Ellie Day: I put the work out there and then move on to a new piece

Ellie Day is an artist from Essex, UK but currently she studies Fine Art at Swansea College of Art and hopes to continue developing her practice on a MA Fine Art course in September 2021. She works with phrases, texts and combines it with traditional painting methods as well as digital. Her work is straightforward, soul-stirring and makes you smile and say “YEAH”!

Ellie describes herself and her work as “conversation, spotlight, documentary, inquisitive“.

Read the interview with Ellie to learn more about her work, creative process and inspiration.

How are you? And how has the past year influenced you?

Before the pandemic, I assumed I had an endless stream of material due to being surrounded by the public the majority of the time. I would work my way through the list I had been making of overheard phrases, rarely returning to previously used sentences. When we all went into lockdown, I found myself going back to quotes I had picked up early on to spend more time working from them than I would have before.

I would say the biggest influence the pandemic has had on my practice is that it has pushed me to provide more thought to individual sentences and, when normal life returns, to appreciate the time spent around lively crowds full of hustle and bustle.

Where can we find your work? Is it currently in a gallery?

From April 20th, you can find my work over at @exquisitecadaverproject ’s online exhibition titled ‘With my two eyes.’ This particular exhibition will be exploring ‘relationships with one’s self and surroundings.’

Where do you find the phrases? Are they your thoughts, conversations you hear on the streets, or have with your friends?

The phrases that I use within my work are picked up from lots of different places and situations. Before the pandemic, I was often travelling back and forth to university on trains and crowded tubes, this became the main source of material for me. Passers by on the streets and in shops also heavily contributed to my ‘overheard in public’ list.

However, now I have found myself using a lot more quotes from family and friends due to being at home and away from the public. Now and again, I will hear phrases that really stick out to me. The person saying them may have not even given them a second thought, but by including the sentences in my work, I feel I’m providing them with a spotlight, a moment in conversation that would have otherwise been overlooked

Do you have music, books, or film recommendations?

For me, an absolute master of picking up on people’s character is Ricky Gervais. Even just the slightest movement to comfort ourselves in uncomfortable situations or a gulp at just the right time can make the punchline, particularly in The Office UK and Derek. I listen to music whilst I’m painting. My favourites would probably be Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin, ‘Down On Me’ has got to be my number 1! I also recently finished reading Strangeland by Tracey Emin. I would definitely recommend this book, a rollercoaster of emotions. 

And what artists inspire you?

I am inspired by artists that really explore that rawness of life in their work such as Tracey Emin, Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger. Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Laure Provoust also stand out to me among many other text-based artists. 

Does your environment influence you as well? Or you can stay creative no matter what happens or what weather it is? A big deal-breaker for me, ahah!

I would say my environment does influence me, something that has changed considerably over the past few months. Previously, I had been working in the university studios in such a creative environment. Everyone had been following their different paths that their practice’s had taken and being surrounded by this every day was inspiring. Now I’m working from home, I’m finding that watching online artist talks and discovering new artists has helped me maintain a creative mindset.

However, this isn’t always the case and now and again I will definitely find myself lacking the motivation to produce new work. I know this feeling will pass and I try to keep that in mind as much as possible. Funnily enough, I tend to find that when the weather is nice, something very rare here, I feel less of a drive to work as I want to switch off and be outside in the sun!

Tell us more about your creative process. What tools do you love to usse?

I will usually have a sentence in mind that I want to work from. Exploring some ideas regarding colour and mark making in my sketchbook, I then can think about how to develop it further. Depending on my aim for the piece, I will either work on a paper painting that I add text to using Photoshop, or I will start painting on canvas. 

I have seen your portfolio, and I love how colorful and different it is from the works presented on your website. It looks very cool! Are you planning to go back to the photography or combine it with text?

Before I returned to working with text alone recently, I was creating work that heavily relied on taking photos. I was focusing less on what I was hearing and more on what I was seeing. Although, the photos were only used for drawing from, they still played a big part of my practice at that time. I really enjoy street photography so this is definitely something to consider introducing back into my work!

In the challenging moments, when you feel the least creative, what helps you to get back on track and start making art?

Thankfully, as I’m currently at university they have provided us with talks from guest artists that have really helped me get back in a creative mindset if I’m struggling at that time. It goes without saying that we are all going to experience moments where we are far from feeling creative and putting the pressure on ourselves isn’t going to help.

Switch off for a few days, maybe watch some inspiring films or start reading a book about an artist you’ve discovered. I know this is something that has helped me in the past. 

Is there anything you think people don’t understand about your art?

For sure, although I tend to not provide thought or worry about what others think about my paintings. I sort of just put the work out there and then move on to a new piece.

And in general, who do you think has the final say when viewing the artworks – an artist or a viewer? Or there is no such thing as a final conclusion about the artwork?

I don’t think there is a final say about an artwork as we all hold our own opinions and there isn’t any that are more important than the rest. That’s all they are at the end of the day, opinions and views. Definitely not ‘final’ as well. You could have seen an artwork that you really didn’t like and then years later you go through a life changing experience that has altered your view and allowed you to fully relate to the work. I would say it’s ever-changing.

What is your creative goal for this year?

I would say my main creative goals for this year is to really push the boundaries of this new series of 100x100cm canvas paintings and to continue my studies on a MA Fine Art course.

Do you think there is a point when artists should stop evolving and just stick to their style? Or the artist can never stop evolving and growing their skills?

I don’t think there is ever a point that anyone could, let alone should, stop evolving. It’s something that just happens without our knowledge most of the time. As people we are always changing and adapting, whether that’s because of our surroundings or the personalities around us. All of these factors feed back into our ever-evolving practice.

What do beginner artists have to know in 2021?

I’ve been told to take every opportunity that could benefit my work and to apply for lots of open calls to showcase my work and meet new creatives!


Support Ellie and her work! Check out her website and Instagram

The prints with her work will be available soon at https://www.instagram.com/mlart20/

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