01 May 2023
Tombow Talks To: Eleanor Wadley
What have you studied and what inspired you to become an artist?
Throughout my studies, I have been creatively focused. I studied Art and Photography at A-Level, and went on to complete an Art Foundation course before starting at university a few years where I completed my BA in Illustration and Creative and Professional Writing.
I was always creative, from an early age, and was encouraged to pursue art by my family. I had access to paints and pens and we would have afternoons where my Mum would convert the dining table into a drawing space, putting down a tablecloth so we could be as messy as we wanted.
In more recent years, it was my free time during Covid that encouraged me to explore this forgotten hobby. I found my education had done the opposite of what I expected it to. I was drawing so much for assignments that I never drew in my spare time. The lockdowns, and all the time I had at home, acted as a turning point. I rediscovered the joy in my creative practice again!
Fast forward to now, as I began travelling I was surrounded by so much to see and record. There’s an endless pool of inspiration that keeps my practice fresh and engaging.
What does a typical ‘day-in-the-life-of-Eleanor-Wadley’ look like?
As a remote worker, I move cities/countries on a monthly basis. I have been travelling this way since December 2021! Naturally, this has impacted the way my daily life works, and my routines change depending on the city I find myself in. That being said, I have developed a routine I try to stick to wherever I am in the world.
I wake up slowly and immediately make coffee and read for a while before getting up for the day. I eat, shower, all the usual morning activities and aim to be out of the house between 9 and 10. Ever since Covid, if I don't get out of the house and get some fresh air first thing, it completely throughs off my productivity.
One of my main tasks when I arrive somewhere new is finding a cafe that welcomes remote workers. This is where you’ll find me each morning getting started on some work.
I always head home for lunch and then I hit my afternoon wall... I am so unproductive from 2 until probably around 5. I do nothing of value at this time so I try to exercise, by going to my local gym or on a run, and relax by doing my daily sketching or finding somewhere to draw on location. Sketching is a way for me to feel productive while simultaneously having some downtime.
I get a sudden burst of energy before dinner and finish off any extra work I need to do before cooking around 7 and, finally, spending the evening reading.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the art world?
I would say consume as much as you make. By this, I mean following artists on social media that truly inspire you, taking the time to draw on location and truly see and enjoy what's around you, and going to galleries and art fairs to experience the art in your city. Explore art in all forms: through music at concerts, by reading as much as you can, and by being open to new art practices and the creative process of others. Your art is a reflection of your life and experiences so the more you see the better your creative practice will be.
When it comes to creating, I would suggest exploring everything and not limiting yourself. While I was at university, I niched down my art style to watercolour and fine liners on an A5 or A4 scale because that’s where I felt safest. That's the way I worked for years... It wasn’t until I followed some incredible artists online that I was inspired to explore alternative mediums. Through this exploration, I am slowly discovering my personal style. Something that I felt alluded me for years. So yes, basically, success is outside of your comfort zone.
How do you continue to develop and grow your artistic skills and abilities?
This links to what I said above: success is outside of your comfort zone. To continue to grow and evolve it is important to keep pushing yourself. I try new styles of working and testing my skills by drawing on location. More recently I have pushed my creative practice by limiting my colour palette and drawing subjects that don’t come naturally to me.
As a result, what I produce isn’t always my best work! However, I am becoming a more confident artist with a greater sense of what I like and don’t like within my practice.
What does your creative process look like?
Currently, my creative process is centered around daily practice. I sketch every day, whether it's for five minutes or an hour. I’m finding it's really improving my illustration practice and mark-making and am hoping it's a habit I’ll keep!
What are some challenges you face as an artist while travelling, and how do you overcome them?
The main challenge is packing. I can only take so much away which can be limiting. I’d really like to work on a larger scale. In my head, I have these big A2 paintings of the mountains in Montenegro based on the sketchbook pages I have produced since I’ve been here. A2 is not a possibility when you share a 20kg suitcase between two! I’d also like to experiment with printmaking and collaging, two processes I used to love during my Art Foundation. Unfortunately, I can’t pack the diversity of mediums I’d love to play around with.
