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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An Interview with Ellie Foreman-Peck

Illustrator, Bristol

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

The Bigger Picture: Festival of Interdependence aimed to kick start a transition to a new economy, case looking at everybody’s carbon footprint and educating with a range of talks, cost speakers and workshops.

Held on 350:Day of Climate Action the events was one of the hundreds happening worldwide to push people to tackle climate change. The Bigger Picture was held in an old warehouse on the South Bank, cheap which although fairly old and decrepit had a certain charm to it. The day before was spent setting up the 4 floors and rooms so when the public was let in the warehouse was packed full of leaflets, objects, art and a posse of yellow t-shirted ready to navigate people up the narrow staircases and backrooms. I spent the day wondering in and out and generally getting a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I’ve managed to pick out 5 of the workshops that stood out the most.

Climate Camp had it’s own two rooms and had set up a replicate camp complete with tents, a fire made from bike lights, and a huge banner backdrop of tripods from a previous camp at Kingsnorth, all that was missing was hay bales that had been stopped by the determined health and safety who also prevented us from giving away cake, yes cake. But that didn’t stop a range of speakers and musicians telling people all about Climate Camps in the past and what we aim to do in the future.

You could pay a visit to the Ministry of Trying to Do Something About It and collect your very own Carbon Ration Book. The issued ration books showed our carbon emissions of our daily activities like using a laptop or using public transport. This little book is something that we may have to get used to in the not so distant future where carbon emissions become a commodity, although probably not in such a lovely 1950-esque design.

Artist collective Magnificent Revolution was also there to create the world’s first cycle-powered home in a special room at The Bigger Picture. Strange shaped bike-like sculptures with protruding pedals powered things like washing machines to blenders and you could jump on and have a go, a great way to encourage all of us to take more steps towards low-energy living.

An introduction to natural bee keeping with Heidi Hermann, founder member of the Natural Beekeeping Trust had an array of beautiful crafted beehives and advice how to set up your own. Due to human impact the number of bees are dying dramatically, setting up your own can help – especially as when bees become extinct it means the human race can only survive for a few years, the humble bumble bee is indeed an important part of our delicate eco system.

There was a chance to join master baker and bread hero, Paul Barker of Cinnamon Square for some bread making lessons and tips to bake the perfect loaf. People could also take home the bread at the end of the day, which meant the lovely freshly baked bread aroma filled the warehouse all day.

With over forty-five leading thinkers, activists, authors and artists attending The Bigger Picture, it meant throughout the whole day people could get involved with a range of debates and discussions, from lively talks on money issues to in-depth discussions about the Copenhagen summit in December.
The one day event put on by Nef, an independent think-and-do tank, was hugely popular with huge cues snaking around outside most of the day and singers and speakers having to keep people entertained outside. The day certainly helped to encourage people to look at their own carbon footprint and it was good to see solutions as well as the problems and everyone starting to look a little closer at the bigger picture.

The Crew2

Ellie Foreman-Peck graduated from the University of West England, viagra 40mg Bristol illustration degree in 2008. Amelia’s Magazine spoke to Ellie about her illustration inspiration and the importance of a narrative element whilst “trying to economise the feel/essence of the book into one or a few images”

I’d like to start this interest by enquiring about where your original interest in illustration stem from?

Definitely from my interest in stories and drawing, the two combined equals illustration. I remember seeing Hogarth’s sequential engravings; the Rake’s and Harlot’s Progress and being very impressed by the way they told a story through a comic strip of frames; the downfall of his protagonist in humorous, detailed engravings. They’re very expressive, almost caricatures of people (although Hogarth would have hated that comment as he considered caricatures to be a very low form of art!). They record what life was like in the 18th century and without words depict the consequences of a person’s actions.

Work by George Grosz, Ralph Steadman, E.H Shepard, Paula Rego, Egon Schiele, and Julie Verhoeven really inspired me too.

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How does your creative process develop from the beginning to the end of an illustration?

Usually I’ll do some thumbnail sketches of ideas and compositions, and then draw from my head or from photos. I scan my drawings in to the computer and play with around with them on Photoshop until I’m happy. I like the tactile vibrancy of paint that sits in thin sheets upon the top of paper – gained by screen-printing. Ideally I’d always screen print the finished piece.

