I recently wrote a post about Ellis O’Connor for my ‘day job’ at the University of Dundee, and it reminded me just how talented she is, so I had to interview her for the WOMEN segment on my own blog. Ellis (24) is a Visual Artist and Photographer from Dundee, and has seen great success since graduating. Her work is almost monochromatic; a very neutral palette that has incredible depth which, as someone who is totally un-gifted when it comes to art, always surprises me considering the fairly flat tones of white, grey and black used to create such texture. Ellis takes a seemingly barren landscape and creates something special; she sees the beauty in the bleak. For me, her artwork and photographs evoke a sense of other-worldliness, an ethereal land where mother nature reigns supreme.
Where are you from?
Where do you live?
My base is in Dundee where my studio is but I’m a frequent traveller and you can usually find me wandering around the Highlands.
What did you want to be when growing up?
I’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember.
What does your job involve?
I’m primarily a painter and photographer so I work on commissions, make my art work, sell to clients, exhibit my work in various locations; locally and internationally. I run workshops around Scotland usually in remote rural communities and I sometimes visit different countries where I will be artist in residence. There is a lot more to the word ‘artist’ than meets the eye!
What does your average working day look like?
Depending on where I’ll be, I’ll either be working in my studio on a painting or out taking photographs in the North of Scotland. It varies from day to day really, that’s why it’s exciting!
Best thing about your work?
Doing something that I love, I’m passionate about, and creating every single day.
Worst thing about your work?
Because I’m a freelance artist, it is not a regular steady income and there is so much admin work involved when all I really want to do is sit and paint constantly. However, it means I am not tied down and can do what I love and am deeply passionate about.
Paper, paint, my camera, lots of pencils. Oh and coffee, mustn’t forget coffee!
What has been your career highlight so far?
There have been many interesting and diverse opportunities I have had the pleasure to be involved in; however if I had to choose it would be working recently with Visit Scotland and Amazon Video UK to promote the release of Outlander Series 2. That was an amazing experience as I was taken around all of the filming locations in Scotland with the team and was in charge of taking the photographs for promotional purposes. It was a great experience as I was initially taking photos and travelling around some of the most beautiful parts of our country, exploring along the way.
Secondly, I know the biggest opportunity to date is on the horizon for me. I’m working on a project with the Arctic Circle Organisation this coming October and I know that will be a life changer. My work is related to the North and showing the effects of global warming so for me to go to the furthest northern place possible and work with scientists and artists from around the globe in Svalbard will be very special. (You can find out more and support Ellis here.)
How have things changed since you started out?
Immensely. It is hard but I have been slowly building up my contacts, my client base and getting my name out there as much as possible. I have also realised that there are many different pathways of being an artist and photographer and I can be involved in many different things.
Who or what is your inspiration/motivation?
My inspirations are the artists such as Frances Walker, Norman Ackroyd, Kate Downie and Zaria Forman. Also the north, mountains, geology, textures, rocks, landscapes, earth, nature, cliffs and geography. My motivation is making a change and making a difference with my art work. My paintings and photographs are loaded with meanings and by travelling to the remote northern edges of our world I aim to draw people’s awareness to the power of the land and instil in them the love of the beauty and nature around them so they too can conserve these remote and fragile lands for years to come. It’s also to allow people the chance to see the real markings of the land and connect with the landscapes that so many are no longer connected to in the modernised world.
Best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
Keep steaming ahead. It’s something that will always stick with me and was told to be by my tutor back in Art School when I was in second year. It’s simple yet motivates me to keep going with my practise.
Top tip for getting into the industry?
Find your niche, cultivate your style, get your style across, find the meaning you want to put across in the work, work hard every single day, and contact people – the worst you can get is a ‘no’. Just keep going because if you are truly passionate about something it will eventually pay off.
Something we don’t know about you?
All I want to do is live in a cabin in the middle of mountains somewhere and paint all day. I love being around people but sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming – I prefer being in the quiet solitude of nature.
Paper or Digital: Paper, I love painting and drawing on massive rolls of it!
Tea or Coffee: Coffee, it fuels me.
Heels or Flats: Flats, preferably hiking boots, I always feel myself when I have my hiking boots on me and I’m ambling through the hills.
Save or Spend: Spend, life is too short to be saving money all the time – enjoy making memories.
Day or Night: Day, I love being outdoors as much as I can (when the weather in Scotland allows it).
Beach or Snow: Snow! I lived in the far north of Iceland for six months – right through the dark winter – and I became attached to the snow. I’ve never seen anything like it; 10 feet of snow around our house! It was otherworldly and made everything look so crisp and clear.
Phone or Email: Phone, I love a good chat!
Dogs or Cats: Dogs. I’ve grown up with dogs since I was very young, we have always had dogs in our family home and I love their energy, friendliness and joy when they see you.
Sweet or Savoury: Sweet. One of my favourite things to do after a good day of hiking or being out and about is finding a unique café and digging into some cake!
Champagne or Cocktails: Cocktails always, they remind me of being on holiday.