Welcome to another artist spotlight! In an effort to shine more light on some of the talented calligraphy artists out there, I’ve been reaching out to inspiring artists I look up to and asking if they’d be willing to answer some interview questions. Today, I would like to introduce you to the talented Ellie Heywood.
Ellie is a talented designer and fine artist from the UK. I found her work through Instagram sometime in 2016 and have been captivated by her drive and explorations ever since.
In studying Ellie’s work, it quickly becomes apparent that her creative skills are multi-faceted. From graphic design to elegant scripts to abstract calligraphy — she does it all!
Hey Ellie, thank you for taking the time to speak with me! I’ve been a big fan of your work for a while now. Would you mind speaking about your background and how you got into lettering and typography?
Thanks very much. I’ve always been an artist of some sort, though my practice over the years has developed from fine art, to graphic design, photography, and even some digital art and video work. My primary influence has been painting and drawing, which has carried through from a very young age.
My dad taught me most of the visual skills I have, he taught me how to see and this has been invaluable across all design work I produce.
I became interested in typography at the beginning of my degree course – I studied Graphic Design in Leeds and in our first term we were introduced to the anatomy of type. Letters became an element of design I would focus on, and in turn my interest in other forms of hand drawn lettering (and then calligraphy) grew. I guess this just links in my love for drawing and working by hand in a way that communicates language as a visual form.
I’ve never actually had calligraphy lessons as such, I found guidance through books & online; I’m self-taught in that sense.
What is the lettering scene like in Leeds, UK? It looks like you’re involved with some amazing artists. Tell us about Goat Collective.
To be honest there isn’t a major lettering scene in Leeds, a few good sign writers, but the art scene is amazing. There’s so many talented students and graduates here that I’ve been lucky to get to know and collaborate with over the past 3 years. Some of them are my closest friends, which leads on to how Goat Collective was founded…
We were all studying at Leeds College of Art and living in the same student halls, and on becoming friends we realised we all have the same passion to create. Many of our conversations would lead on to a project we could start, a piece we could collaborate on… etc. From there we realised our collective set of skills was diverse enough to offer people a bit of everything, be it graphic design, photography, filmmaking, illustration, surface pattern design & more.
Now we work on both commercial and personal projects, sometimes just a few of us work on one brief and then for bigger projects we get the whole team involved. It really is the best job working with your friends doing what you love!
Your blackletter work is what initially caught my eye. Your calligrams are breathtaking. What inspired you to begin making those?
Ah thanks hah, they’re one of my favourite styles to produce and I always seem to go back to them! Originally I was just practicing joined up lettering with some ZIG calligraphy pens I’d just got, and I started writing the word ‘highlight’ line after line to practice getting the shapes right (it’s got a nice number of ascenders and descenders as well as i’s and a crossbar on the t).
I’d been looking at a lot of calligram work at the time and was so inspired by artists such as Pokras Lampas, Cryptik, and Said Dokins. It seemed natural to start using the word highlight in circular form and it gave me a chance to practice different widths and line heights of the circles while not concentrating too much on what I was writing.
It’s very apparent from your Instagram feed that you practice a diverse set of styles. What inspires your most?
Yeaaah, I try and dabble in a variety of lettering styles, mainly ’cause I love so many of them that I just want to experiment.
Blackletter is 100% one of my favourites though, I always seem to go back to it. I feel like there’s a lot you can do with it, be it calligrams, abstract work and pattern, or just really neat and uniform looking letters.
Some of my other favourites are block letters and shadowed lettering, as well as really loose and untidy scripts.
What would you say is your favorite project that you’ve done?
I worked on the branding for one of my friends, Tiar Johnston, who’s an independent fashion designer. It was nice to utilise the calligraphy calligram style I’d developed and put it to a commercial purpose, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. It’s now in use across her branding and great to see a project come to life like that. Check it out at tiarjohnston.com if you fancy
If you were trapped on an island with one writing tool/utensil, what would it be and why?
Paintbrush. Easy. My favourite anyway but it’d get the most use on an island.. think of all the natural materials I could mix and use as paint. I think all the trees and rocks would be covered in writing by the time I’d left! And I could also use the other end to write in the sand… multi-tool!
Do you have any big aspirations you’re working towards with your artwork? And if so, do you mind sharing?
Ideally I’d like to be a mural artist. I’m working on a couple of murals at the moment collaboratively, but hopefully I can push this and travel the world painting walls and meeting other inspiring artists and people… I guess that’s the dream aha!
What can the world expect from Ellie Heywood in 2017?
Oh god, I don’t even know myself what this year is going to bring!
Things change and opportunities arise that are sometimes unpredictable, but I plan to continue developing my lettering and calligraphy as well as my other artistic practices. Goat Collective have some big projects in the works at the moment, so hopefully we’re going to produce some exciting work over the next few months and who knows what we’ll be doing by the end of the year!
If you had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring lettering artist, what would it be?
Practice everyday until you don’t understand what words are anymore… Hahah one of the main ways I was able to develop was by watching other lettering artists at work. Videos and tutorials are amazing and you can find plenty of them on Instagram.
It’s good to criticise your own work as well.. Study your writing and compare it to other examples, then change elements bit by bit to make it stronger.