artist feature

Adventure in Illustration

Chapter 03
Wildly Curious Feature - Ellen Appleby

Meet Ellen Appleby, an amazing illustrator from Northern California, and our first "Wildly Curious" feature!

The first time Wild Creatives came across Ellen's work we were not only in love with her work, but her constant pursuit of adventure. Her work keeps you staring with endless details and reminds you of your childhood adventures. As we get ready for a summer full of outdoor activities, hiking and camping we felt like Ellen's work couldn't be more inspiring!

So during one of Ellen's visits to her boyfriend in Kansas City, we were able to steal her on a rainy morning for some coffee and brainstorming and the illustrations Ellen made will be featured throughout the summer with Wild Creatives! Ellen we're so glad we connected with such a talented and wildly curious Illustrator, Kansas City will be one lucky city soon!  


Where in California are you from?

I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California. My childhood home is just up the hill from the South Fork of the American River. I’m half an hour from the nearest freeway/town and surrounded by river hippies and redneck mountain people.

Photo: Amie Soares

Photo: Amie Soares

What brings you to the Kansas City?

I spent my college years in the LA area, and now i’m ready to experience a new city and adventure out of California. I see Kansas City as a mini San Francisco; I was pleasantly surprised by the arts culture there and the pace of the area is just my speed. I also appreciate the crossroads of city and country that you find in Kansas City, since my heart is rooted rural. Of course it’s a bonus that my wonderful boyfriend of two years lives in the area.

Your work is so playful and adventurous, what has inspired that?

I was an adventurous kid, still am. I got to travel the world as a young person and a lot of those places and experiences have made appearances in my work: dogsledding in Alaska, riding cross country in Ireland, camping in Africa, road tripping the US Southwest. The playfulness was cultivated as a kid homeschooled in a rural area and exploring my world with a mix of curiosity and daring.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

My creative process involves a lot of scribbling, tearing pages out of books and taking photos. Keeping a sketchbook is so crucial as a creative person, I have a long list of unresolved ideas and most of them are slowly built up over time, a rare few are completed in weird moments of flooded inspiration. Sometimes there is just one piece I want to create, other times I have a series in mind and it takes a bit more planning and research. I use photo reference for a lot of my work, often taken myself. Overall it’s constantly shifting and I look forward to the evolution of my creative process.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration is an interesting word in today’s creative sphere. I did a lot of thinking and research about originality in my senior semester. There is immediate accessibility to the huge amount of work generated by amazing artists around the world, it’s hard to create and feel completely unique and set apart. I think social media magnifies that struggle. I find my purest sources of inspiration from getting out into nature, or recalling my travels. It’s not always a huge wave of inspiration, sometimes I listen to a song or wake up in the middle of the night and get snippets, and it takes time and patience to piece together the full concept.

We love that your work is very nature inspired, did that come naturally or was it a conscious decision?  

I gravitate towards depicting nature every time, simply because it is the ultimate example of a created thing. Also, I tend to spend a lot of time in nature, because of where I live and also getting to work in a local State Park. Nature is full of wonderful imperfections and as an artist that gives you freedom to both relate and interpret.

Photo: Sarah Bennett 

Photo: Sarah Bennett 

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done?

I will never forget a piece I did my freshmen year. I took an intro drawing class and it played a huge part in my decision to pursue art as a career, mostly because it was a reminder that it is what I love to do and, hey, i’m sort of good at it. We designed our own final pieces and I completed a 24”x36” human spine and ribcage in pencil with an outgrowing vine of strawberries. To me, it symbolized the congruence of human beauty and nature. It’s not necessarily my favorite piece ever but I invested a lot of time into it and it’s very memorable for me.

What’s your late night snack?

If i have work to get done, a show to watch, or blogs to peruse I’ll always make a cup of tea. Next usually comes tortilla chips and I’ll whip up some guac or pop open some salsa.  Why I am most productive and awake at eleven at night I will never know.

Why would you consider yourself a Wild Creative?

I’ve always been creative, and I think the nature of creativity is wild; it’s daring and alternative in it’s best form. But on top of the creativity I find my best self in nature and placing myself in the context of travel and adventure. It feeds my soul.

We will be featuring Ellen's Prints this First Friday at the Kansas City CrossRoads, (on 18th street - between Wyandotte & Baltimore Ave. from 6-9:30pm) you can also purchase prints on her Etsy.

Feel free to follow Ellen below and check out the rest of her work and don't forget to welcome her to Kansas City when she moves this coming AUGUST!! 

Instagram: @Ellen_Appleby


Etsy: WestBungalow

See yah tomorrow night!