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Doing It All: Designer and Illustrator Elli Chortara

posted by Arielle Angel on February 8, 2012

It’s been a busy couple weeks here at Ketuv: new inquiries and new ketubot! Last week, we introduced you to Will Deutsch, and announced his new Ahava ketubah for Ketuv’s line. This week, meet designer and illustrator Elli Chortara, and check out her totally fresh ketubot!

Elli’s inspiration for these ketubot is “windswept”– the idea of the wind blowing through a specific scene and rearranging it– in this case, a garden and a field. We think it has a wonderfully graphic and even deco-ish feel.

Bird in the Garden

In the Fields

We are so consistently impressed with Elli and how many different kinds of projects she is involved in, so we recently asked her how she finds gigs and projects and manages her time, and how she developed her own signature style.

Ketuv: What are you working on right now?

Elli Chortara: I am currently working on a series of robot-animal-like creatures, and I am also writing a story about each, a story that communicates messages that go beyond the story of the character to tap into something more satirical, ambiguous or hidden. This will develop into a book project and perhaps a compact theme for a solo exhibition. Visual storytelling is something that I would like to work more with. Imaginary creatures and characters fascinate me!

The Sleepwalker

That Report

Recently, I have been commissioned to illustrate poetry for an Ireland-based poetry magazine called The Shop: A Magazine of Poetry, which is something I find very exciting as a more conceptual part of my practice. The interpretation of words and feelings, moods or messages is something that has always been latent in my work.

I have also been pairing illustration and design by doing some poster and banner design for an arts festival and arts-based organization, Rowan Arts, in London.

K: You do everything from hat design to illustration for lit mags. How you find different projects/gigs?

EC: Sometimes, people I already know might commission me for private work. Sometimes, it will be people who have seen the work online. The important thing is to be able to build a network— to make sure that you build client relationships built in trust and mutual understanding. I maintain a blog as another way of keeping in touch with people and making sure people see the work.

I check out art sites like ArtsJobs in the UK and Re-Title to see if there are any magazines, exhibitions, online sites or zines that need illustrators, and that match my style, and I send them work samples and a link to my website. I am a member of several networks like Behance and the Association of Illustrators (AOI), which have valuable resources. I use social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and I often do rounds of emails to potential clients and promote my work on artist websites. Of course, if I get the job, and the work is published, that is also another promotional tool for the work itself.

New Era 90th Birthday Hat Design

K: How do you manage your time for all these projects?

EC: The main challenge is to keep myself organized as much as possible, which is not always easy. At the moment, I have a comprehensive schedule on my calendar and mobile phone combining many different work schedules. Keeping one foot on the ground can save time and make life easier.

The other side of things is about maintaining my inspiration levels, which is very much related to exploring new things. I want to make sure to stay active: listening to new music, having a constructive chat, exploring nature, noting down things, and being the person I want to be, despite the everyday challenges and the limited amount of time.

I must remember to pause and take a moment to reflect inwards, as it is often vital to the success of an otherwise hectic day. The important thing for me is to look at the time and to make time, to always look forward to what’s next on the horizon and to maintain a positive attitude.

Black and White illustration for a book of folktales

K: How did you develop your unique style?

EC: Developing a style takes time. It began, for me, during my MA course in Illustration at the Camberwell College of Arts (University of the Arts London). The research process there helped me decide which direction to take stylistically.

But that was only the beginning. You don’t usually leave art school with a ready portfolio or a commissioned project. It’s the work that I have done since then—the experimentations and risks I’ve taken—that have helped most in formulating my current style. It still is a long, joyful process and I don’t think it will ever really end. The work should consistently be pushed further and developed, based on new influences, research, exploration, feedback, and one’s own experience.

For more information on Elli Chortara, visit her artist page. You can also check out her new ketubot, Bird in the Garden, and In The Fields.