Whether she’s illustrating for magazines, websites, posters as well as commissioned and personal artworks or painting murals for local businesses, Elise Conlin creates lively, exuberant scenes bursting with energy and vivid colour. Living in Toronto by way of Elmira, Elise has taken her observations of local life to produce a vibrant depiction of the dynamic location that is Yonge Street. We can think of no-one better to have brought our newly opened Bailey Nelson Yonge Street store to life. We spoke to Elise about her career, upcoming projects and the everyday places and objects that inspire her while she worked on her in-store painting.
Firstly, tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an artist.
I was always drawing and painting growing up, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue into a career with it. In high school, I had a pretty bad concussion, which took about a year to recover from, and in that time I did a lot of painting because it was one of the only things that didn’t give me headaches. By the time I came back, I had realised I really wanted to do something art or design related.
I attended OCAD for illustration and graduated last June, and I have been freelancing ever since.
What are the themes you tend to explore in your personal work?
I love using bright colours, graphic shapes, and playful imagery in my work. I’m really inspired by vintage children’s book illustrations and vintage toys.
What is the inspiration for the piece you are creating for Bailey Nelson Yonge St?
I wanted to convey a scene familiar to Toronto, with a combination of fun shapes and things you would see every day, like people reading the paper, cycling through the city, walking their dogs.
When did you start expanding your repertoire from illustration into the medium of mural painting? Did it feel like a natural step in your art career, and are there any other mediums you’d like to work with in the future?
I started doing murals about 2 years ago. I always work either digitally or painting on a relatively small scale, so being able to replicate illustrations onto a wall was really rewarding. My work has a lot of graphic shapes and flat colours, which can translate well onto a larger scale.
In the future, I would love to do more surface design work on ceramics or even painted furniture.
Do you have any rituals around finding inspiration or creating work?
I always start sketching with a concept in mind, but no tight restraints. I try to let my mind wander and not focus too hard on the end product, and then use pieces of my sketches that are strong and combine them into a working rough. After that, I decide on a colour palette (usually limited) to set the tone for the whole piece.
As an artist, what do you think sets Toronto apart from other Canadian and global cities as a place to live and work?
I find there’s a lot of opportunity for networking and finding jobs in Toronto, and it’s definitely one of the best cities in Canada to be in if you’re looking to start a creative career. Living in the city can be tough though with the rising cost of rent, and it can be tough for artists needing to pay for a studio as well as an apartment. I’m lucky that I can usually work from home and not have to rent a studio on top of a living space.
How does making art in a city compare to making art in your home town of Elmira?
Meeting so many other like-minded artists and designers in the city has been amazing, and it’s great to see what other people are working on and focusing their practice on.
I find Elmira is a place I can go to relax and spend time with my family and not focus on creating work, which is a nice balance for me.
Do you have any other exciting projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I’m currently working with Simon’s Fabrique 1840, a Canadian company’s home décor line, to sell my prints at their pop-up at OCAD’s GradEx and online. I’m very excited to be selling work on a platform that showcases emerging Canadian artists and be able to reach a broader audience with my work.
I’m also creating illustrations for Ontario Culture Days city travel guides on their website, and their motion designer will be animating them. It will be awesome to see my illustrations in motion, and I hope to start animating my work more in the future.
Book an eye test, browse our range of frames and check out Elise’s striking mural at our Yonge Street store.