Illustrator, art director, graphic designer, noisy chip cruncher, lone bruncher – Elliot Stokes is many things to many people, but we’re mostly interested in his illustration (though the loud consumption of crisps is something we’d like to hear for ourselves). We came across Elliot’s work through his self-made zines that show in rough-and-ready style his swift, decisive mark-making and genuine nous for editorial illustration. Though he spends his days working on layouts in the company of fellow colleagues, Elliot’s nights are spent hunched over a desk, scribbling away for dear life at the beck and call of clients like The New York Times and Simon and Schuster – a double life we were keen to hear more about…
Where do you work?
During the weekdays I work at my desk in the Time Inc. offices, where People is headquartered. I’m an assistant art director for the magazine. I sit next to a big bright window, a tiny succulent plant, and am surrounded by very fun, super talented colleagues. I worry that I crunch on chips too loudly.
For freelance gigs I work at my home desk in my room. I like working here too, being surrounded by all of my favourite things and taking dance breaks. Plus my two roommates are pretty cool.
How does your working day start?
I start my day by making a quick list of things I need to do that day, check the weather, pick out pants. Then grab a cup of coffee from a cafe by the office or around the corner by my apartment in Brooklyn. My favourites are Simon Sips in east midtown and Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg. I like making egg-in-holes for breakfast when I have the time, but lately I’ve been throwing a banana or a nectarine in my bag and holding out until lunch. I’ll typically grab a leftover section of the weekend newspaper to read on the train.
When working on a drawing or freelance project, I’ll usually sit down at my desk right after waking and sketch out ideas while they’re fresh. I’ll re-read the prompt right before I go to sleep the night prior.
How do you work and how has that changed?
Before starting, I’ll typically look through a folder of magazine tears or my mood board or books and absorb all the stuff I’ve been inspired lately during the week. When designing, I’ll rough out the pages in my notebook and mentally lay out the big pieces for the story. I try to not worry about details and other little elements until later, which I used to try and do while brainstorming and sketching. It was pretty inefficient. I’ll try and do up as many versions of the layout as possible. I also aim to not become too attached to a design since a million edits are inevitable.
The process is similar for when I make a drawing: I’ll look through a sketch book or papers I’ve doodled on to see what I’ve been making without thinking—mostly the types of lines and shapes or composition. I’ll incorporate that into the project if possible. Next, I’ll write out key words from the article and in the memo from the art director a couple times, so my brain really sucks up the content. I’ll make rough sketches within the specified dimensions, tighten then refine. I used to not sketch within the correct size, thinking it would be too restrictive, concept-wise. It’s the total opposite, at least for me. The more constraints, the better the final result.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
At a restaurant ordering the fried chicken, out having a weird cocktail, in someone else’s apartment dancing in the dark. People-watching on a park bench or brunching alone with a few magazines are my favourite leisurely activities though. Sometimes I’ll bike across the Williamsburg Bridge on the weekends to meet a friend.
Would you intern for yourself?
Probably not, since I don’t know if there’d be a enough work to help with. I’d probably just make the intern me water my plants and wake me up from afternoon naps.
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