Kimberly Elliott, an illustrator currently based in Lille, France, began work on her craft at a young age. She’d draw and paint as she pleased out of a remote village called Agoo in the Philippines – her hometown and a remote place far away from any art schools. “I never had any professional art education,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I’m completely self-taught, so everything I make is from a lot of trial and error.” Sometimes, a lack of professional structure can work in an artist’s favour – you’re able to completely throw yourself at your medium and work without boundaries or expectations. This is perhaps why Kimberly’s portfolio has such a momentously fresh aesthetic, not to mention ridiculously funny.
Both of Kimberly’s parents had their feet in the creative industry and were able to provide the support she needed to navigate the art world. Her dad, for example, taught her all she needed about the famous artists of our time, buying her art books whenever he travelled overseas. “That’s where it started,” she adds. “I would have a stack of books in front of me and I just did my best to learn from them and teach myself all the techniques.” This worked out well for the young and budding artist, but after graduating school, she wanted to apply to a formal art programme and was unable to afford the costs. Instead, she was accepted onto a business scholarship and spent her first year in Singapore, followed by two years in Dubai to finish off her degree. “I thoroughly hated business and I would draw in class all the time,” she adds. “I think I started to realise I was never going to be able to do anything else because I was always coming back to making art.”
Kimberly ended up pursuing illustration full-time after her travels in Dubai, simultaneously meeting artists that shared her passions. This meant her inspiration grew and grew, and so did her confidence. “It really inspired me to just jump into it,” she says, noting how she bought herself an iPad to start figuring out the software and illustration basics. It wasn’t long until she started taking on small commissions from her friends’ music and clothing brands, designing a few tattoos in the meantime and more or less “trying to get better”. After moving to France post-graduation and getting her work out there on the gram, her illustrations started to gain some traction online. “But now, I’m trying to include my love for painting into my work as well. I hope to keep figuring out how to make more pieces and develop a lot more,” Kimberly says.
Flitting effortlessly between two mediums, Kimberly also switches between two aesthetics: swatches of colour for her paintings and pared-back simplicity for her illustrations. She works out of a studio that also houses carpenters and furniture designers, so she often scouts out wood scraps, sands them down and turns them into painting canvases. “When it comes to the actual painting, I keep things very basic and minimal,” she adds. “I don’t use very fancy tools or anything; I use a lot of acrylic and pastels to create texture and to draw. That’s it.” In terms of her illustrations, however, all she needs is her software and sketchbook to build on an idea, before directly sculpting the idea at her desk.
Kimberly points out a recent illustration of hers, called How to Pretend to Keep Listening and Daydream Instead. Part of a series that gives instructions on living, it’s heavily inspired by old 80s instruction books, “like how to exercise or how to put something together,” she adds. Done so in a signature blunt and humorous style, the piece sees a compilation of minimalist lines contrasted with two colourful explosions that replicate the characters’ forms. “When I make illustrations like this one, I find that the concept is much more important than how perfect my lines are. So if the idea is fun, that’s the most important thing.”
On the other hand, a recent painting titled Who Spilled The Wine? is one of her biggest yet, created on a wooden panel that’s been shaved down and drawn on directly. It depicts a busy scene of drinkers and smokers all appearing to have a laugh; some look shady, some look concerned, some are half-naked, and some look reasonably friendly. You start to wonder, though, are they even friends or just drinking acquaintances? “I started painting and the ideas always shift, but the concept here was to create a scene I had in my head – that atmosphere of a party where you’re alone and together at the same time.”
Whatever she thinks is going on in these works, first and foremost Kimberly wants you to come to your own interpretations. She has no hidden agenda or message buried beneath the layers, even if you think there’s something strange about the way that character is looking at you. “There are no wrong answers,” she concludes. “The important thing for me is just a reaction.”
Kimberly Elliott: Network Connectivity Problems (Copyright © Kimberly Elliott, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.