Today’s interview is with Mike Ellis, you may know him from his works in The New Yorker, Boston Globe, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and a lot more…..he is a fantastic illustrator!

Let’s meet him!!!


Mike, how did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to illustration?
I like to believe that I did not choose illustration, it chose me. I started off as a painter in a Fine Arts program but soon realized that most of the contemporary work I was inspired by was created by illustrators. It was only natural to make the move to illustration and I haven’t looked back since.

Did you work as a trainee before starting your own drawings?
I attended OCAD, University in Toronto, Canada, where I began with drawing and painting then switched over to Illustration. This is where I experimented with mixed media and found a natural workflow in producing digital art. I continue to explore the relationships between traditional and digital artwork.


Did you decide to begin your work on your own or did you just begin making drawings?
I kind of fell into art. As I said before, I think it chose me. I was always a creative kid, drawing a lot, but did not take it seriously until the end of High School. I was questioning a lot of things then, as teenagers often do, and decided that if I were to strive to be anything in this world, I would want it to be on my own terms and not someone else’s. So far this is where my journey has taken me. I couldn’t be happier.

How do you show your illustrations so people can order one?
My illustrations can be ordered by contacting me directly. I have been very busy and have not gotten around to creating an online shop. I also have some pieces available on Tiny Showcase.


What differentiates your illustration work from the one of others?
I think it is my strong sense of color and composition.

What is your goal in your work?
I want my work to truly convey an overall feeling when it is being viewed. I don’t just want the viewer to see and understand the visual message; I want them to feel it.


What is most challenging about your job?
Learning how to handle the slow months when I am not getting a lot of work. It’s about finding the balance to sustain a freelance career that can often be the most daunting.

Where do those metaphors come from, that you use in your work?
They come naturally, organically. Sometimes the ideas are immediate, but for me it usually takes a day or two to fully understand the direction I want to take an illustration. I like to believe I have a memory bank somewhere in my brain where I store all sorts of inspiration from my everyday life. I also write a lot of ideas down and make quick sketches when inspiration strikes. You never know when an old idea can be used for something new.


What would be your advice to someone with a “steady job” but with the aim of dedicating himself or herself to drawing?
Find what you like to draw. If you like to draw everything, then draw everything. If you like to draw monster trucks and wrestlers, then draw monster trucks and wrestlers. Look to other artists and designers who inspire you. Think about what makes their work interesting to you. Find that secret balance between learning from the world around you and the world you create inside your mind.

Could you imagine yourself today ten years ago?
I have exceeded my expectations of where and who I thought I would be when I was a teenager.
I always thought I wouldn’t amount to much, haha….


How did you start to become known for your work?
Once I stopped worrying what I thought others would like me to create and started making the things I had always wanted to make. When you find your passion people start to pay attention.


How has internet changed the world of illustration?
Illustration, like most forms of art these days, has become a disposable medium. I can scroll through a Tumblr feed for a half hour and consume 10,000 images. This can be seen as either good or bad.

What do you think makes an illustration successful?
The 3 C’s: Concept, Composition, and Color.


How long does it take you to create an illustration?
It really depends on the scope of the project. Anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks.

Which of your past illustrations do you like the most?
I am particularly fond of my Room For Rent Series.
I was happy to finally express my love for interior design and architecture in an illustration series. I am currently working on adding new pieces to the series and would like to, one day, print a book of all the rooms.


What are your favorite websites and magazines?
I am a big fan of It’s Nice That, an art and design blog based in London, UK. Other sites for inspiration include 50watts, Designspiration, ffffound,and Printed Matter has a great site and their mailing list is second to none!

In terms of magazines, IdN, Toilet Paperand GOOD magazine, are all quite cool.

What would be your ideal project?
I would love to illustrate and design a series of book covers. I have also always wanted to collaborate with interior designers or architects on design projects.


What would you do different from when you started?
I would hope to not compare myself with others like I did when I first began. However I still feel this is a natural step in most artists’ careers. We look to those whose work we admire, only to look at our own work and feel discouraged. As they always say, there will always be someone better at what you do. We need to learn to accept things as they are and focus this energy inward to grow into the artists we are meant to become.


Which have been the worst moments of your professional life?
Having to go after clients for payment. Not having a proper contract and being taken advantage of. Having to work for a lot less money than my work is worth. These are issues that most freelancers starting out have to deal with. I think artists get taken advantage of more than they should; this is something that I hope changes within the industry.