Ever since she was six-years-old, East Yorkshire artist Eleanor Tomlinson’s illustration career seems to have been written in the stars, discovers Bethan Andrews
For 24-year-old East Yorkshire-based artist Eleanor Tomlinson, the last few months have been a complete whirlwind with an incredible light having been shone on her work worldwide. After a casual social media post of a quick illustration for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee went viral, Eleanor has had messages, requests for work, and interest coming in from all corners of the globe.
But, as an award-winning artist already, it isn’t the first time she has reached the soaring heights of seeing her dreams play out in reality, so where did it all start for the humble rural Yorkshire artist? “I’ve always loved art and it’s always been something that I’ve been drawn to naturally. It’s safe to say that I’ve had a natural flair from a young age, but I put in a lot of time and effort from early on. I won a card competition when I was six with a local company that collaborated with my primary school on their Christmas cards. So, maybe the writing was on the wall back then! I won another competition when I was 13 in support of a local charity for osteoporosis and got to go to an event where they were selling them, and it gave me the confidence to think maybe I could sell my art as a career.”
From there, Eleanor created a little hobby business alongside her studies before going on to study illustration. It’s interesting talking to her, though, to hear that she still thought that she’d maybe have to go into a career in a design agency or something art-related rather than being a full-time artist with her own business. It’s because of this that Eleanor is passionate about telling people that it is possible and that you should chase your dreams.
“I went down south to Cambridge initially, but you can take the lass out of Yorkshire, but not Yorkshire out of the lass, and I realised quickly that I wanted to be back at home, doing my own art,” she says. “I transferred back to York St John and I thought, I’ve got three years while studying illustration to create a business from my hobby. Thankfully, through lots of weekends at events, time invested in social media and on my website and building up a trade site, by the time I left University, I could go full-time with my business. It’s felt like a really natural, organic journey.”
Ever since 2019, Eleanor has worked with incredible brands such as Joules, has commissions rolling in, and is living her artistic Yorkshire countryside dream. And no time more so than the last few months. “It’s been quite a time!” she laughs. “The Jubilee reaction has been a complete shock, as the art I posted was only meant to bring some joy to my existing followers. I was away at the time, but when I sat down and watched Party in the Palace, I instantly had this vision of drawing the Queen from the back. I just got my pencils out while watching the TV and then posted it on social media. It started blowing up instantly, but first just with my existing follower base. I woke up to it having gone viral, and it was just amazing. I thought it would be yesterday’s news by the end of the week, but it wasn’t and celebrities were still sharing it. It’s the stuff of dreams for an artist, but I don’t think you even dream it because you don’t think it would happen to you. I think I’ve been in shock ever since!”
Naturally, Eleanor ended up with thousands of requests for prints and copies, the first limited release of which went in under 50 minutes. Actor Hugh Bonneville even requested a copy and Tim Peake, Geri Halliwell and Claire Balding shared it. Before her work went viral, Eleanor had already created what she calls her “planned Jubilee piece” of which she sent an original copy off to the Queen. To her complete surprise, she received a thank you letter back from Her Majesty’s Lady-in-Waiting. “It was a really lovely personal letter, so it will be getting framed for my studio!” she smiles.
Given that a lot of her work is made up of natural themes, wildlife and landscape, in terms of inspiration, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Eleanor turns to her beloved Yorkshire surroundings when choosing what to create. And, she tells me, it’s always been this way. “Everything that’s on my doorstep inspires me,” she smiles. “I’ve grown up next to a farm and I remember having mice dashing around the kitchen and families of squirrels living in our attic! We always spend family holidays in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales, or go to the Ryedale Show and other agricultural shows, too. That rural life, the wildlife and what’s around me, is what I’ve taken a natural interest in.”
It’s lovely talking to Eleanor, as she oozes such a natural joy, love and warmth for East Yorkshire. “I just love that you’ve got a bit of everything,” she beams. “I don’t know any other place where you get gorgeous rolling hills, the dramatic coastline and within a day you can be in the Dales or the Moors, as well as having so many gorgeous market towns, as well. To be in such a great location full of natural places is wonderful. Anything you want, it’s there.”
Luckily for other budding young artists who might look to Eleanor for inspiration, she feels that Yorkshire is incredibly nurturing of its up and coming artistic talent and that there is lots of opportunity in the county to showcase yourself. “There is lots going on in York, Leeds or Harrogate, and you can get to London easily, too,” she says. “There’s a wealth of inspiration and subject matter and we’ve got so many fabulous galleries and museums, too. Just look at the amount of amazing creators we have from the area as well. Find your niche and you’ll find some events to visit to advertise yourself.”
So, after a crazy few months, what has Eleanor got planned for the rest of the year? It seems she’s just very, very busy and soaking up the excitement from this year. “The chances of something like this year happening is so small, I’m so grateful,” she smiles. “I’m still speechless. I feel like I’ve got time before the Jubilee, like BC and AD – everything feels like it’s changed!”