Interview: Art, Life and 90s Culture with Ellie Reader

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During the course of our search for ’90s themed artists and illustrators we’ve been very active on Instagram, using hashtags such as “Brit Pop”, “Retro” and “Oasis” to bring up a list of relevant people. We’ve scoured through countless images, sent out a lot of messages, and come to discover some truly fantastic work.

I had the idea to lookup Mr Bean art on Instagram in the knowledge that he was one of the biggest British cultural icons of the ’90s. Few faces are more well-known or recognisable. Caricaturists love him and so too does the meme world.

His name led me to discovering the illustrator Ellie Reader – whose Mr Bean drawings are thing a beauty. Ellie hails from Ascot, draws all sorts of cool shit,  and is not afraid to experiment with colour. As she’s contributing to our Don’t Look Back In Anger exhibition, we thought we’d ask her lots of questions to get a better sense of what her work is about.

What made you want to be an illustrator? 

I’ve been interested in drawing since a young age. I was brought up in a proper arty home – both my mum and dad are artists, and this had a huge bearing on me. I love how every time I pick up a pen I loose myself in what I’m doing. What really appeals to me about creating art is the fact it’s yours. Whatever you make is unique to you, and no one can take that away from you. Every final creation, in my eyes, is a big achievement.

Talk us through some of your concentration areas

I enjoy experimenting in my illustrations by using lots of different mediums and subjects. I tend not to just fixate myself on one thing at all times. I like to mix it up as my thought process changes all the time. I like to delve deep into both serious and non-serious drawing, as this keeps me feeling adventurous. However, over the past year, I’ve given myself quite a few projects to concentrate on.

One is a factual book of illustrations showing the single largest gathering of Native Indians in over a 100 years. Its focus is the Daktota Access Pipeline – which deals with the threat of construction and fracking on an area of land in the US considered Native America territory. This is easily one of my favourite projects as it’s really helped develop my digital colouring and drawing skills. I learnt a lot of new techniques and also educated myself in a real powerful movement.

Indians 2

A second focus area of mine is recreating images from films and magazines, digitally. I like to make these as quirky as possible, and try not to stick to close to the originals. I particularly enjoy drawing faces as they’re full of expression and can be manipulated in lots of ways. I also like illustrating animals, insects and reptiles as this brings a different level focus and detail.

Given the opportunity I would love to become a fictional book illustrator. For now, I’m happy with doing more humorous illustrations as I love to make people laugh.

What steps have you taken to getting your name out there? 

I’ve been pretty proactive so far. I have an Instagram account for my art, and regularly post stuff on it. I also have an Etsy account. I’ve emailed my work out to a few companies, but I’m hoping to do more of this sort of promotion in the months to come.

We discovered you on Instagram through your Mr Bean illustrations. What drove you to do these? 

Ahhhh, I love Mr Bean – it’s my favourite show. Everything he does reminds me of myself. One day I was watching him, and trying to figure out what to draw. And, suddenly it hit me – why don’t I do a Mr Beans series?

Mr Bean 1

Obviously Mr Bean was huge in ‘90s, and is well documented in the art world. Who else from that decade have you drawn or would like to draw more of in the future? 

I actually haven’t drawn many people from 90’s. My eventual plan is to recreate images of famous films from the decade. Films like:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Leon the Professional

Wayne’s World

Austin Powers

Drop Dead Fred

Goodfellas

The Mask

Ab fab

Sum up your style in one word? 

Vibrant

How do you see your style developing in the months/years to come? 

Quite a bit of my work is recreations of second-hand images. Although I enjoy recreating images I’m hoping more on capturing my own as this will help me push ahead with new ideas.

What can we expect from you at our Don’t Look Back In Anger exhibition? 

My contributions will focus on the silly aspects of a time gone by, and encourage viewers to laugh about the past rather than feel sad about it.

Click here to follow Ellie’s movements on Instagram now. 

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