Upon entering illustrator Ellie Cryer’s website, you are greeted with the painted face of a melancholy-looking cat; its scrunched up features filling every pixel of the screen. Sharing a mutual penchant for Persians and a love of kitschy clutter, Old Tat speaks to the Bristol-based creative.
What do cats mean to you?
I am definitely a ‘cat person’ – dogs frighten me. When I was growing up we always had one or two cats, so it’s just normal to me to have them around. I like how independent they are. There is still an element of the wild about them, like they don’t really need us. So when you get the friendship of a cat it seems more meaningful as they have almost deemed you worthy of their friendship.
Persian cats seem to be a reoccurring theme, what makes them so endearing for to you to draw?
I just like that their faces are a bit silly. For the way that I draw and paint, they are easier to manipulate and change the proportions to give them a more distinctive look. I do mean to branch out and use some other cat varieties, but the Persians always draw me back.
How does your style lend itself to the subjects you illustrate?
I have never even though about this before – I just have huge lists of things I want to draw and paint. Although I suppose I use cat faces, and sometimes other animals such as birds, instead of a human face because I want to create something a little mysterious and surreal.
Can you describe your practice – from start to finish – when creating a piece?
Usually an idea, or a piece of one, will come to me unexpectedly – when I’m watching a film, listening to a song, walking down the street – and I’ll make a note of it. I have literally hundreds of sketchbook pages, scraps of paper, notes on my phone and lists and lists of things I want to draw. When I begin to create one, I spend a long time researching it and collecting reference material (too long probably, but it helps my thought process). I don’t spend long planning the piece, just a few quick thumbnails. I like to leave room for new things to happen as I’m making it.
You highlight ‘kitsch religious art’ as an interest, we have that in common! What other kitschy/’bad taste’ influences do you draw on?
It mostly is kitsch religious and spiritual stuff that I find interesting. But it links in with generally naive styles, like a lot of folk art, which I love. People using everything they’ve got, whether that is skill or possessions or money, to create something meaningful – I find that fascinating. It links back to a lot of kitsch religious art. Also, I like quite a lot of sugary 50’s Elvis-based stuff.
What inspires you daily?
So many things. Music and lyrics a lot of the time. Films, stories, quotes, listening to podcasts, nature, travelling to new places. My friends. My memory is really terrible though so remembering to make a note of anything I find interesting is the key!
Illustration by Ellie Cryer
Words by Alice Freeman