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Colorful Statements: The Art of Illustrator Eliot Wyatt

By Kim O’Neill

Eliot Wyatt likes to say that his personality and his work are quite similar: “a bit weird, fun, and loud.” An illustrator based in Bristol, England, Wyatt creates colorful—and sometimes a little trippy—work that has enlivened high-profile campaigns for clients like Airbnb, Buzzfeed, and Nescafé. He also makes his work available on Adobe Stock, as a premium contributor.

Wyatt’s subjects range from politics and social issues to celebrities, delicious-looking foods, fantasy automobiles, and really cool sneakers. A candy-colored palette and a flat, nearly two-dimensional look make for a very distinctive body of work.  

CHILD’S PLAY

As a kid, Wyatt was always drawing, but his unique illustration style took shape only once he was out of university. “I was too focused on what other people were doing, rather than focusing on what illustration I was making and wanting to make. Only when I stopped looking for a style did my own voice come through.”

Growing up in the ’90s, Wyatt was served a visual feast in the form of some “amazingly weird toys and TV shows” like the Stretch Armstrong doll with his elastic limbs and the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and he believes that this melting pot of visuals stayed with him and seeped into his work today. “Over time, my style has matured with my interests changing,” he says, “but one thing has remained the same: keeping it fun, bright, and bold.”

WORKING IT

When asked about how his approach is unique, Wyatt is thoughtful. “I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly unique in the way I approach my work,” he says. “I will sketch out ideas, develop the best ones, and then move into a final image. What is unique is the thoughts and ideas that run throughout my illustration work and the way that becomes identifiable as my style. It’s not necessarily the way you approach a project; rather, it’s the way you think about it. For example, it could be thinking about a different way to view a particular scene or object, or how you may be able to refer to something without directly placing it in the image. These decisions contribute just as much to your ‘style’ of work as the aesthetic you choose to work in.”

Staying inspired is always a challenge for fine artists and commercial artists, but Wyatt seems to have it down to a (social) science.

“Finding inspiration online and on Instagram is a great way to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the arts world,” says Wyatt, “but I can find it a bit overwhelming at times, and sometimes it is better just to look closer to home. I have some amazingly talented friends, and probably the biggest inspiration is when I get to briefly see behind the curtain and see how they make their art. That really helps inspire and inform my attitude to my own work. I am really lucky that I get to share a studio with the likes of Owen Gatley, Clare Owen, Jacob Stead, and Bett Norris—all of whom are awesome illustrators.”

While he claims to not have a favorite type of client, he says, “A happy client that encourages you to run as far as you can with a brief is probably the best. What you aim for, working with any client, is to walk away with them happy and to have a piece that I can take pride in and place amongst my other work.”

And what, in his mind, constitutes a successful piece? “For me, it is when both the aesthetic and the ideas are strong in a single image. Sometimes an illustration can lead too much with the aesthetic, which ultimately makes for a weaker image. Typically, all work, either client or personal, starts out the same way. My initial sketches are developed further in to larger sketches, which allows for more focus on creating a solid composition and framing of the image.”

THE ART OF INSPIRATION

Wyatt always makes sure to allow for time to work on personal projects as a way to inform his commercial illustrations. “I take advantage of the breaks between commissions to focus on creating new work that focuses on and develops certain areas such as perspective, dynamic compositions, and color. These personal projects can vary but often they are funny little ideas that I can’t shrug off and that will stay in my head until I get them down onto paper.”

In a world that’s not always kind to artists trying to make a living while staying true to themselves, Wyatt has honed a philosophy and practice that serves him well: “Basically, it’s not giving up and continuing to create.” He explains, “Most creatives I know—and myself especially—hit walls within our work. The best thing I can advise in these times is to just create, create, create, even if the work you’re creating doesn’t seem good. Eventually, you will strike gold and get that creative mojo back up to speed.”

When it comes to what the future holds, Wyatt is excited about the idea of seeing his work come to life—through animation. “I came very close to it at the beginning of the year. I am very intrigued to see my work animated. So I would say that, at the moment, that is at the top of my list of dream projects.”

See more of Wyatt’s work on his portfolio site and on Adobe Stock.