RITES has been lucky enough to collaborate with an illustrator!
Hey__Ellen’s illustrations are vibrant, honest and undeniably unique. She tackles social issues in a light-hearted and easy-to-relate way, engaging in what we might think as taboo. Her mission with us is to #NormaliseAcne through her work, helping teens accept that blemishes, pimples, scarring and ‘imperfect’ skin is normal, acceptable and very often beautiful, too.
An ideal role-model for teens and young adults alike, we thought we’d give you some insight into the life and mind of the gem behind our latest artwork.
How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be an illustrator? What inspired your career choice?
I kind of became an illustrator by chance. I’ve always been an artistic person. I did art as one of my Matric subjects and used to do little doodles and caricatures of my friends when I was in high school. I thought of drawing as more of a hobby and decided to study Journalism at Rhodes University. Being part of the Journalism school exposed me to a lot of software that really changed the way I made art, and this gave me the confidence to start sharing my art online, and a lot of people liked it, so I kept doing it. For the first year of sharing my art online (2017), I remember telling people that I “wanted” to be an illustrator, but since the start of 2018, I’m pretty sure that I “am” and illustrator. So, that’s what I tell people, and that’s pretty damn cool.
Where do you get inspiration for your work, and how do you keep yourself inspired?
I’m often inspired by social issues. Studying Journalism and Media Studies has made me very critical of the media we consume, societal pressures, various gazes, and how women are represented. So, I often create pieces that challenge toxic societal norms that are imposed on women. I also make stuff that’s just pretty, and that’s all it is. So, I guess sometimes I’m inspired by the serious, and sometimes I’m inspired by the frivolous.
How did you navigate any bumps along the way? Were there any occasions when you wanted to give up, but didn’t?
The biggest bump along the way I think was having all my eggs in one basket, because drawing – which had been my hobby and escape – became the way I make money and a key component of my Master’s degree. This meant that I began to feel guilty when I drew for myself, and so I started to resent drawing. I had to find a balance between drawing for enjoyment and drawing for work, which is something I’m yet to master, but I’ve come a long way.
If you could give advice to your teenage self, what would you say?
If I could have a conversation with my teenage self, I’d want her to know that she’s strong and capable. I’d want her to know that the people who thought her kindness was a weakness were wrong, because I really believe that I only got where I am by being kind and working hard. As a teenager, I never dreamed I’d be able to make art that would bring people comfort, so I’d point to myself and say to her, “Look who you’re going to be soon! It’s all going to be worth it, I promise.”