Ellie Benuska Illustrates Style at It’s Finest
After completing a Fine Arts degree at USC and previously working for Vouge Magazine in New York, Ellie decided to take her destiny into her own hands.
We had an incredible opportunity to interview Ellie about her interesting journey with illustration.
Tell us a little bit about Ellie
My life has always been deeply rooted in my artistic practices. I’ve loved painting and drawing since I was little, but it took me a while to come to the conclusion that art needed to be my full-time job. After graduating from USC with a degree in Fine Arts, I spent some time working for Vogue Magazine in New York. I learned so much from the top minds in the industry, and wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.
After a while though, I felt my love for art and illustration pulling at me so I decided to shift my career path. Since then I’ve been shocked at a number of positive responses my illustrations have received. I’m so grateful that my voice and ideas are being valued in such a visually oversaturated world.
Where is home?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently reside there, although New York will always hold a special place in my heart.
Has illustration always been your career plan?
I came about illustration in an interesting way. I’m trained in Fine Arts, and eventually grew frustrated with the pressure to produce new and innovative concepts. I gave myself a break from everything art while I worked for Vogue, but eventually, I missed it and my art practice slowly crept into my life again.
I realized that I got more joy out of illustrating my favorite runway looks or a fresh-faced model than I did try to create something that would be respected by the Fine Arts community. So I ran with it, got a lot of positive feedback, and eventually made the decision to illustrate full time.
What’s a typical day like for you?
By nature, I’m a late sleeper but I try to get up early because I find I’m more productive at that time of day. I grab some breakfast and a coffee and sit down at my desk to work. Despite how it may seem, there’s still a lot of mundane tasks that are involved with running an illustration business. I try to tackle emails and invoicing first thing while I’m still sharp. Then I get to the fun stuff. I try to post on social media every day, so inevitably I end up creating content like a time lapse video or blog post daily.
If I have a big client project that I’m working on, that obviously takes priority. Finally, running a business is a constant juggling act of producing work and generating business. So, I’m always finessing my website, creating work for my portfolio, or reaching out to businesses that I’d like to work with in hopes of generating more business.
How much has your style changed since you started illustration?
This is an interesting question because I feel like my style changes daily. So much of how I create is based on how I’m feeling that day. If I’m feeling like watercolor, I reach for my paints. If I’m feeling like drawing, I grab my pencil. Though the day to day style may change, there’s no doubt that my technical abilities have improved since I launched my Instagram. I tried a fun experiment where I drew a portrait of Gisele, then recreated the same portrait a year later.
The difference was night and day, not only in the technical illustration but also in the photography and presentation of the work. It all goes to show that practice really does make perfect.
What trends are you most excited about for spring?
I wrote a quick blog post on this, but I’m absolutely loving the corset look. It’s so ladylike but also edgy at the same time. I have one that I picked up at Zara and I wear it over tees, collared shirts, floral dresses, even blazers or trench coats.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
I’m consistently blown away by my fellow illustrators on Instagram. I’m so thankful to have a platform that allows for discovery of talent all over the world, and interaction that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Some of the illustrators I look up to the most are @travelwritedraw, @paperfashion, @diana_kuksa, @reginayazdi, and @birdyandme.
Do you have any tips or tricks for achieving an aesthetically awesome Instagram page? Any social media tips?
The app Plaonly literally changed my Insta game. It allows you to visually plan and schedule your feed so that there is consistency in color, subject matter, etc. I get super crazy with it; I like to spread out my portraits, videos, and illustrations with white backgrounds so that they all play nicely together visually. As far as social media tips, the number one secret is consistency.
Consistency in the content you’re producing, consistency in the amount your posting, and even consistency in which time of day you post. I see the biggest growth when I post every single day at the same time with content that my followers are expecting from me.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Social media makes it all look easy. I’d love for people to realize that it’s hard. Nothing comes easily, even though Instagram and other social media platforms make it look glossy, fun, and seamless. I question what I’m doing daily.
This isn’t meant to be a discouraging thought, but more so encouragement that everyone struggles and is just trying to find their way. It’s so easy to compare yourself to people on social media. Stop the comparison and do what makes you happy! That’s the advice I’ve been giving myself in those times of self-doubt.
What’s your best advice for people looking to get into fashion?
A few points of advice: start as early as you can, leverage the people that you know, and move to LA or NY. The fashion industry is a cutthroat world, so you have to be able to do whatever it takes. I started my career early, while I was still in college, with a number of internships that built my resume and gave me credibility when I started looking for a job. I wouldn’t have gotten those internships without my network.
So much of it comes down to a recommendation from a trusted source. Finally, it’s my honest opinion that it’s really hard to do something great in fashion unless you’re in NY or LA. This may sound snobby of me but so much of it comes down to meeting important people face to face. The majority of these important people live in those two cities. It may be kind of sad, but in my opinion, it’s true.
This quote by artist Chuck Close is up on my studio wall:
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” The flexibility of living the life of an artist can be overwhelming. If you wait for something that inspires you, you could be waiting for years. The solution is just to start working. Who cares if you don’t know what you’re doing, just start. Something good will come of it. Which leads me to my second favorite quote/slogan, Nike’s “Just do it.” It gets at the same idea. When you’re self doubting, or overwhelmed, or stuck, the answer is always the same: “Just do it.”