I tend to work with pencil, collage and Photoshop but also paint, pen and ink, and screen-printing.

I often look in books for ideas of colour combinations, particularly books on Japanese woodcuts and old posters.

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What are the considerations you undertake when designing a dust jacket for a book?

Designing a book cover is often about trying to economise the feel/essence of the book into one or a few images. For Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, I used the image of a bald eagle whose spread wings are made up of bar codes.
The American political and legal system she describes exploits the Shock of disasters to further it’s own regime/capitalist ideals - to the detriment of poorer Americans and much of the rest of the world.

The predatory and powerful bald eagle, is already a self-selected symbol of the United States, whilst simultaneously representing these ruthless actions. On the eagles’ wings the bar codes signify capitalism. This piece was submitted to the Student Penguin Design Awards.

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The imagery has overtones of the old Alice in Wonderland illustrations (with the enlarged heads). How has your style developed during your studies?

I really like Tenniel’s Illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, so that is a real compliment.

During my degree I became very interested in line, all the different expressions one can make through a mark on a page: serpentine lines, scratchy lines, spontaneous, lively, hard or erratic. I was very keen on etching but the nature of the medium means you can often end up producing very tight, controlled line work. So I went for good old-fashioned pencil instead to try and free myself up and that’s what I still seem to be using post uni. Nice and cheap.

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What views and/or politics inspire your illustrations?

I’d say my work at the moment is mostly a-political. I guess my main intention is to produce images that are esthetically pleasing and entertaining. Narrative, character and pattern definitely inspire my images, but I’m also very interested in different people’s interpretations of visual texts, how we can read an image in so many different ways depending on where we’re standing.

Literature offers insight into other worlds and so do pictures, I find the combination of the two very appealing.

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What has been your favorite self-directed project?

This would probably have to be ‘Fanny Hill’. I choose the book as it is an 18th century novel and I thought the big wigs and extravagant clothing would be great to draw. I didn’t know it was one of the first pornographic novels published in England and it was written whilst the author was in jail. This book about a girl appropriately named Fanny inspired a whole body of (visual) work towards the end of my degree.

I emulated the 18th century textile pattern of ‘Toile de Jouy’ in a strip of wallpaper, using this framework to tell the story of Fanny Hill. The narrative creeps down the strip in freeze frame vignettes until it is repeated.

I reproduced some of these images onto plates, jugs and cups in a similarly decorative style.

Along with these I produced a series of panoramic freezes of sections of the book (not the pornographic ones), trying to give a sense of Japanese woodcuts. I made the characters clothes out of fabric, then scanned the outfits in and attached them to the hand drawn elements. During this project I felt I developed a way of drawing and working that was very rewarding and, I hope, unique.

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What are your thoughts on being an illustrator after University?

I think being an illustrator after uni without an agent is tough! But fun and rewarding as long as you don’t mind not having much money.
Since leaving University last year I’ve been in a few exhibitions in Bristol and London. They’re great for being able to do more personal work and the deadline is nice for making you produce finished pieces.

I went to New York shortly after graduating to do work experience in a publishers and ended up doing some illustrations for the book ‘The Confederacy of Dunces’ which is a brilliant book and full of lots of ­­­excentric characters. New York was a real shock to the system……I felt like an ant.

After coming back I’ve worked as a waitress, creative partner for the arts council and randomly a photography teacher, arts and crafts teacher for disabled children, as well as a illustrator/graphic designer for the company Interactive Places.

These jobs have helped to keep me afloat whilst I hunt for illustration jobs and continue to build my portfolio. I think (and I hope) a good way of getting your work seen when starting out is through illustration directories. I’ve been in the AOI’s images 33 and 3×3’s.

I’d say it’s quite important to have a part time stable income if your trying to become an illustrator, as the sporadic nature of the job means there’s no consistent flow of money.

I shared a studio in Bristol, it was great being around inspiring, creative people. But the lack of funds pushed me back to working from home, which is fine as long as I have Radio 4 to keep me company.

Now I’m working from home, doing a variety of jobs, logo’s, stage sets to be projected, posters, text screens for interactive games, map’s for the National Trust, anything that involves design and a bit of drawing – I’ll do it!

Finally what’s next for Ellie?

Onwards and upwards!

Find Ellie’s exquisite drawings here and here

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