ARTIST OF THE WEEK: ELLIE BENUSKASeptember 7, 2017
LA-based illustrator Ellie Benuska is the watercolour mastermind behind the dreamy pastel fashion illustrations that have captured the hearts of the Instagram art world. We caught up with the illustrator and content creator to talk about her time at Vogue Magazine, illustrating for the CFDA, how Los Angeles influences her work and all things creative…
How did you become interested in illustration?
My first illustrative drawings were done in college but I brushed them aside, as I thought I was meant to be a fine artist. It wasn’t until I was working at Vogue Magazine and needed a creative outlet that I decided to combine my two passions: art and fashion. I started an Instagram for my drawings and began to investigate the illustration world. I discovered such a wealth of illustrators, fashion and otherwise, that were sharing incredible work on the platform. I learned that fashion illustration was its own little world and one that I could possibly find my place in. After some hard work, my Instagram started gaining traction. I also started gaining clients because of it. Eventually, I had enough work to turn my illustration pursuit into a full-time job! I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to do what I love.
How would you describe your style?
I’m more detailed in my line work but I like to be hasty and rough with my application of colour. I like the push and pull of that combination. I work very fast, and I try not to obsess over any one area of the work, but rather look at it as a whole. Portraits are my number one love, especially of models. I enjoy drawing recognisable faces.
What was your college experience like studying fine art?
My college experience was an amazing time. The Fine Arts department was deeply rooted in conceptual questioning, thinking, and researching. It was a place to get away from the hoopla of the college’s sororities, fraternities, and football worshipers (not that I didn’t enjoy all of that in moderation). My art truly blossomed under the guidance of top-notch professors. With their encouragement, I became truly confident in both my technical and conceptual abilities – something that’s necessary as an artist.
How did working at Vogue influence you and your work?
Vogue opened my eyes to the world of fashion. I learned so much about how the industry functions and became familiar with all of the top names. I like to think of my time at Vogue as a fashion graduate school of sorts because I learned so much. To this day I call upon the knowledge that I gained from my time there. Furthermore, they became my first client (more on that later).
What’s your creative process like?
Technology plays a huge role in my process. I find all of my inspiration photos either in my extensive Pinterest catalog or on Instagram. I have a backlog of hundreds of ideas for drawings. From there I sketch outlines on paper or sketch with a tablet on the computer with Photoshop. Either way, the final process is pretty much always water-colouring. I fill in the outlines I drew with some detailed layers and quick washes of colour. I’m also constantly reading blogs and surfing the web looking for fashion trends. I like to write blog posts on the up and coming trends or designers that are inspiring me. I usually illustrate the trend in a creative way and show links for shopping the look. Whatever way you look at it, my process always starts with fashion.
What materials do you prefer to work with and why?
Watercolours are my number one. There’s something so interesting about the way the washes always dry differently. It’s a tricky medium in that sense, but I like that it’s a challenge. I also like the softness of the end product, especially in contrast with the black outlines I make. Lately, I’ve also been loving combining watercolours with digital painting. Again, I’m interested in the contrast. I think the soft watercolours against opaque digital colours are interesting.
What’s life like in LA? How does the city inspire you?
I’m born and raised in LA and I just love it. After living in New York for some time it just feels easy. It’s laid back from the people to the weather and everything in between. I live outside of the central city, but I find myself driving to all areas – from Venice to Silverlake. Luckily I don’t have a 9-5 so I can avoid the nasty traffic. I’m inspired to get to work every day because I’m happy living in LA. Whenever I’m unhappy with my living situation I’m not motivated or productive. Nothing’s prohibiting me from chasing my dream.
What are your main inspirations in the current art and fashion scenes?
Right now I’m loving the work of Simon Porte Jacquemus. He’s making groundbreaking work. Mark my words, he’s going to be huge. I’m also very inspired by Maria Grazia Chiuri’s work at Dior. Her creations are elegant and playful at the same time. Other fashion illustrators that inspire me include @travelwritedraw, @birdyandme, and @byeuneve.
What has been your proudest career moment so far?
I was so honoured when I was asked to work for Vogue and the CFDA creating backdrops for a cocktail party at Paris Fashion Week. My work went through an approval process and was blown up into a life-sized backdrop for a photo booth. The booth was graced by the likes of Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. That was and remains to this day, an incredibly proud moment.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given, about art or otherwise?
My motto is, as generic as it may sound, borrowed from Nike. “Just Do It” can be applied to so many aspects of life in the studio and outside of the workplace. For example, I had the idea to start an Instagram for my drawings for a year before I actually made it. Looking back I wish I could have told myself to just start, to just do it, and not to overthink it. It also applies to social interaction in a really interesting way. I’ve had so many instances where people suggest I meet someone that might further my career, or ask me to submit work to them. Instead of nodding my head, making a mental note, and forgetting about it later, I do it right away. I make it happen, and act assertively (which is a challenge for an introverted artist like myself). Even when I have to do things I don’t want to do, which is obviously an unfortunate but realistic part of living life, I repeat my motto to myself to get through.
Have you got any future projects you can tell us about?
I’m so excited to share that I’m working on producing products featuring my drawings. It will all be original, new content; nothing that I’ve shared on Instagram yet. The store on my website will include products such as stationery, prints, posters, notebooks, and even a calendar (if I can get my act together for the upcoming year!). I’ll be announcing the launch on my Instagram in the coming months.
Social Media Handles: