We’re excited to catch-up with longtime Wrap collaborator Elena Boils, whose vibrant designs for our greetings card, notebook and wrapping paper collections explode with bright florals, colourful fireworks and volcanic eruptions. Dividing her time between Mexico and the UK, Elena finds inspiration in the contrast between the two countries she calls home…as well as her collection of film stills and her continuing loyalty to Tumblr. We visited her at her South London home studio to chat about why she loves making animations, her iPad experiments, and her favourite designs from our latest colourful collaboration.
Studio Visit: Elena Boils
Can you tell us about what you do and the style of your work?
I’m a full time illustrator, and mostly I work in digital 2D images made in Photoshop, Illustrator and hand-made brushstrokes. I find it so hard to describe my own style because, in my mind, it varies a lot. I feel like, sometimes, it's very flat and rigid with overlapping layers, and other times it’s more organic and free.
Where are you today, and what’s a typical day like for you?
Today I'm in rainy London after being in Mexico for most of the winter. The day-to-day varies depending on what projects I have on; if I have something to work on that requires me to sit and concentrate then I'll go to my studio in Loughborough Junction, catch up with the lovely people I share it with and then come back home in the evening. If I'm doing more research-based work or housekeeping stuff, then I like to work from my home studio. In quieter periods I like to spend my time going around London gathering inspiration, or just walking about running errands.
When we caught up with you for our photoshoot you were at your home studio. How do you like to use it to make your work?
When I'm feeling in particular need of inspiration I'll often work from this space. I have my books and paintings at home which are always nice to look through when feeling stuck. I also love that there are two green spaces nearby if I need a bit of fresh air and people watching.
You’re Mexican and you grew up there. How did you end up in London, and is Mexico an inspiration for your work still?
I moved to the UK in 2008 to study, and have more or less stayed here ever since, although I’m currently living between both countries. There’s so much I love and find inspiring about Mexico, although, like everywhere, it has its pros and cons. The vibrancy and surrealism of the country is something in particular that I carry with me, and it probably pours into my work somehow. I love the contrast of the two places – every time I come to London or go to Mexico I feel like it gives me a fresh perspective on each place.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
I primarily work in Photoshop, but my process involves a back-and-forth between digital and physical drawing. Sometimes I'll make a sketch and then translate it into digital to colour it in. It really varies from image to image and the kind of project I'm working on. I'm trying to find new ways of making stuff – I recently got an iPad and have been experimenting with that, but, like with most tools, it’s taking me a while to get used to it.
You make quite a few looped animations that you share on social media. What do you enjoy about creating them?
One of the things I enjoy most about making things move is that it uses a different part of my brain. I make these animations as stop motion drawings, so, when making them, I have to think about things in terms of both sequence and time. I love that there's something very soothing about drawing on repeat once I've figured out where the image is going.
What are the main inspirations behind your work? You’ve talked before about how you use stills from films.
I still get images from screenshots, especially for landscapes and backdrops. I also hate to admit it, but I get a lot of inspiration from the internet – to this day I'm still using Tumblr like it's 2010. I also love just walking around taking notes or pictures on my phone as ideas for future projects.
We’re really excited about your new card collection with Wrap! How did you approach the project, and do you have a favourite design?
There were a few themes we had in mind and it was really fun to work within those parameters and come up with variations of each. One of my favourite designs in the collection is the birthday cake with many candles. I feel like it has a lot of energy to it, and also a bit of humour as well.
Your designs for the collection are really bright and colourful. Colour is clearly important to you…
Completely! There are times when I work with colour just as the starting point. Even if I'm not sure of the context, I'll plan out the colours and work from there.
Quite a few of your card designs feature beautiful flowers and bouquets. Are you the type of person who always has a fresh bunch in the house?
I am! I keep a few dried flowers in the house too, because they last forever and don't have to keep buying new ones. But there's something so lovely about having fresh flowers in a room – it really changes the mood of the space.
We also wanted to ask about your love of volcanoes, as they’re a regular part of your work. Where does this come from?
I've always been fascinated by them; growing up in Mexico City I had a view of the mountains throughout, as it sits in a valley. When I was four years old the Popocatéptl volcano became active again and it was a big presence as we could see it smoking from where we lived. There's something very exciting but also visually beautiful about volcanoes – a reminder that the earth is alive.
Finally, what new projects have you got coming up?
I'm currently working on a bottle design but not sure I can give much away! I'm also trying to get more into personal projects, especially painting.