By Mikhail James
Raised in a family of innovators and creatives, it would not have been farfetched to assume that the nature of Ella Webb’s work would take on an unconventional and artistic element; however, while this did end up being the case, the route which Ella has managed to fashion for herself is undoubtedly unique – even for an artist.
As an illustrator, the impetus behind much of Ella’s work comes from a mixture of her artistic talent, love of the natural world, and affinity toward science. The result of this combination comes in the form of various topographic images, which highlight and portray different landscapes and terrain from an interesting perspective. Reminiscent of diagrams you may have seen in your grade school text books, Ella’s images are intricate and almost educational in nature, while still possessing a certain aesthetic charm and allure which fixes them firmly in the realm of art. With hopes to partner alongside scientists in the future, Ella is continuing to use her work to showcase the beauty, as well as the complexity, of the world we live in.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Is there anything you’d like the readers to know?
I’m Ella and I’m 22. I lived in Sweden for over a year but currently live in North London.
I have a small studio space in HTH in Crouch End which I share with my partner, photographer Morgan Hill-Murphy.
Have you been making art your whole life?
Definitely! It’s only been in the past few years that I realized the route I’d like to take, though.
My whole family is quite creative. My grandfather is an architect, my grandmother a botanical illustrator, my other grandmother a quilter, my parents and sister photographers, clothing designers and creatives. I think it was only natural to take a route on the more artistic side rather than the academic, but I think my work crosses quite naturally between the two ends of the spectrum.
There is a very interesting theme to your artwork. Can you explain the origin/inspiration behind your topographic style?
The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan struck a few months before I was traveling to Japan with the Sasakawa Foundation. We were informed that it was unlikely that we’d actually be allowed to go due to the nuclear fallout from Fukushima on the eastern coast of Japan.
They had live news coverage for weeks after the quake. I was still studying at that point and so was able to spend most of my time watching the live feed coming in from Japan. The magnitude of the event itself was something I hadn’t quite experienced before; it reinvigorated my fascination with tectonic activity. It was only when I moved to Sweden that I began to draw on my personal interests into an illustrative style which I felt comfortable with.
With such a specific approach, do you need to reference your illustrations with other material to make sure it is correct geologically?
I had always wanted to be a volcanologist. I obtain a lot of my ideas from reading. Of the books I own, most are geology, geography or anthropologically based. From the ‘diagram’ series especially, many of these illustrations are more of an abstract take of geographical features. However, they all originate from factual information.
In the near future at some point, to work with more scientists creating accurately illustrated diagrams depicting our Earth's movements is something I’m keen to become more involved with.
As an illustrator, what do you think is special about illustrations that set them apart from, say, photos or paintings?
I used to think that illustrations, similarly to graphic design, helped to make sense of everyday situations. Yet, all art forms originate from experience, maybe with illustrations people are more able to accept and understand them. I think it’s hard to say.
When creating, is there an exact image in your head that you are attempting to bring forth? Or do you begin a project with a general idea in mind, and see where it leads you?
I think it can be either/or, depending on whether it’s personal work or for a client. I have a few small sketchbooks which I constantly carry on my person. I have quite a few undistinguishable notes and sketches in there. At times my drawings can take on the exact form I had in my head. Other times layering objects and ideas on top of one another allows my work to take on another idea entirely.
What direction would you like to see your work take over the next few months?
It would be great to expand my understanding of the natural world by working closely with scientists on numerous projects. I’m beginning to understand more of the artist I would like to become, definitely using my illustrations for more environmental issues.
And of course, joining an agency in the near future!