I spend a month in the UK in the summer and at Christmas. During this time, I get all of these creative ideas out and experiment, taking this time to enjoy the processes I can’t explore while I’m away. I have also been known to buy bigger sketchbooks and more paints and post them back home before I leave a country…
Pinch me moment?
Honestly, there have been a few! Working with Tombow was one of them. I am still so excited to be a part of the Tombow Collective. Earning money from my illustrations, an outcome a lot of people warned me wouldn’t be possible. I have sent commissions all over the world, around the UK, to the states, Australia, and throughout Europe. I am still in awe of the fact that my paintings hang in people’s homes. Last but not least, I feel very lucky to be able to travel the way that I do, supporting myself through my artistic practice.
Have you noticed any differences in the way your art is received in different parts of the world?
Honestly, I don’t think so! I think the reaction to an artist drawing in a cafe or sitting on a bench somewhere is always one of interest. People love to see what I’m creating. Often, they silently observe, but occasionally someone will sit with me and ask about where I learned to draw, about the medium I’m using, and if I have an education in the subject. I have gained followers online that I have met while drawing on location and they’re always some of the most engaged and supportive members in my online community.
How has social media, specifically Instagram, impacted your career as an artist?
Instagram has solidified my career as an artist. In the early days, when I first left university, I was commissioned to paint wedding photographs, house portraits, and pet portraits. A lot of these orders came through the advertising I did on social media.
Since I began travelling in 2021, I was concerned I’d have to give up my artistic career. It was going to be a challenge to carry around all the packaging, sketchbooks, and materials I needed to continue with my job as a commissioned illustrator.
Instagram has given me hope that I can still have a career as an illustrator while I travel, but just in a different form! By building my online community, I hope to build a successful Patreon account with educational videos. By the end of the summer, I will be selling prints based on my travels and experiences and I hope to continue working as a UGC creator and in affiliation with the brands I love.
I am really excited to see where the combination of social media and my work as an illustrator can take me in the future.
How do you use Tombow products in your work?
I always use my Tombow pens to do the base layer of colour. Usually, I don’t do an initial sketch as it can take away some of the happy mistakes that make the illustrations unique. However, if something is particularly complicated, I will do a base sketch in a pale grey Tombow brush pen. Completing this sketch in pen over pencil forces me to keep my sketching process loose and not fall into the trap of rigidity that occurs when I know I can use a rubber!
With or without a base sketch, I start blocking in the main expanses of colour using my Tombow pens. The initial layer blocks out the core shapes. The second layer, usually using a darker shade, create shadows and depth. I always aim to do this stage swiftly, without over analysing the process, to force myself to keep the illustration loose.
I then use my Tombow colour pencils to gently build up texture to the blocky colours. This helps them to appear softer. This isn’t a technique I used to use, I used to go straight in for the detail, but now it's a step I can’t skip!!
Finally, my Tombow colour pencils are used to build up detail. I mentioned earlier I used to solely work in watercolour and fine liner. The way I use colour pencils has almost directly replaced the way I used to use a fine liner. I use similar mark-making techniques but the lines aren’t as harsh.
Favourite place you’ve visited?
Favourite subject to draw?
Currently, architecture with lots of greenery!
Favourite shade of ABT pens?
If you could have dinner with three artists (past of present) who would they be?
Oliver Jeffers, Katie Moody, and Matisse - quite the crowd.
What should we be watching on tv right now?
I am not really a TV watcher… while we are away we only have access to Netflix really and there isn’t enough good stuff on there to fill the week!
A book series you need to be reading right now though? Anything by Sarah J. Maas.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
‘Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement’ and ‘every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become’ - James Clear in Atomic Habits (a must-read!)