You’ve probably already heard of ELLE from Brooklyn, New York. The street artist is known for her bold and beautiful murals, colourful tags and stick ups as well as being a strong female figure in the typically male dominated street art scene. Over the years, ELLE has grown from anonymously painting illegal street art, to getting paid to paint murals at Art Basel, the artist’s life is one of many obstacles and successes from dedication to her art. We caught up with ELLE recently to find out more about her ways of working and the process behind her creations.
Hey ELLE! Where are you based in right now?
Hello Stickerbomb team! I’m originally from California, but I’ve spent the last 8 years in Brooklyn, New York. When I moved to New York, I saw amazing street art, graffiti and stickers for the first time. There and then, I couldn’t help but get into it. I listened to conversations between onlookers of street art and I really wanted to be part of the dialogue. The conversations were that fascinating!
Most artists are inspired by other artists as well. Who are some of the artist that you personally look up to?
You have an impressive (and lengthy) resume as a street artist, would you mind talking us through some of the highlights of your career thus far?
Frankly, my street artist career has been a little bit all over the place.
I started out making hand-painted pieces and pasting them on the street. Then, I got really into graffiti-tagging, graffiti-bombing, spraying, rollers, fire extinguisher tags, freeway billboards – everything – I was obsessed. Around that time, Martha Cooper and I had a joint solo show, in which I got sponsored by Liquitex and then started getting free paint.
That was when I started painting massive walls all over for free! Then I started travelling and painting murals. And here I am now, doing street art, graffiti, murals, as well as studio work. As long as I’m making things, I’m happy.
Which piece of work would you say meant the most to you? Are there any other interesting projects that you’re currently working on?
When I was in New York, I was so engrossed in the bus shelter ad placements. Those were really fun and exciting! The public ad campaign made illegal keys that allowed artists access to massive lightboxes around the city – it was like having your own lit-up gallery on the street! Those were some of my absolute favourites.
You’ve done a crazy cool collaboration with Shin Shin (above). Could you tell us more about the piece?
Firstly, Shin Shin creates really beautiful work, so she was wonderful to collaborate with. We initially decided to go with a Spring theme, and wanted to depict a character on a deer leaping into the season. We were also looking at the entire composition of the wall mural, and we really wanted to create pieces that tie together seamlessly.
Even though it was an illegal piece, we planned it thoroughly. That was important.
Shin Shin then came over with a print out of the wall and our pieces so that we could play around with placement on a mini scale before we went out to paste them – she’s so much more organised than me!
Every time I collaborate with another artist, I learned something new from them and about the process.
The Legal Walls section on your site is amazing. We love the continuing theme of the female figure in your work. What would you describe your type of work as?
My work is ever-evolving, so I think characterising and naming my work is the hardest part. I love collage and Dada and figurative work, but sometimes the work is just about adding the right colours and the right amount of beauty to a drab wall, even if it’s just a graffiti outline.
My work tends to be overtly feminine and colourful, because I like bringing a female presence to the streets, and because everything in life tends to be dominated by males. and I like to feel like I’m representing for the ladies walking past my work.
With all that taken into account, the Legal Walls tend to bring together all of these things: female presence, female figures, collage, colour, abstract nature, beauty and strength.
What would you say are some of your biggest challenges as a street artist?
The biggest challenge is balancing all the different aspects of my work and choosing how to spend my time. Making light boxes? Making street pieces? Graffiti? Studio? Silkscreen posters? T-shirts?
I feel that my time is spread thin by all of these things, so it’s tricky to not feel like I’m constantly slacking on one end or another, whether it be studio or street work.
There are a lot of young artists with a lot of talent out there right now, what would you say to these up and coming artists?
I would say, just keep putting your work up and out there. I’ve never aspired to be paid to do work – I was just obsessed and I couldn’t stop.
If you keep putting your work up and out there, people will see it and they will eventually notice. Put in the time, and it will pay off in the long run. Even if you’re not the best in the beginning, practice sure as hell makes perfect – or at least better!
Finally, what are some of your projects we can look forward to this year?
I’m trying to focus on studio work at the moment. I just got a dope space in Los Angeles and I’m working on putting together a solo show.
Since the show with Martha Cooper two years ago, I haven’t had a big one, and I feel like it’s hard to push my work forward and streamline a coherent body of work because of the extensive travelling.
In the meantime, I’m still painting walls in L.A. and I just had a couple of 30-feet tall spray paint pieces at Governor’s Ball in New York.
Keep your eyes out for Miami Basel! I’m working on a collaboration, which will be released probably around December. I can’t say too much about that – we’ll keep it a surprise!
I also hope to get out to Asia soon to visit you guys and paint!
Thank you so much for your time!