’ve realised I like variety in my life, so I’m trying to juggle a few different things at the moment. I’m continuing to make illustrations for DeepWaves magazine, and want to write the next in my zine collection series.
One last thing…. I want to know about your samba drumming..
What is there to know?? I guess it is one thing that always surprises people when I tell them! It actually started in Bristol in third year. I had previously heard a samba group playing when I visited the Barbican, and thought it sounded great. I used to play the drum kit, so I thought it would be cool to join a group, as a new hobby, but less hassle than having to own a drum kit. So, I searched for a group in Bristol, and joined it and found I really liked it. It was an evening class and I found it to be (and still do) a really good way of just zoning out from any worries at the end of the day and just focusing on playing. When I moved back to London I wanted to continue playing, so I found a group here, and have been playing with them for a little while now – we just did Notting Hill Carnival and it was really fun!
As a little send off, can you give a motivational summary of how to keep going after uni – even when things get a little tough!
The first year out of uni will be really hard, but don’t think you’re a failure because it’s hard. From talking to other people, it seems like it’s a hard time for everyone, so you’re not alone! So many things are changing in unison, which can be unsettling. So, try and find as many constants as you can in amongst the chaos to help you stay afloat. Exercise (even just a little bit!), routine, fresh air, a hobby, and seeing friends. Those are the things that keep me motivated!

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