Meet Cecilie Ellefsen, one of the 100 profiled artists in Work/Life 3:
What is your life story in one paragraph?
I grew up in a small town by the sea in southern Norway. As a kid I loved to draw, play the tuba, ride horses and make small forts in the woods with my friends. When I got older I studied graphic design, moved to Oslo and studied Art Direction. This is where I met my husband who is a film director and 3D artist. We now live and work in Oslo with our two daughters.How and why did you become an illustrator or artist?
I've always loved to draw as a kid and even used to smuggle out pencils and pieces of paper during recess at school and find a quiet place to draw. I initially studied graphic design and Art Direction, but after the financial crisis of 2001 I decided to pursue my dream of becoming an illustrator. I applied to art school here in Oslo to study illustration, but I did not get accepted. So then I just built up a portfolio and showed it to publishers and ad and design agencies and I got offered a job as an in-house illustrator at a design agency and it all snowballed from there.
What is your creative process when working on an assignment?
First I read the brief, take notes and start doing research online if there is a particular object, animal or thing I need to include in the illustration. After the research I often print my research material and often go to a café, out on my balcony or the library and start drawing ideas in my sketchbooks. Since I work from home I find going out for a walk often helps the creative process. I may see something on my walk that I can use in my illustrations. When the sketch is finished I scan it in and finish it on the computer.
What personality traits are exemplified by your illustration style?
Hmm... maybe that I never really grew up? I feel like a kid a lot of the time, and doing illustration is my never ending playground. There is so much colour and life in doing illustration, and I love the feeling of emerging myself colour and drawing new "worlds".
If you were to illustrate a portrait of yourself, what would it look like?
Primary colour skirts and dresses, flower earrings, 60s cat eye glasses, blonde hair and bright red moleskine sketchbooks. I also would include my brown leather messenger bag and brown leather oxford shoes.
What makes you different?
I never went to art school and I am used to this hands-on way of doing things. What I know of illustration, I've learned through working hard through trial and error. I've never gotten a "this is how you illustrate" book or lecture, but then on the other hand I've never been told what not to do in illustration so maybe I think more freely?
What is the best thing and the worst thing about being an illustrator?
The best thing is that I can make a living of playing and drawing. The worst thing is all the endless ideas and the limited time I have to do them all.
How do you maintain a balance between your work and your life? (or not?)
I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids when they are not in daycare. I often make up for the lost hours during the day by working again in the evening when they have gone to bed. That way I get to spend more time with them, and still get my work done. The downside is the lack of social life though, but we try to make up for that in the weekends. Also when I feel the stress of being my own boss and the boss of the family (he he) gets a bit to much I try to wind down a bit and do some yoga. Yoga has given me a whole new and better perspective as to what is important in my life.
What is your ideal day?
I get up at 5:30 and get ready for my day. I then make breakfast for my family, and get the kids off to daycare. I walk through our local park and drop our kids off at the other side of the park where the kindergarten is located. I then meet up with my husband at our local café and we have a coffee and talk about our day and projects. We then walk home to our home studio and start working around 9:00. We work till noon and then have lunch, either at home or at some café. We then bring our sketchbooks and doodle a bit and then go home and work some more. At four my husband picks up the kids, and we have dinner, and play with them until they go to sleep around seven. We then either have some friends over and see a movie, or work until we have to go to sleep again.
What would be your dream illustration assignment?
Designing fabrics for Marimekko or Ikea or wallpaper for Hygge and West, that would be absolutely amazing! I absolutely love working with product design and designing things that everyone can have in their home.
What is your benchmark for success as an illustrator?
I really love to illustrate well-designed everyday products that people can pick up at their local supermarket. I designed chocolate pieces for Freia and illustrated cheese packages for Tine, that was one of my favourite jobs. Also illustrating the new circus line for Blafre was one of the most rewarding things I've done. To see other kids at my daughters daycare holding their new lunchbox that I have illustrated firmly in their little hands as they eat their lunch outdoors is so rewarding. To be part of someone's childhood, and to think that they may love their lunchbox so much that they may save it for their own kids, is priceless.That makes all the hard work worthwhile.