Eleanor Shakespeare

We couldn’t make Pit without our wonderful group of writers, illustrators and photographers. To highlight their contribution to our magazine, this is the first in a series of features where we concentrate on them

Pit — Eleanor Shakespeare
Eleanor Shakespeare

To start things off here’s Eleanor Shakespeare, she’s a brilliantly talented illustrator who works regularly with The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Politico and many more. She’s also published three books. See more of her work at eleanorshakespeare.com. We were very lucky to have her illustrate the cover of issue 03. We asked her a few questions about her process and work so far as a freelance illustrator.

What’s your normal process when you get a brief?
First I tag it in my inbox… I’ve got ‘Signed Off’ tags, ‘Work in Progress’… ‘Respond’… …’Payment’ tags… it’s a rainbow of colour and confusion but it does help me keep on top of things! I read the brief/article thoroughly and then start searching for material almost immediately. This often helps direct my roughs and gives me ideas I may have otherwise not come up with. I try to be as available and transparent as possible with clients, it’s so much easier when communication flows. It makes way for helpful, creative thinking on both sides.

Where do you get your source material?
I’m now at a stage where I often request source material from clients who have access to stock sites and various archives. I have my own go-to sites, but they’re limited, and the search options are questionable (I’ve typed in the most innocent of objects into Flickr Commons and been presented with some highly disturbing imagery from Victorian medical journals…!).

What’s your favourite type of brief or subject area?
One of the best things about my job is the diversity of subject matter. I’ve read all manner of weird and wonderful articles and stories about things that would otherwise have never crossed my path. I’m personally deeply invested in pieces about humanitarian issues. Notably after working on ‘Stormy Seas’, I sought work which tied into my heart for people who are on the margins in some capacity, particularly refugees. I enjoy working on briefs about mental health, women’s rights, history and current affairs, but I also love the more lighthearted jobs too. It’s all about balance.

Interview by Holly Catford
More from Eleanor Shakespeare

What were your first thoughts when you started thinking about your pit cover?
I knew I wanted to create something grimy. I’m often asked to make things bright and colourful, but with the large PIT title taking centre stage in that gorgeous pink, I thought about this a little differently. I wanted to set aside colour and composition and focus on the texture of fire, food, smoke and flavour.

What’s your process once we decided on a rough?
Play! Holly was really relaxed about this brief and it felt like we were on the same page from the beginning. I wanted it to be raw and gritty, given that the theme was based around cooking with fire. I also decided to steer clear of any other colours. I wanted that pink to shout, and let the grainy textures of the source material sit comfortably next to that rather than fight against it.

What did you think of the final printed cover?
Bloody loved it!

Photographs by Eleanor Joy Photography