Ellen Shkvar re-ignites her passion for beatnik anime subcultures and fashion drawing
Talking Drawing and illustration with Patrick Morgan
When did you first get into drawing?
Why did you choose to make fashion part of your inspiration?
Although I was always drawing as a kid, my passion for art and fashion arose during high-school. Around this time, I became fascinated by anime and gothic subcultures. My family was also quite poor so I couldn't afford the sorts of clothes I wanted.
"Instead, I sketched and made the clothes myself. It was therefore a time that nurtured my sense of creativity. That's when I decided to go and study fashion design."
Sadly however, my family was still struggling financially and I had to give it up in 2008 and ironically, the company I ended up working for sent me to study finance instead, defining the next ten years of my career. It was then only when I moved to the UK, that I took a fashion drawing class for the first time in many years led by Francesco Lo Iacono. That reignited an old passion.
What is your particular working day as a creative?
My usual day now is quite different from what it was before lockdown. There are no events or meetings to attend but that means I can get on with what needs to be done behind the scenes. For that reason I tend to change my daily routine to keep it fresh. Sometimes I spend the first half of my day keeping up with socials and all admin work dedicating the rest of the day to art practice. And whenever there's a chance I focus for the whole day solely on my creative practice.
What tools do you use when creating your images?
I work with different media and like to cross integrate them. My favourites are inks, dry media like watercolour pencils, pastels and most recently air-dry clay. Experimentation and innovation is very much in the core of my practice.
Who and what has influenced you over the years as an artist?
Everything influences me and consequently my work - a mixture of things like books, movies, music, experiences and even science. But to give a few, specific examples, I've been heavily influenced by Brian Cox' The Planets and Forces of Nature programs; Rod McIntosh' mark making workshops taught me to practice art as meditation and helped me to understand what I wanted my art to be; and finally, whilst the covid crisis inevitably affected my business, it also gave me energy to grow as both an artist and entrepreneur.
What advice do you have for younger artists looking to be part of this industry?
My friend once quoted to me Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linkedin,"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."
It's easy to get caught up in perfectionism and creative limbo. To be better at what you do, you have to put your stuff out there and learn from it. That often means facing failure, embracement and criticism but that's useful - embrace it. Good things happen outside your comfort zone.
What are you drawing today? Music you listening to? Books that you are reading? Favourite artist/designer at the moment?
I keep on developing my ink techniques; Palimpsest Ink Drawing; and Bubble Art, looking for ways of integrating them into my fashion and event illustrations.
My music playlist is set on repeat with Joji's last album, "Nectar" and Korean alternatives like Dean, Mokyo, Tabber.
I sadly don't have much time for reading these days unless it's work related or studying Japanese. However, the last time I did, I was really into Sci-fi and would really recommend anyone to read,
Ted Chiang's, "Stories of your life and others" and Daniel Keyes "Flowers for Algernon".
Some of my favourite artists are James Jean and Cai Guo-qiang. I'm also a big fan of Japanese traditional art, in particular Nihonga.
My favourite designer is Issey Miyake, an incredible team of creative visionaries with the stamina to push boundaries in design and having fun along the way. I really hope to work with them someday.
Follow Ellen @ellenillustrations