Where did you you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist? Have you always been creative?
I grew up in Leicestershire after moving here from Nottingham when I was 4 years old. I have always been creative and have loved to draw and doodle since I could hold a pencil. I think I have taken after my Mum who is a graphic designer and a keen creative herself!
How did you develop your skills? Did you study art in school or are you self taught?
I studied art at GCSE and then went onto develop my skills further by taking art again at A Level along with Graphics and Photography. After this I felt pressured to go onto university, where everything kind of went wrong for me. I was advised by my tutors at Sixth Form to first complete a foundation course at university before attempting the three year degree. I took their advice and it was one of the worst choices I have ever made.
I hated university from the second I arrived, I felt like I didn't fit in and the foundation course was absolutely rammed with other students that the tutors appeared to not have time for us all. I was told on many occasions that my style wasn't developed enough and that my art just wasn't 'all there' which depressed me further. I completed this course just so I could say I got something from it (which was a BTEC diploma with a mere Pass mark) and decided university wasn't for me and that I wouldn't continue onto the degree. Telling my parents was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and although I don't think they were particularly happy with my decision, they respected it and didn't try to change my mind.
After my downfall at university and a couple of years in a bit of a rut not knowing where my life was going or what I was doing with it, I tried applying at many design companies to try and gain some experience but no where would take me on because of the lack of degree. So I started an Etsy shop under the name Llama Talks. I started off trying to sell prints and it didn't take me long to realise that art prints are rather difficult to sell if you aren't an established artist or illustrator. So I started to pop my designs onto greeting cards and after these became very successful, I branched out onto makeup mirrors, badges, magnets and even mugs.
Everything I've learnt for Etsy and my Llama Talks journey was and still is self taught and I'm very proud to be able to call this my little business that didn't require a university degree.
Have your family and friends always been supportive in your artistic path, or has it been challenging for them to understand your choice?
My Mum has always been very supportive of my choices and although my Dad would have liked me to take something more academic, he's always been happy with what I've decided to do in the end.
What was your strongest influence you had growing up ( artists, cartoons, films, comics, etc)?
Growing up my strongest influence was Cartoon Network, I loved watching Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends, as well as the old classics like Tom & Jerry. I also found a lot of inspiration from music and comics. Harley Quinn is my favourite villain ;)
Do you have a routine when sitting down ready to get creative?
I have found that sometimes I can't choose when I want to draw something…I can sit for hours and nothing will come out the end of my pen but then other times I simply NEED a piece of paper because an idea must come out there and then. Doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing, a quick sketch will do as a reference for when I can sit down properly and illustrate my idea.
What part of the creative process is the easiest, what part is the hardest and what part is the most fun?
The easiest part of my process is definitely filling in the colour using Adobe Illustrator and the hardest is outlining my drawings before doing this. I find the most exciting part to be when I'm sketching an idea out with a pencil and seeing my characters come to life. I find its very easy to get attached to the characters and they end up feeling like family!
Have you worked on any exciting projects in the past and are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I'm currently exploring further giftware options for Llama Talks and other stationery ware like notebooks and pencils. Stay tuned!
Do you have a long-term career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term goal is to make Llama Talks my full time job, as it is a little side business I do currently alongside my very tiring full time job working with animals. Its taken a lot of courage to be able to decide that I will follow my dream of being a full time illustrator and not settle for any old thing, and although its hard work I love every second of it.
Would you prefer to work for a company or work as a freelancer? And why?
I would absolutely love to work for myself and have the freedom to choose my own hours, working environment and discover new exciting opportunities for Llama Talks. I think I would much prefer the independence!
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? What do you do to keep yourself creative and boost your imagination?
If I had to give any advice for art block or developing yourself, I find music works a treat and also if you haven't checked out Studio Ghibli films, these are visually stunning and also leave me full of ideas.
Do you have a favourite subject to draw? If so, what makes it so special?
My favourite subjects to draw are anything you can add a little face to. I love giving simple things like apples and mugs little personalities and its also super fun thinking of a sweet little quote to go alongside them!
Who are the artists that inspire you the most today? And why?
My most influential artist would have to be Tim Burton, despite our styles being very different, I always feel very inspired after seeing his work and films. I love the darkness and how he isn't afraid to be different, no matter how morbid!
Do you have something that you've designed that you are most proud of?
I'm super proud of my entire Llama Talks shop but something extra special I'm currently working on is a range of wedding invites and save the dates for a friend of mine. This has been great for experience and has also sparked off a lot of other ideas for my shop!
If you had to give 1 piece of advice to someone just getting started in the creative field, what would it be?
As for studying and self development, I don't believe university is always the way forward. I think society can make people feel like this has to be the next step after school and college but if you want it enough, you will find a way to make it on your own.
Don't be scared to try new things, learn as you go along and don't be scared of failing because this is also learning and experience. Etsy has a wonderful community who are always available to offer their advice and support. I high recommended giving Etsy a go if you're new to trying to sell your works and I hope you find a confidence boost with it like I did. Don't give up on your gift :)
Finally, where can we find you and your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
If you'd like to know more about me you can find me here:
Llama Talks Etsy shop - www.llamatalks.etsy.com
Blog - www.elliswoolley.blogspot.com
Twitter - www.twitter.com/ellisjade_
Instagram - www.instagram.com/ellis_woolley