Instagrammer of the Week: Eleanor Taylor

A world of mystery and intrigue, surrealism and dream-like scenes await visitors to @eleanorsvisions, the captivating Instagram account of award-winning UK artist, Eleanor Taylor. An MA graduate of the Royal College of Art — now represented by international Illustration agency, Heart — Eleanor creates her atmospheric and uniquely imaginative illustrations from her home in Hastings on the South Coast of England. Using a mixture of mediums, from pencil to ink, etching and watercolours, Eleanor’s captivating work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Variety, Sunday Times, New Statesman and Penguin, to name a few. In 2016 Eleanor published her first book, Secrets of the Sea, and she is currently working on a new book due to be published next year.

Tell us about yourself, Eleanor, did you always know you wanted to go into art and illustration?

I had a pretty unconventional upbringing – I was homeschooled until the age of sixteen. Once lessons were completed I would spend the rest of the day in the freezing garden shed drawing and working on a portfolio to get into the local college. Even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do I was very committed to making work and although at times it was a little lonely, my slightly strange education gave me a huge amount of self-motivation which is something you probably need as a freelancer.

It wasn’t until much later after completing an MA at the Royal College of Art that I finally decided to commit to illustration as a career.  Now after having worked commercially for a few years, I am returning to perhaps what I love best – making my own work – painting and printmaking.

What's lurking beneath: Eleanor's illustration soften convey a sense of atmosphere and intrigue
What’s lurking beneath: Eleanor’s illustration soften convey a sense of atmosphere and intrigue

How would you describe your illustrative style?

I like to create atmosphere in my work – this at times can be moody, mysterious and cinematic.  My work centres around drawing and mark making – I love the tactile qualities of wet ink on paper. For the past year, I have been working on a series of watercolour paintings. Watercolour can bring about the most amazing, dark, pooling and unexpected atmospheres that just don’t happen digitally!

An atmospheric watercolour illustration of a woman gazing out of a window, overlooking a full moon at night
Eleanor’s love for surrealist painters, writers and film-makers shines through in her distinctly cinematic and often subtly ominous illustrations

What inspires your work?

I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of films. The short stories of painter/ surrealist Leonora Carrington and the writer Daphne Du Maurier are fantastic – both have quite sinister undertones in their work.

I love the dreamy and seductive qualities of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and the work of David Lynch. He captures that fuzzy area in-between waking and sleeping and its that indescribable and immersive feeling that I try to explore in my own work.

An atmospheric watercolour illustration of a dead bird cupped between two hands
An illustration for the New York Times Sunday Review: ‘What Dying Looks Like’

What prompted you to begin sharing your art on Instagram?

I’m a visual person so Instagram felt like a perfect place to show my work and connect with my audience and other fellow artists. A few years ago, everyone used Tumblr – that was how I got commissioned for my first job.  Instagram was a natural progression and it seems to be a fairly positive space so I don’t mind spending my time on it.  It’s become a bigger part of my business now and often helps bring about commissions from clients and art directors.

An atmospheric watercolour illustration of a lone swimmer emerging from the water
‘Surfacing’ — an illustration from Eleanor’s recent publication, ‘Water’s Edge’
Is there a method to what you post or do you tend to just go with the flow?

I try and be consistent, although I am not always in the mood – social media savviness doesn’t come particularly naturally to me so I have to remind myself at times to post. I can become so caught up in my work that it’s easy to forget.

Have you had any unexpected surprises along the way?

It surprises me how some posts become unexpectedly popular. The trick is to not get too wrapped up in statistics and not let them completely dictate what you make!

An open sketchbook depicting tropical scenes in colourful pen and pencil
Remembering Corfu: a glimpse into Eleanor’s holiday sketchbook

Who do you follow yourself?

@loraavedian is a textile artist who’s work I discovered from her RCA show. She has some particularly stunning embroidery pieces.

@oliviekeck’s work is full of drama – car crashes, hurricanes, and other dramatic events with a great attention to pattern, shape and super bright colour.

@palomawool, I love the aesthetic of this clothing brand based in Barcelona. Not only are the clothes gorgeous, the styling, photo shoots and colour palettes crossover seamlessly into art, craft and design.

An atmospheric watercolour illustration of two figues emerging froma swamp
‘Swamp Women’ — an illustration from Eleanor’s recent publication, ‘Water’s Edge’

What’s in store for the future?

I am very excited for 2018 — I have a children’s book coming out in the spring with Laurence King and I plan to do some travelling which will feed into my work. Last year I worked on some limited edition screen prints and loved the process so I plan on working on some more which will be on sale in my shop,

A three colour (dark green, pink and yellow) screen print depicting the dense forest in the high altitudes of the Galápagos Islands
A limited edition screen print, inspired by the different zones on the Galápagos Islands, designed for East London natural history store, Eastern Biological