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  • Ellis Brown

Recap: 2022 ✷

I've spent the first few days of 2023 looking back at all of the amazing projects I got to work on and the wonderful people I've connected with from last year, and having been inspired by many of my favourite creatives sharing their #topnine and #artvsartist posts from 2022, I thought I'd share a little recap of what I had been up to!

I thought I'd share the illustration from April 2022 that had started it all - a drawing that felt so effortless and fun to create. This illustration (see below) was to accompany a 'Community Bridges' blogpost that focused on how community organisations can help you to build/boost self esteem. Even though it was a very minimal way of drawing in comparison to what I was used to, I had fun experimenting with textured brushes and a playful composition. Little did I know that sharing this on Twitter would lead to many commissions of similar styles and personality!

Since then, I have created illustrations on a variety of topics to accompany blog posts and editorial pieces for companies including Community Bridges, AARP The Ethel, FOYER Magazine and A Creative Coffee. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and connections I have made. Here's a little recap of the work created:

AARP The Ethel:

The Ethel is a great online resource, targeted at women over 50 and designed to celebrate and champion the idea of older women owning their age. The Ethel's lovely art director Lesley Palmer contacted me after seeing the Community Bridges illustration on Twitter and commissioned me to work on an illustration to accompany an article on downsizing house, with a focus on the help of friends and family - I was so happy to receive her email and work on this project as this was my first paid editorial commission and I had so many ideas! Since then, I have worked with Lesley on two other occasions, creating illustrations that now play a huge part in my portfolio.

Community Bridges:

Community Bridges is a non-profit organisation building positive communities that nurture health and wellbeing while tackling loneliness. By signposting and storytelling on their website, podcast and social channels, they regularly check in with their community and help with their wellbeing. I had the pleasure of working with Sandra, Mona and Viktorija on a number of illustrations focusing on friendship and mental health awareness. My favourite part about working on these Community Bridges articles was that I got to experiment with communicating and promoting awareness of important topics, in a variety of illustration styles.

FOYER Magazine:

FOYER is an independent magazine exploring cultural identity from people of mixed, third culture and second-generation cultural heritage. I was commissioned by the wonderful Fiona Livingston, founder of FOYER, to create an illustration for a vinyl cut out sticker for pre-orders of Issue 01. Fiona specified that she'd like a 10cm custom shape sticker with the words 'Hyphenated and Proud' and that it would also make an appearance inside the publication. As the first publication was based on the theme of 'Connection' I wanted my illustration to show a difference between cultures, but also forming a connection. From a number of sketches, we decided on the two different hands, intertwined with a DNA strand. I'm very thankful that my illustration was published alongside people's stories and memories of their culture.

Creative Coffee Morning:

Creative Coffee Morning is a great platform and provides a supportive space for creatives to meet, chat and grow their network. Creative Coffee Morning hold virtual coffee mornings once a month via Zoom and have a Slack group allowing others to share advice and connect further. Creative Coffee Morning is entirely self-funded, founded by Connie Noble and Katy Streeter. I had the opportunity to work with Connie on April's poster, focusing on the theme of spring but also including references to working from home. It was lovely working on this commission and a very fun and inspiring meeting to be part of!


Radim Malinic & Brand Nu:

Over the summer I was commissioned by Radim Malinic, founder of Brand Nu, to create a series of illustrations for his upcoming books 'Creativity for Sale' and 'Mind Full Creative' being released in May 2023. At the start of the project, we explored the possibility of having characters on the front cover that reflected topics of each chapter. We were hoping to go with a simplified style, with a selective contrasting colour.

My first round of illustrations consisted of stylised characters with oversized features to draw attention to each topic - for example, time management, wellbeing, burn out and prioritising tasks/workload. After a review, we found that this style did not work as effectively on a small scale - the smaller details and features were lost in comparison to the large hands, etc.

We then moved onto smaller, 'in proportion' figures that were still expressive with shape, pattern. These worked better but after a review we found that there was an inconsistency with character design and style, including a variation of brush strokes and sizes.

With a clearer idea in mind, we tried to create a number of characters with similar features, brush strokes and size, to resemble a 'set', whilst also being inclusive of gender and ethnicity. Whilst these illustrations worked to an extent, we agreed that the style of illustration had more of a naive feel to it and did not work for what Radim had in mind for the front cover and target audience. Sadly none of the illustrations above were used for the front cover of the books, however they were beneficial in the process of finding out more about the style, composition and variety of the overall impression Radim wanted for his book covers and target audience.

We had a break from the commission but resumed shortly after with another detailed brief in mind. I created four characters - one for each side of the cover, aiming to be inclusive of gender and ethnicity, resembling a set by having the same clothes and similar compositions.

Radim had also suggested that we use surrounding objects to reflect the chapters and topics within the book. When designing these characters, I had to be mindful of the limited space I had when factoring in the title, barcode, etc. I also wanted to make sure that the objects had an equal amount of significance on the cover.

After the final review, we found that these illustrations were not suitable for the front cover, but some of the illustrations created throughout the whole process could be used for promotional material instead. Leading up to the announcement of Radim's new books, he had planned social media posts that focused on topics or referred to chapters and had paired my illustrations with them. You can see them below.

It was such a fun and exciting project that allowed me to work closely with a designer and to figure out a range of illustration styles to suit a number of briefs. It was a truly amazing and educational experience and I have learnt many skills that I hope to use and develop on future commissions!


Personal projects:

I also spent some time working on personal projects that I could include in my portfolio, to attract potential commissions in the playful style I have been enjoying so much recently. I'd like to develop my portfolio this year, by including mock ups of potential projects that are suited for what illustration work I'd like to attract - for example, potential editorial pieces or advertisements for events, etc.

I'd also like to record more process videos or 'day in the life of an illustrator' videos that I'm obsessed with watching on TikTok! Essentially, I'd just like to be more present online - although I set this goal every year and struggle a lot with an overall aesthetic, imposter syndrome and all kinds of comparison issues! I really hope I get over it this year though and put myself out there more - I'm feeling pretty brave at the moment.


Aims for 2023:

  • Update my portfolio and send it off to my 'dream' magazine companies

  • Work with local independent companies/organisations

  • Volunteer illustration work to charities

  • Apply to illustration based jobs

  • Set up an online shop

  • Take part in an illustration fair

  • Visit more galleries and museums for inspiration

  • Connect with other creatives

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Writing this little recap has made me feel incredibly chuffed and lucky to see my work out in there in the creative world and I can’t wait for any projects that come my way in 2023!

Catch up soon, Ellis x


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