Meet Ellie, the illustrator!

Ellie Holloway has recently graduated from our Young Leaders programme. She is a talented illustrator and has written and illustrated a number of children’s stories. I spoke to her about her experience of being on the programme and what she plans to do next. 

Hi Ellie, can you please tell us a bit about your experience of being on Storyhouse’s Young Leaders programme? 

I had been drawing illustrations for Storyhouse for about a year before I joined Young Leaders through something called the Brent Project, so I already knew the staff – I wouldn’t have dared join Young Leaders otherwise. I wanted to join the programme to meet other people my own age. I thought it might make me a bit braver, because I’m so shy. 

It was really great and I really liked the structure of it. It’s a small group and you each have a personal project, which is your arts award, and then you also get to organise an event together. Everyone did different things, so one girl did a film and another did origami. It was really nice seeing everyone else’s projects. One of the girls on my Young Leaders course was actually from my high school. We used to sit next to each other in form and we’re still friends now. I got on really well with everyone and I do think it made me a bit braver.  

I love the staff too. They are so fun and brilliant. They always make me laugh and make me feel welcome. I’m really unsure of myself, but it doesn’t matter how many times I ask them something, they are always happy to help. 

What was the event that you planned together? 

We did Elmer Day for the 30th year anniversary of Elmer the Elephant. 

I loved arranging the event together. I am shy, but I do really like making friends and working together. I also liked having my private work, so it was the perfect balance.  

You are a really talented illustrator, and have written and illustrated a number of children’s story books. Where do you get your inspiration for your designs and stories? 

When we were little my Grandad would collect the David Attenborough DVDs out of The Sunday Times. We would always watch David Attenborough together and I remember this time when he said that penguins can fly in the water. I’ve always kept that in my head and I thought it would make a cute children’s story. That inspired my first book Pippa the Penguin. 

I like things that are personal to me. My next book The Story of Dale and Doug (about a snail and a slug) is about building snail enclosures when I was little because I wasn’t allowed pets.  

I also like all of my stories to have a message of self-acceptance. Both of my first two books have the message that, even if you don’t get what you want exactly, life has a funny way of working out and you’ve got to make the best of situations.  

I like all my books to rhyme as well. I don’t write a book that doesn’t rhyme. I have to be in a very specific mood to write, the story has to strike at the right moment, whereas I can do the drawings any time. 

Your next children’s book The Brave Suit comes out this month. What is that book about? 

It’s about a little boy called Lenny who’s scared of everything, so his mum gives him a brave suit to wear that makes him courageous. I chose the name Lenny because it means brave like a lion.  

I’m quite happy with it because I’ve been using watercolours for this one, whereas I used pencils for the other ones. It’s taking a bit longer but I like that it’s a different style. 

For anyone, who is interested, where can they find your books? 

I did a book for The Weasel and The Bug, the toy shop in Chester, so they might do a book launch and sell some. 

Would you recommend the Young Leaders programme to other young people? 

Absolutely! I really would recommend it to anyone who is trying to get better at meeting people. It’s a great stepping stone for a lot of things. I actually signed my boyfriend up to it. 

If you’re lacking confidence, it’s a brilliant thing to do because it’s not like being in a class with 30 other students. It’s a small group and most of the people who come here tend to be more creative or a bit different in a good way!  

Also, if you’re just feeling a bit stuck and not sure what to do next, it will help you to build confidence and it looks good on your CV.  

Now that you’ve graduated from Young Leaders, what’s next for you? 

World domination! Haha no, not that. 

I’d really like to be able to make a living off writing and illustrating, so I’m currently looking for a literary agent.  

I still come into Storyhouse a lot as well. It’s nice to have the connections and be around familiar people. The Young Leaders programme are looking to set me up with a mentor. There’s an independent print maker in Chester, who set up her business all on her own. That’s like my dream, to be an independent artist! There’s also Katie at The Weasel and The Bug toy shop, who might be a mentor for the business side of things.