Sarah Elliott Illustration
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BE AN ILLUSTRATOR?
I have this photograph from when I was about 2 years old, and in it I’m lying on the kitchen table and drawing (well, scribbling) on a piece of paper, with my felt-tip pens scattered around me. I really love this photo because it shows in a very innocent way what art means to me. It’s an escape; a place I go to in my mind where I’m completely absorbed in what I’m doing and oblivious to anything else. Even now, I sometimes find myself looking up at the clock and its 1am, and other than the small lamp on my desk, the room is completely dark. I think the next thing for me is to try and make work that has a greater purpose beyond just pleasing myself. I want to use my illustrative voice to discuss topics that I find interesting and meaningful, so as to start/join in with a bigger conversation.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A WORKING ARTIST? HOW ARE YOU FINDING LIFE AS A FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR?
I officially registered myself as self-employed in November 2018 when I was in my second year at university, but I've only been working full-time since June of 2020. It’s gone so fast but I’m learning a lot. Being a freelance illustrator has its ups and downs like any other job, and I’m still learning to balance my work and life, as well as stick to some kind of schedule. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the responsibility I have put on myself, but at the same time I love the freedom that comes with being my own boss. There’s something very satisfying about creating a brand from the ground up and watching it grow.
DID YOU STUDY ILLUSTRATION? IF SO, WHAT WAS IT LIKE?
Yes. I studied Illustration and Visual Communication at the University of Westminster and graduated in 2020 with a first class honours. My experience was very mixed. I think I’ll have more clarity on it in a few years when I’m in a different place in my life, but I will say that I definitely struggled with feeling uncertain whether or not it was the right place for me. The huge student loan debt was definitely a big part of my uncertainty, but I also felt like I had other dreams I’d rather be doing - like travelling for example, and because of that I often failed to live in the present. On the other hand, I met some amazing friends, had experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have had (having lived most of my life in the middle of nowhere and then moving to one of the biggest cities in the world), and grew a lot as a person. Now as I’m starting the next chapter of my life, I feel like I have some more solid ideas about what I want from my career and also just from life in general.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND HOW HAS IT INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?
I grew up in the North East of England in a tiny village in the Pennines of about 100 people - yes, I kid you not, there wasn’t even a shop! This meant that there were not many children to play with or places to go, and so my younger sister and I had to entertain ourselves a lot, and we often did so outside - climbing trees, catching tadpoles, making mud pies, picking berries and so on. This early connection to the countryside definitely helped me to grow a deep appreciation for nature. Then when I was 20 years old I moved to London and all of a sudden I was surrounded by concrete and tarmac. I think my love of painting florals in this time grew because of a subconscious yearning to be back in nature - if I couldn’t see flowers out my window then I’d make my own with paint!
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?
Outside, old photos, other artists, exhibitions, books, conversations, the news, social media etc. It’s important for me to take inspiration from many different sources so that I can express the full spectrum of myself. For personal work, I normally choose to illustrate something which has been on my mind or caught my attention at the time, whereas for client work the brief is always the starting point and then I go from there.
WHAT'S YOUR PROCESS?
I’m a very impatient person so it took me a long time to accept that there was a process that had to come before I could create a piece of work. I used to rush straight into the final piece with no preparation or development but this method often led me to waste time and feel frustrated because I was never satisfied with the outcome. My process now is very simple but each step is important. Once I know what I want to illustrate, I make lots of rough thumbnail sketches to get the composition right. This can take a while but it’s worth sorting out the details at this stage. Then I choose my favourite design and develop the details in the size I want it to be. I use my window to trace a faint outline and then start painting with gouache. Some people think my work is made digitally but in fact every piece is hand-painted and just edited slightly in Photoshop. I love to have a cup of tea and some music or podcasts in the background to set the mood.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING FOR SALE?
Yes, I have an Etsy shop with greetings cards, prints and originals for sale. I’m constantly updating it and adding more products.
WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER GOALS?
My main goal is to have illustration be my full-time career. I also want to try lots of different jobs within the illustration world. Here are just a few:
Paint a public mural
Have a book that I illustrated be published
Create more variety of products for my shop
Make video content around the topic of illustration
Host a workshop
WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF ILLUSTRATION?
I love baking (that seems to be a thing among illustrators), reading, going for walks, cooking, playing piano (although I don’t practice as often as I should), travelling and watching documentaries. I’m also a Christian so that plays a big role in my life.
D&AD New Blood
One to Watch
Westminster Pop Up Competition
Art Eat Festival
11am - 7:30pm
Allendale Agricultural Show
9am - 4pm
Hexham Cake Fest
11am - 4pm
09/12/18 - 15/12/18
Westminster Pop Up Shop
67 York Street,
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