Featured Illustrator: Elina Ellis

This month's Featured Illustrator is Elina Ellis. A recent graduate from the Children's Book Illustration MA course at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge, Alina's work explores character and narrative in vibrant digital and hand-crafted art. See a full selection of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

I was born and grew up in Ukraine. I could have never imagined even in my wildest dreams that I would live in England and create picture books. I had a degree in economics and saw my future in business, until fate my calling finally caught up with me at the age of 30. I was asked to illustrate a picture book because someone liked the way I drew. Oh, I forgot to mention, I always drew just for fun. I gave it a go and was totally hooked. I realised that this was what I came into this world to do.

My road to becoming an illustrator was not easy. All my friends and family thought I was crazy to give up a good stable job and become a freelancer, but it felt like the right thing. I read all the books, blogs and magazines about illustration. I visited book shops and libraries collecting information about picture books and publishers. I explored book fairs and presentations of new picture books and I made acquaintances with fellow artists. Of course, I drew all the time.

When I was a child, I found my inspiration in the countless art books my father collected. I loved the French Impressionists, especially Edgar Degas with his dreamy ballerinas and fantastic use of colour and tone

Edgar Degas, Two Ballet Dancers

My favourite picture book was a collection of Russian Folk Tales illustrated by Ivan Bilibin, a 20th century illustrator and stage designer from St Petersburg

Ivan Bilibin, Vassillisa The Beautiful.

When I moved to England, I became aquainted with the art of Quentin Blake and Anthony Browne, expanding my tastes and interests greatly.

Anthony Browne, Gorilla. (© Walker Books)

My collection of picture books is quite eclectic, ranging from My House by Delphine Durand to Black Dog by Levi Pinfold. I go to Bologna Book Fair every year on a hunt for new illustration gems.

Delphine Durand, My House. (©Editions du Rouergue/Winged Chariot)

Levi Pinfold, Black Dog. (©Templar Publishing)

Although I had regular commissions and was doing quite well as an illustrator, I felt I could do better, but I didn't know how. I felt like I had reached my limit in self-education and in order for me to progress and reveal my true potential I needed a formal education in the subject of illustration.

That’s where the MA in Picture Books Illustration in Anglia Ruskin University came into play. I had to risk everything and change my life completely. I resigned from my regular job, signed out of my apartment, picked up my son and moved from Cornwall all the way to Cambridge to do the course. We left our home, friends and family behind so I could study. It was very scary, but I am so happy I did it!

I loved the course and I love my new home. I am now excited about my future in illustration. My style evolved and improved immensely and I am sure it will continue to do so. I enrolled on the course to find a better version of myself as an artist, and this is definitely what I have achieved.

Before the MA course, I worked predominantly in digital media. Now I prefer traditional media or a combination of both. I love experimenting with different ideas, mediums and techniques.

Here are some stages of creative process for my latest picture book about old people.

First there was a lot of observational drawing. Observational drawing is super important for illustration. You loosen up and start to notice things you never noticed before. You begin to understand figure, perspective, composition at a much better level.

Old People, Observational Drawing.

I dedicated a few weeks just to drawing old people. I was searching for my perfect characters. I didn't want them to be too stylised, at the same time, I didn't want my drawings to be too comic or patronising. It was a very fine balance.

Old People, Character Development.

Then I needed to figure out what medium and colour palette to use, so I experimented with just about everything.

Old People, Medium Research.

Then there was storyboarding. Half a year later, I finally got to the stage of actually creating the final artwork.

Old People, Final Art.

This project is pretty different from everything I have done before, but I am very happy with the outcome and I can't wait to get stuck in the new one.

I probably should mention that I love to draw anything funny. Humour is a big part of everything I do. There is no greater reward for me than to know that my books and drawings make big and little people smile.

I would like to tell all the new or potential illustrators out there – don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. It is never too late to go for it. I can’t promise that it will be easy, but I can promise that it will be worth it!


Check the Featured Illustrator Gallery to see more of Elina's work.
Her personal website is here. Contact Elina by email here.


  1. Elina, I really noticed your work at the MA final exhibition. I loved the Old People drawings and that spread that showed a collection of accumulated stuff. Congratulations and I am excited to see where your journey takes you!

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  3. Dear Elina! We are very happy for you. We are proud that you are from Ukraine. You are a good motivator for us. Thanks to you we believe that you need to believe in a dream and follow it. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with beginners. We wish you great success in your work and inspiration in new projects!

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment!

  4. Well done Elina! Onwards and upwards x x


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