Ello – the pseudonym for Eloise de Klerk – is an artist, illustrator and designer. Her work is often characterised by her use of symbols and geometric shapes, to which she attaches a more complex narrative. Together with fellow artist Black Koki, Ello started a multidisciplinary visual studio called Love and Hate in 2004. Recently we caught up with her to find out more.
Tell us a bit more about yourself…
I grew up loving animals and reading a lot of comics and watching classic cartoons. I especially loved mad magazine, garfield’s bad attitude, the peanuts gang, Tintin and Bittercomix for good measure. I studied fashion design, and really enjoy going through the complete process of inspiration, conception, execution and then having a final product! It’s amazing, like giving life to an idea. I’ve also always been in love with moving drawings, and enjoy cartoons and 2D animation too much.
To most you’re known as “Ello” rather than Eloise De Klerk. Where did this moniker come from?
I made it up, because I think it is more exciting and representative of my style. I sign my work with Ello now, but I used to be 351073, which is totally impossible for anyone to remember, haha. But it is my name, Eloise, in numbers when you stand on your head.
We’d like to know more about your journey so far…how did you come to be where you are today?
It’s interesting where life takes you,based on your choices. My main one being damn the man! I don’t want to spend my life working for someone else, I have too much to offer than measuring my worth in wages and time. So I am really happy to be in a position where I can choose what I want to be or do, whenever I feel like it.
When did you start working with Black Koki as Love and Hate studio?
We started love and hate studio as a functional art label, back in 2004. We made limited edition perspex accessories, T-shirts and also organized some group art exhibitions and projects. Since then we have changed our focus to mural painting and illustration, and also have some ongoing side projects. But the main thing about love and hate is to have fun while working, it’s not about money or status, its about the people we connect to and the finished product. We have met so many talented people, we are lucky enough to call friends. It’s a collaborative effort and the result is always unexpected, a mixture of our work and ideas, a pleasant surprise.
How does your process differ when you’re working as Love and Hate, and when you’re working on individual projects?
We have totally different work ethics, work styles and ideas. We are almost opposite in that regard, which is why the name ‘love and hate’has always made sense in one way or another. So I guess it’s much more experimental when working on projects together. You can’t control the end result. When I work on my own, I decide on an idea and execute it. I like to think that it’s not the first and last thing I will do, so I try not to be too precious about it, whereas with love and hate it usually is a commissioned project, that is very specific and it will be the only one of its kind! So it takes more time, but it’s always worth it.
As an artist and designer, tell us about the distinction between these two practices as you see it?
I think the main distinction is that with design, you are constantly aware of the client, the end result, the product. Whereas with art it’s more about the process, the “pre-production”, the idea. Design is more something you do for someone else, where art is for more for yourself? Art as I see it is a internal puzzle that you would like to solve, where design is an external puzzle that your solving with a purpose or for someone else. So in a way it’s not that different.
Are there any themes that seem to reoccur in your work?
Yes, for the moment my main themes are streets, time and memories. I like to draw snippets from my own everyday experiences, people I meet and interact with, things I see in the street, on the street, current times and personal relevance.
How would you describe your visual style or aesthetic?
I like to describe my work as a stylistic 2 to 3dimensional style, with a surrealistic twist. I love the simplicity and familiarity that comes with creating something out of mostly geometric shapes, combining these known shapes and creating something unknown, spontaneous and surprising. Also I want my work to be representative of my reality as a young south african.
How has this developed over the years?
My father used to say I was very good at stylizing things, so for a very long time I have been practicing that “inherent” skill. It has an aesthetic that I like to associate with my work. I appreciate the challenge that comes with shaping a characters personality by only using basic shapes and it also compliments my approach, that is, not to control the process too much and to not be scared to leave a mark. I prefer to keep on drawing and use the “mistakes” as part of the outcome.
How big of a role does the environment you find yourself in play in your work?
Quite big. I am immediately inspired entering new places, traveling or changing environments.
What are you influenced and inspired by?
I want to make something true to myself and my experiences in this life, so I am influenced by current times and trends, and my experiences up to date. In a way I don’t want to be influenced too much by what other people do, but I am very much inspired by people that just go for it, give it all they got and have the right attitude.
Do you have any daily routines?
Drinking coffee and dancing like no one is watching, when no one is watching.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like nature, watching sunsets and reading. Also gawking and lolling at the strange things on the internet aka in the world.
What do you love most about what you do? And the part you could do without?
I love everything but especially the creativity and imagination part of it. And I could do without people letting their success inflate their egos so that they forget where they came from.
Have you got any advice for someone looking to do what you do?
Go for it and good luck!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a product range, that has been a long time coming. It will launch April 2014, and I am really excited about that. It will include some staple street-wear styles and other functional art pieces. I will definitely keep you updated.
A collaborative project with Venezuelan artist Veronica Jiminez, early next year that will include a road-trip, and an exhibition of zines, photography and a limited range of t-shirts. I am also setting up a silkscreen area in my studio, so expect posters-a-plenty! And painting lots of murals with black koki!
Love and Hate: loveandhatestudio.com
Ello and Black Koki also put together a #NowPlaying for us recently, which you can listen to here.