London-based artist Elfin shares some of her inspirations after the opening of her solo exhibition at Circle Tattoo in Soho.

London-based artist Elfin shares some of her inspirations after the opening of her solo exhibition at Circle Tattoo in Soho.

Isabel ‘Elfin’ White is a London-based illustrator and artist who makes detailed figurative artwork often featuring the female form and mythological folklore and iconography.

For her first solo show at Circle Tattoo in Soho, London, which runs from September 13 to October 13, Elfin showcases a number of new pen and pencil drawings as well as illustrated decks and a wall mural. Elfin takes influence from many different sources – from Japanese designs and skateboard graphics to tattoo art and graphic novels – to produce rad works in her own unique style. We caught up with her after installing her show at Circle to quiz her on her creative inspirations.

Five Things That Inspire Me

The Great Frog
This is a family business just off Carnaby street – we’ve been making jewellery for rock’n’roll legends such as Iron Maiden, Slayer and Motorhead over the past forty years. It’s a close-knit workplace, three floors of awesomeness. I work part-time on the shop floor. Everything is made on site and the skills involved are impressive. I’d never considered how jewellery was made before I worked there. The workshop looks like something from the Shire, with hammers, hacksaws, soldering irons, moulds, machines and dusty sparkly things everywhere. I love how much music and how many subcultures I’ve been introduced to over the last three years at The Frog. The customers are always stoked to be there too. We talk to everyone who comes in. If you have tattoos there’s a good chance we’ll have your top off or trousers down before you leave. I love a good ink ogle. All the staff there have their own projects going on and having the company of fellow creatives is simply priceless.

Ok, the title isn’t that inspiring but I couldn’t avoid this one. Books; a guilt-free purchase. You can’t put a price on learning. I dig reference books mostly – pictorial encyclopaedias of knives, insects, stained glass, skateboard graphics, flowers, tattoos, Letraset, mythological beats and Japanese designs to name a few. I love to flick through and stare in awe at the following; Fables Covers by James Jean, Frank Millers Sin City or artwork by J W Waterhouse, Aubrey Beardsley and Gil Elvgren. My morning commute allows me to read Juxtapoz. I have a subscription every year from my sister for Christmas – it’s a gift that keeps on giving. My favourite articles are ones where artists talk about their method, this really gets me thinking. Most London libraries have a pretty rad graphic novel section, I took From Hell out a few times whilst living in Old Street; living where a story is based adds crazy extra dimension to a story. Browsing limited library shelves can turn up real gems. Things you’d never think to tap into google search. I found an old school ’70s book on Chinese kite-making in a charity shop the other day too. The designs are timeless. Anyway, basically, leave me with a picture book and I’m good as gold for hours.

Self-employed Creatives
People who are making their own way in life are super inspiring. Especially the few who have taken the time to show me their craft. Back in 2001 I did some work experience with Stu Smith founder of Lovenskate. Stu had just set up on his own, bought some second-hand printing aquipment and was working his balls off in a tiny studio in Hackney Wick, barely paying himself a wage. His openness with knowledge and determination to make his company work blew my mind. The fact that nowadays he no longer has to do any jobs which are not skate-related is a testament to his efforts. He stuck at it, an amazing achievement. Since I’ve been in london, I’ve met so many more people who inspire me. Miss Led, for example, a self-employed illustrator, good friend and mentor, reminds me daily that determination and self-belief pays off. If people can help you, they will. Jim Vision, creator of the ‘End Of The Line’ business, thrives by painting graffiti commissions. Before I met him, I didn’t know that job existed. For years he has shared with me his knowledge and guidance. Painting with me, explaining how to blend colours and scale up. Most recently I’ve begun working with an old friend Graham Mitchell, super skilled creator of Strange Fruit Jewellery. From carving wax to polishing the cast silver, it’s an incredible process. Learning new things from peers and having such skilled mentors is invaluable. Inspiration is endless around other creative people.

Where to start? From people-watching on the tube, to working on Carnaby Street, to the unexpected green parks to the old-school architecture. Just travelling from A to B is a visual treat. I do like alone time to go the Royal Academy or Victoria and Albert Museum, or the lesser know exhibitions that you stumble across along the way. London can change so much from one street to the next. The people are so diverse too. Things seem peaceful but bland when I’m out of town. The style of individuals really shine through and I find the self expression uplifting. There’s a level of acceptance here, which I would never like to be without. Different areas have different vibes. I moved close to Brixton last year and am loving the South london life.

Making A Contribution
Recently I’ve began to think that I need to make a contribution. How can I make people happy? What can I get involved in that isn’t just self-gratification? Seat of the Soul by Gar Zukav, meditation, community workshops, kung-fu, spirituality and travelling have all been whirling around in my mind and I’m yet to make sense of it all. I’m inspired by those who do selfless acts, touched always by happy tears and waiting patiently to figure out how any of this applies to me. Maybe short visits abroad to do workshops within communities? I’d love to draw/paint/make while visiting new lands. I’m thinking of something… if anyone is out there thinking along the same lines, get in touch!