Eleonora Arosio on Self-Discovery and Identity
Eleonora was born in North of Italy; a region known for its rolling hills, riverbank charm and some of the world’s most loved foodie places. It would be difficult not to be inspired by your surroundings and turn your hand to some sort of craft.
Since a young age, Eleonora has always wanted to create things using her hands, so much so it became her job. She acknowledges that she was the “classic creative kid” that was always found drawing and sure enough, all of her teachers encouraged her parents how she should become an artist. “I am lucky because my parents have always believed in me and in what I wanted to do, which, when it comes to an art career, is a huge help.”
Aged 10, Eleonora remembers telling her parents how she wanted to be a cartoonist, “I was obsessed with Schultz’s Peanuts,” she tells me. “And, generally with everything that was cute, funny and had been drawn by somebody.”
With her curiosity in the art of drawing, she slowly began to understand that there were different types of creative roles out there. “During high school I started to get into illustration, which I then sort of gave up when I started a Fine Arts course… they were really pushing us to create contemporary art-oriented pieces and I was following the flow, until finally at the end of the 3 years I realised I just wanted to be my true self; grab a pencil and draw something beautiful and fun,” she reflects.
Two years ago she jumped to feet in and made the decision to pursue freelancing as a full-time career. The ability to work for yourself by pursuing a craft you love was a late discovery for Eleonora, “For people who were born in the ’90s like me: accessing the internet and finding out how “unusual” jobs worked was not an easy task. But, I soon found out that freelancing was an option and it was great knowing that I didn’t have to go for a 9 to 5 job.”
Whilst she loves the freedom that freelancing gives her, she admits that it has its ups and downs; not being able to control exactly how much money you’ll have in your account by the end of the month, for example.
“I had moved to Amsterdam when I went full-time, and it worked out well. Then, I moved to London and the pressure of making money with the high living costs here became a constant thought and I needed to find something that would make me more relaxed when it came to how often and how much I was earning,” she explains.
An opportunity soon came up where she was offered a role in a school to do art workshops, “I’ve realised this is the perfect balance for me… And I have to say, I would like this to be a reminder to all illustrators as well as myself that it’s ok to have a part-time job alongside doing what you love, the rollercoaster of freelancing is not for everyone.”
Pencils, paper, a rubber, a pencil sharpener, a scanner and her computer are her work-time essentials and are what make up her kitchen table desk, “it’s not a whole lot! I’m lucky I don’t need too much space and can carry my things around,” she emphasises.
At a glance, Eleonora’s portfolio is one of playfulness; cute figurative drawings, a natural primary colour palette, and capture subtle but powerful messages. Throughout her work, she encapsulates the importance of equality and representation which at first started out by her standing up for what she knew; women.
“It slowly became a self-discovery project where I would research continuously on femininity and representation. As a kid, it was normal to see white characters and identify with them, and then I realised this didn’t apply to people of colour,” she shares. “I’m not changing the world, but I like to think that people of a different ethnicity can appreciate my illustrations and identify, instead of seeing them just as a spectator.”
To find her work, it didn’t take a lot of digging on my part as she had built a strong following and brand for herself on Instagram, which she admits is the biggest tool to getting yourself out there. “Some people might say it’s not but it’s definitely the easiest and most impactful way for your work to be seen and for the word to spread.”
As we continue our conversation, we delve into the reality of the industry in which we’re both a part of and I ask Eleonora about her perspective on it all, what gaps has she seen that she would like to see fixed?
“Some magazines only work with illustrators from their own country which I find unfair,” she shares. “There are better ways to promote local creatives that don’t completely affect negatively other illustrators. For example, you could make a conscious decision to work with 60% local illustrators and 40% foreign ones.”
Pricing is another grey area that we touch on and she emphasises how Illustration is a job like any other, “Sometimes we’re underpaid, then when a client reaches out and doesn’t mention any budget it becomes more frustration because that having to draw out a budget from somebody makes any illustrator uncomfortable.”
That said, she learned not to care and budget is something that should be discussed at all costs, “I know how easy it is for creatives who have just joined the industry to be undercut and I would encourage everyone, regardless whether they’re just starting out, to be clear on pricing.”
From a perspective of having spoken to many illustrators in the past and now, hearing Eleonora’s story, getting the pricing right is definitely more of a process than something that will be right from the get-go, but it’s fundamental. To see true change in the industry by changing the expectations and perception that creative work comes free, there needs to be push back from all of us when it comes to offering the skills that have taken years to nurture and build up, for free.
There are a lot of things that I admire about Eleonora’s work, but for me, it’s how her illustrations bring an element of calm and celebration of day-to-day that she does so wonderfully well.
When asking her what big plans she has on the horizon, she shares something which left me at the edge of my seat and streaming Amazon for a release date, “I’m working on my first illustrated book! That’s all I can say, everything else about it is still a secret!”