We are happy to introduce Eli Spencer and Sophie Robin, two illustrators based in Scotland who are the next guests in our series of interviews running up to the launch. The two frequently collaborate on zines and illustrations projects. Their zines Infernal, Wyrm and Banshee will be available from us at ELCAF 2019.
Eli & Sophie: Hi Aki!
Aki: This is so weird because we’ve never been in a restaurant and speaking to each other like this before. The readers need to know that we exclusively hang out in each other’s flat.
E: In our pyjamas! *laughter*
A: Alright, why don’t you give a wee introduction to yourselves and your art practice?
S: Hello, I am Sophie. I did a foundation course in Falmouth for a year where I was exposed to a variety of creative practices like metalwork, painting and woodwork. I found that I really enjoyed illustration so then, I applied for the course in Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and graduated four years later in 2017.
A: That’s so cool! Do you usually go by Sophie or Soph? If I’m not wrong you go by @soph.robin on Instagram.
S: Ah, I get that a lot! I could not get a username with as Sophie Robin so I’ve been stuck with the online persona of Soph Robin for a while now. The Instagram account started off as a personal space to record trips I went on. Now, it’s turned into a professional art platform for me as people started reaching out to me regarding my illustration works.
A: Ok, I get it now. Never call Sophie ‘Soph’ in person, everyone! Would you want to give us a few words about your background, Eli?
E: Hmm, I guess I have a similar starting point as Sophie. We met on the illustration course at ECA in first year. We had the same reasons of wanting to be as far away from where we grew up as possible.
A: Was there a reason why you chose to study in Edinburgh? Is there anything about Edinburgh and the college you went to that has influenced your practice today?
S: The course in ECA was really traditional. There was a big focus on life drawing and printmaking. Every project started out with a heavy drawing theme. We did editorials, books and comics. These are the ones I remember, on top of the other terrible projects.
E: I agree! For me, I really wanted to be somewhere that was really pretty as well. I know that’s kinda shallow but I wanted to live in a city where I could walk around and explore. And honestly,I was obsessed with Edinburgh… since I was 16.
A: So, what was it like for you transitioning from a place like Edinburgh to Glasgow after graduation?
E: It’s fine, it’s just greyer!
S: And cheaper! There are also less touristy crowds.
E: I do find it hard here sometimes because the artistic atmosphere is centred around the art school and coming from Edinburgh, I do not feel any form of connection with it.
S: When we moved here, I was worried that we would be cut out from artist community because no one else moved here but it’s so nice that everyone in our flat is an artist. It makes such a big difference because we live within a creative environment. Through flatmates and friends, we participated in arty events like the Ghost Comics Festival, which was really nice.
A: That’s so interesting to hear! It seems like living situations are vital to your practices and I am guessing that living together for a while now has led to an artistic collaboration between the two of you?
E: We go back to the idea of collaboration when we are stuck within our own practices and do not know what to do next. Our first collaboration happened really spontaneously though. For our first zine together, we decided on contributing 8 pages worth of goat drawings each. That’s how it all began.
S: We’ve lived together for so long, we became such similar people that we have the same interests and look at the world in the same way. I’d like to think because of that, our drawings make sense with each other. We enjoy the same kind of spooky, witchy, nature-y and nasty kind of stuff.
E: I think we go through similar phases as well. When I look back at our zines, they look like little pictures of our phases together.
A: Do you want to elaborate more on what you mean by ‘phases’?
E: For example, we went through a phase of drawing dragons and so, we did for a good few months for the ‘Wyrm’ zine.
A: So by ‘phases’, you mean moments where you’d be obsessed with drawing specific imageries?
S: Yes exactly! I remember we made a zine when we both found ourselves obsessing our own reimaginings of ‘hell’ as well.
E: Yes, we were so invested in the imageries that came with the idea of ‘hell’. Somehow, we’re always thinking about the same things at the exact same time which is perfect for our collaborations.
A: So, would you say your collaborations come about naturally rather than something you had to force in order to be productive?
E: Yeah. I think the experiences that we had with our independently created zines were different to the one we had creating the ‘Banshee’ zine because it was also a collab with Out of The Blueprint (OOTB).
A: I can imagine! I was so excited for you, especially to see that an organisation was interested to work closely with both of you. I can see that there was an intervention of a more formal way of working than what you were used to within home grounds.
S: With Out of The Blueprint, they were very supportive but they would like to see us do what we would not usually do. It was funny because they wanted us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones but we didn’t.
E: Well, to be honest, I’ve never done exhibitions or print T-shirts before so it all felt new to me. Also, to be somewhere and be known as the artists-in-residence was big. Having been selling a lot of my illustration works online for a while now, it was nice to create riso prints as it is more of a physical experience.
S: Yeah, we’re usually trapped in our own little rooms drawing and perfecting our illustrations so it was nice to be in a different work environment. We have a tendency of not showing each other any of our drawings until the last minute but riso printing together forced us to see work together for every drawing and layer that needs printing.
A: This sounds like you had a huge learning experience with Out of The Blueprint. I am really excited to be sharing your works at ELCAF this year. For the fun of it, how would you summarise your works together in three words?
E: You go first. That’s my three words.
S: Our collaboration is… edgy, spooky and cute.
If you enjoyed this wee interview, do keep a look out for these two illustrators who are currently based in Scotland. We look forward to more collaborations and exciting new works from them! You can also follow their activities on instagram as @eli__spencer and @soph.robin.