From a pretty young age, it’s been my modus operandi to make art and make money. When I was in primary school, my best friend and I made greeting cards and sold them to our parents’ friends. It was such a good racket for a couple of nine year olds – we earnt way more than we would have just doing chores for pocket money, and we had infinitely more fun.
In high school, I got really into jewellery making. With my greeting-card money I bought boxes of beautiful glass beads and would stay up late on weekends making wild necklaces. It was even more lucrative, and I’d always have a list of commissions from friends and relatives.
Both my parents are super creative and always making things, but having fun while getting paid was a pivotal lesson that my Mum especially championed.
I’m a full-time part-timer with about four different jobs, plus freelancing. I used to be embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have just one full-time gig, but I’ve come to love my lifestyle so wholeheartedly. Each day of the week is different.
Some days I’m at the University of Newcastle, illustrating and lettering and mocking up print layouts. I also work for a start-up hub in the city, helping to brand all their events and programs. I’m currently art directing a big project for council that involves lots of colourful animations. On my freelance plate right now I’ve got a big mural coming up in Melbourne, the visual identity for a disability hackathon, a typographic tattoo, and the design collateral for an art market. Some Saturdays I produce radio for the ABC, but that’s fairly unrelated to my graphic design life…
“Part-time” and “in-house” can feel like dirty words in the design industry, but the financial flexibility and creative freedom that those gigs provide me with are invaluable. It gives me the space for beach coffees with friends and brunches with my family. It fuels my constant desire to make side-projects and learn new techniques.
I spose the worst part of having such a patchwork-y week is keeping tabs on tax and superannuation and that sort of thing. It’s not my forte, and it’s something I need to get better at.
I just wrapped a passion project that was all about my design crushes! I recently took part in the 36 Days of Type challenge, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for years but never quite had the guts or time for. But this year I bit the bullet. I wanted to center the challenge around some of my favourite creative womxn from around the world, and to do so using animation (which I’m pretty new to and needed practise in!). The whole project is up on my instagram account (@sophie_elinor), but I do have some favourites.
I live for Jenna Josepher’s cinemagraphs and animations. She’s so technically skilled, and her concepts are wild and weird and titillating. Her music videos are so exciting to me.
Laci Jordan’s work is always a colourful, welcome slap in the face. I have so much respect for artists who aren’t afraid to be political in their work, and to represent their communities. Laci does both in spades, with style.
Lisa Hanawalt is fast becoming another favourite. She’s the production designer behind Bojack Horseman, and has just created her own animated series on Netflix, Tuca and Bertie. Lisa builds these twisted, totally intriguing universes where half-animal/ half-human creatures reflect back at us.
Staying in that animation realm, Yukai Du illustrates the most textured, swirling constellations of pattern. She has this incredible style that feels both organic but also geometric, and the way she makes those details dance is spectacular.
Locally, I can’t go past Rachel Burke’s work without being overcome with joy. I’m a sucker for anything rainbow and sparkly, and her tinsel jackets and giant pom poms tick both those boxes. She’s incredibly generous in sharing her techniques, too, which is really admirable.
I don’t know if it’s the best piece of advice, but it’s certainly one that stuck in my memory. Someone once told me years ago, “I hope it takes you a long time to be successful”. At the time it felt like a real insult, but the more it’s simmered the kinder it’s become? I wouldn’t wish overnight success on anyone – it must be a nightmare to navigate. But slow success is the culmination of years of practice and failures and internal questioning and re-discovering who you are. Maybe it’s more rewarding because it feels harder earned? I’m not there yet, but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.
Style is an overarching work in progress for me. Some people seem to find theirs easily and early, but I’m sure plenty of others spend their whole lives searching and never quite get there. I’ve been guilty of this myself, but social media can be a bit of a knock-off cesspool. It’s murky territory, because you learn by imitating, and you also can’t create in a vacuum. But it’s vital to bring something new to the table, too, because otherwise it’s just straight up theft. I think it’s helpful to cast as wide a net as possible when you’re looking for inspiration. You might be working in a niche area, but your influences can (and should) come from far and wide. It sounds twee, but knowing yourself better as a person is also really critical when you’re making art.
Not having a signature style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. If you’re working in a studio environment, almost the exact opposite is true. Being stylistically agile and ever-changing can be a real asset.
Man, 2019 really feels like a big year of milestones for me. Getting to speak at Typism in August is bucket-list level cool for me. I’m terrified in the best way possible and am working on a total portfolio overhaul and some new hand-made merch to bring along.
More broadly, I’m just hoping to do more work for people who are doing good. That’s all I ever really want to do in my career.
On the personal front, I turn 30 the week after my talk at Typism (!!), so my partner and I will hopefully be heading off overseas for a big adventure to ring in the next decade.
This is a huge one for me. While I don’t think that graphic design is going to save the world, I do think it can play a supporting role. As visual communicators, we’re uniquely positioned to sell messages in a way that resonates. If we consciously focus on issues that really matter to us, we have so much potential for impact.
Get more Sophie Elinor insights & wisdom at #typism2019. With every new speaker announcement ticket prices increase—so grab those tickets quick! For tickets and to check out all the other legendary Typism speakers this year, jump onto the Typism website: typismconference.com
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