Introducing Ellie Foster: creating bold, colourful illustrations from London's canals

Ellie Foster is a Digital Illustrator who lives and works on a narrowboat on London’s canals. As a child, Ellie would ask grownups to write stories in her notebooks just so she could illustrate them, and spent most waking hours doodling. Her early career was in graphic design but she missed drawing to tell stories. She bought an iPad and fell in love with the ease of working in full colour and large scale without the need for bulky materials. Her passion for drawing was reignited and she threw herself into life as an Illustrator. She drew for media brand Freeda for 2 years while working on books for Stylist and Ebury alongside. She uses bold colours, clean lines and sometimes animation to celebrate beauty in all its diverse forms, as well as exploring themes of equality, new motherhood and friendship.

When did you start illustrating?

My earliest memories of drawing are copying Disney VHS covers with my mum. I remember trying to get the proportions just right and her explaining that when you make your own drawings, the pictures can tell a story. I think that stayed with me and I would get into trouble at school for wasting time during creative writing sessions by illustrating stories instead of finishing writing them!

Who has been the most supportive in your illustration career, perhaps your teacher, family, friends?

My husband has been endlessly supportive through my journey finding my way to illustration. We've been together since art college so he knows creativity is massively important to me, and is creative himself. Every career move, whether getting my dream job or quitting it to go freelance, he's always waiting for the call to hear the outcome or at the pub to celebrate with me!

Did you always think art was something that was going to be a major part of your life?

There was never any doubt for me when making education or career choices that it would be art, the only difficulty was which art form. I actually studied Animation Design at Uni but the course turned out to be much more technical than creative and I barely made it through the degree. I later spent 3 years as a Graphic Designer but making logos still felt too strategic for me - I was restless and struggled to stand out. It wasn't until I bought an iPad that I reignited my passion for drawing characters and threw myself into life as an Illustrator. All the pieces came together quite easily from there; I landed my dream job as well as some amazing clients on the side, and it never felt like work. What's lovely is it feels like coming home after wandering  around for a long time!

What is your favourite subject matter to illustrate?

It's absolutely and always has been women+! My characters have been feminine since I was making comics with friends in high school, and I'm forever inspired by those around me, whether that's inspiring friends and relatives or a super cool stranger in the street. It's not just about physical appearance; for me what makes women+ amazing is the resilience to thrive in a  system that's not built for them to succeed. I try to capture that attitude in all my characters, and to create a little world where everyone supports and appreciates one another.

How would you describe your style?

I like to think my bold colour palette, clean lines and use of typography are what make my work recognisable.

What is your favourite collaboration to date?

I recently worked on a short comic for a dating app's Instagram., they regularly work with various illustrators to show really diverse stories of what a good date looks like, and some can be fiction. I was given almost free reign to write and illustrate a story, it just needed to fit with their values and be open to feedback. It allowed me to invent a narrative that lent itself to the kind of things I wanted to draw, so I went wild and wrote about a jungle romance. I learned so much in the process about storytelling and working feedback into that story. I have illustrations I prefer visually but as a learning experience this collaboration was my favourite.

What interested you about being represented by Illo Agency?

There aren't many agencies that prioritise diversity. Those of us with similar paths and privileges in life are limited in the range of stories we can tell, so Illo making diversity a priority and attracting like minded clients as a result was the main attraction.

Do you have a favourite author, film director, or designer?

There are so many designers, but at the moment I feel particularly drawn to Shawna X's work. She portrays motherhood in such a powerful way with bold colours and wavy gradients. As for film directors, Wes Anderson is maybe quite an obvious choice, but the balanced composition of each shot, impeccable typography, and most of all the rich atmosphere of the worlds he creates are things I feel inspired by.

Are you working on any personal projects you can share with us?

I'm working on a series of illustrations inspired by my experience of lactating! Motherhood as a whole concept is inspiring to me: pregnancy, birth, but especially breastfeeding. I've been amazed by what a magical substance human milk is, and I'm trying to acknowledge all forms of providing it, whether 'straight from the tap', by pumping or with donor milk via bottle. I'd like for it to be a series where each illustration works alone, but are subtly connected, much like mothers are to one another.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, do you have a favourite?

My current favourites are Illustration Hour and 3 Point Perspective. I feel like they have the best balance of business knowledge and creativity.

If you have any questions or a specific project in mind, please do get in touch: [email protected]

At illo agency, we pride ourselves in representing a collation of global illustrators, distinctly diverse in creativity and uniquely celebrated by like-minded clients across a range of commercial markets.