Looking at the distant, doll-like portraits of artist and art director Eleland is like trying to solve a complex puzzle, addicting and mind-bending. Her characters, often disenchanted fairy tale heroines, crack the facade of the feminine world, revealing malice, unrest, and willful distraction from the everyday experience. We sat down with the Italian illustrator to learn more about her life in Rome and about the inspirations behind the incredibly unique approach to her work.
I'd love for you to dig into the female portrait series and where that comes from/what's the story behind it.
If you're talking about the Cameo Portrait set, that is about four angry women who have had enough of their stereotyped roles. It represents women who have lost their innocence and use deception to get whatever they want. Celine hides her vampiric nature, Evelyn is a nurse with a poisoned syringe, Amelia offers a drink to her victim beneath her powerful gaze and finally Alice who has been corrupted.
You've had a lot of creative jobs: graphic designer, art director etc can you tell me how to transitioned into becoming a digital illustrator (or do you still do another job?)
My first paying job was graphic design, which has turned into Art Direction. It's a creative job, which I enjoy, and it works well when you have the right team. I've been doing a bit of illustration for my job, but in a much simpler, less elaborate style than my own. My personal aesthetic doesn't really fit in the context of my work, so my illustrations were born from my desire to create something that felt personal, something just for me. I didn't want customers to tell me what to do, I just wanted to create something with my personal taste, and be able to spend a long time on a single piece in order to get the results I wanted. Digital tools have helped me express myself in this better way, although recently I've been getting back into ink and paper.
How did you discover your artistic ability?
I grow up surrounded by creativity. My father was an artist and he introduced me to art when I was very young. I always spent a lot of my time drawing, but of course it took me a long time to actually see satisfying results. To me art is a sort of research, something that makes you think about life and problems in a different way.
How do you balance working on your art vs. client work or other work?
I travel quite often and the time that's left over for my own illustrations never feels like enough. However, I have days when I can work from home which allows me to spend a bit more time refining techniques and brainstorming ideas.
What is the creative community like where you live?
My primary job is in Rome, where I am currently employed as an Art Director. After a few years, I moved to Latina, which is not far from Rome. It's a small town whose culture and arts scene are gathering more contributors and more attention from the media. There's really a growing excitement around contemporary art here.
You seem to focus on female characters, can you elaborate on that? Is there a certain theme or message you're communicating with these portraits?
Women are the closest to my nature, so expressing myself through their stories feels really natural. Women hold many secrets and mysteries, they make life and they have the duty to preserve beauty and grace. In my work, I try to express the research of a lost identity because I think that many women cannot express their own true nature. Sometimes, due their backgrounds or due their desperate need to be loved, they find themselves playing a role that doesn't belong to them. I am always been interested in the female experience, misogyny, and also in the strong bond between woman and nature.
I noticed that many of the facial expressions of the characters you illustrate look somber and distant, where does that come from?
Indeed, many of them are like that. Their expression comes from the feelings they conceal; they express these in a negative way because they feel that they are not able to be truly sincere.
Take us through an average day for you.
If I'm not going to Rome for work I wake up very early, get out, walk or run and do some yoga. The rest of the day is mainly spent working and drawing. I listen to a lot of music when I work, it helps to keep me focused. In the evening I spend spare time with friends and relatives. In Italy we like to eat, and cooking together is very important for our social life and culture.
If I travel to Rome for work I'll spend all day working in the office. The view of Rome is always stunning and even though I look at it every day, it never ceases to amaze me. I love it.
What inspires your creative process? Books/music/movies, etc.
Music and everything that surrounds it is a great source of inspiration to me, sounds, dance, and art in motion. I often place long necks on my characters to allude to ballet dancers. I'm also really inspired by the time of gestation that a child spend in the mother's belly. With some of my characters it's like they have an umbilical cord attached to them in order to stay in touch with a lost universe. My characters' faces are inspired by Japanese cartoons and the bodies and colors are inspired by traditional Italian Mannerism. Many people say that my style is pop surrealist and maybe they're right! I do feel very close to pop surrealist artists.
Where do you hope your art will take you in terms of a career?
It's a hard life to live in Italy and have an artistic job that pays the bills. To be honest, I'd really like to have more spare time to make more illustrations. But at the moment I am trying to go with the flow!
Photos by Paola Acciarino.
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