We returned to the beautiful city of Bath on a bright and sunny day to meet with the joyous, witty and talented illustrator Eleanor Hardiman. Finding inspiration in her everyday life in the city, Eleanor uses delicate sweeping movements and non-restrictive painting techniques to create minimalistic and emotive illustrations with a Japanese feel. Her energy and passion for beautifully made things as well as her active support for independent businesses in the city radiates from her entire personality and fills every corner of her colourful world.
Eleanor welcomed us in her cosy home and workspace, offered us an exquisite homemade lemonade and showed us the portfolio of her latest works whilst discussing feminism, technology and the hustle and bustle of city life. Later on, Eleanor gave us a tour of the city to show us her favourite spots and independent shops in the area, stopping at the inspiring Magalleria and the magical Foodie Bugle for some exuberant coffee and mouthwatering lemon meringue cake before saying our heartfelt goodbyes.
For people who don’t know you – who is Eleanor Hardiman?
I’m a freelance illustrator and recently relocated to Bath. I’m still relatively new to the industry and work from my flat with plenty of biscuits. My portfolio is a mixture of conceptual editorial work and more commercial decorative design and watercolour is my preferred medium.
What or who inspired you to become an artist? Are there any artists in your family?
I didn’t grow up in an arty family at all, however I have a twin brother, who is also creative and works in motion graphics. We are always talking about art or design and share whatever we are working on with each other, he is a great influence on my work.
Your main medium is watercolour. Where do you find inspiration and what is your creative process?
I tend to find inspiration in my everyday life. It might be the colours of the clothes on someone’s washing line or someone I pass on the street. If I am working to a client’s brief I’ll always start by trying to capture the essence of the project in a sentence or few words. I’ll then create pages and pages of sketches and work from there.
Your minimalist compositions seem reminiscent of traditional Japanese ink painting. Do you feel like you owe something to the simplicity of East-Asian aesthetics?
East Asian art, particularly Japanese has always been an influence in my work, right back from when I did my art foundation. The Japanese section of the British Museum is one of my favourite places, which includes some beautiful ink paintings of women. I love the effortlessness and try to recreate the simplicity and balance with negative space in my own work.
Apart from botanical motifs, womanhood and the female body seem to be constant elements in your work. Can the viewer interpret this as a feminist statement?
Through my time at university I began to read more and become more aware of why feminism is so important and of course I would consider myself as a feminist. I enjoy working on briefs that tackle feminist concepts. In terms of my personal work the female body is just something I enjoy painting, probably because of this background reading and interest.
Are there any other global or local issues you are currently interested in?
My partner and I are particularly interested in environmental issues and try to live a lifestyle which is as green as possible.
You just designed the leaflet for the Independent Bath Market. What was exciting about this project? What inspired you?
This was such an exciting brief and amazing introduction into living in Bath. I visited the organiser Silvana in Abbey Green, it’s a beautiful area with cobbled streets and a huge plane tree in the centre. We spoke about the importance of supporting independent businesses in the city and the amazing craftsmen and women has to offer. I was incredibly inspired by her passion and energy and wanted the illustration to capture that. The first market was a huge success, I’ve just finished a second flyer for the market to be used in the summer months, taking inspiration from the first market and adding a limited colour palette too.
When it comes to commissioned work, how do you draw the line between your own aesthetic taste and the expectations of a client?
I found this tricky when first entering the industry, as an illustrator you want freelance work but not to compromise too on your style and taste. I’m learning it’s ok to say no to a project, I want my portfolio to be full of work I like, enjoyed working on and reflects me as an illustrator. Some advice from a tutor Falmouth was to take the jobs you want to do more of and I try and keep that in mind.
Apart from your client commissions, do you also work on personal projects?
Yes! Taking some time to experiment and take risks is really exciting for me. Right now I’m working on something with my twin and also some paintings based around The Magic Flute with lots of birds. I’m still fairly new to the industry so try and create personal work that will fill gaps in my portfolio and tackle something new.
What is your relationship with technology? Has technology influenced your work in any way?
Technology has hugely influenced my work and helped me create a reliable creative process, I would be lost without it. I hand paint all imagery separately on sheets, usually more than once and then use Photoshop to stitch everything together. Using Photoshop means I can make infinite changes to a piece, slightly altering scale or colour. It also takes the pressure off painting every element right first time and consequently I can take more risks with my painting.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making art?
I’ve never thought about it and it’s probably for the best!
You recently relocated from Falmouth to Bath. What made you choose Bath? What do you love about living here?
After graduating from Falmouth I knew I wanted to move away and explore somewhere new. My partner and I came to Bath for a long weekend, fell for the city and moved into our flat a couple months later. I love the architecture, parks and independently owned shops, Bath is a relatively small city and being able to walk to all my favourite spots and only being a ten-minute drive to the countryside is perfect. Whilst we haven’t lived in Bath too long we are already starting to feel part of the community here.
Where do you go when you want to relax or get inspired in the city? What are your favourite cafes and stores in Bath?
I have so many! My absolute favourite shop to get inspired is Magalleria. It’s a tiny shop but full with large and small magazine titles from all over the world. I love flicking through the pages of illustrations, photographs or inspiring stories and choosing one to take home. I love Found on Argyle Street, they have amazing stationery and clothes, all beautifully curated. The Foodie Bugle does the best tea and cake in Bath and on the rare occasion I fancy a coffee Colona and Smalls on Chapel Row is unbeatable. I also love watching the dogs in Henrietta park.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully, a full time, freelance illustrator working from a studio with a dog or two.
Can you recommend us:
A song: “First time”, Jessie Ware.
A book: The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson.
A film: Submarine, by Richard Ayoade.
Thank you, Eleanor, for the lovely insight into your work and personal realm.
*In 2018 Eleanor relocated to Bristol where she continues to develop her art practice.