“I like to walk around our area in that hour just after sunset, when people have the lights on at home but haven’t realised that the people outside can see in.”
So says the artist and illustrator Eleonora Kolycheva, whose curiosity inspired our through-the-keyhole cover design. She and her husband Paul Thurlby (also an illustrator) moved to Brighton in the summer of 2017 and are still getting to know their adopted city.
“Sometimes you get just a glimpse of a couple of pictures, a couple of pieces of furniture. I’ve noticed an artist working with her easel just by the window, and I wonder who she is and if she will be participating in the Artists Open Houses festival. It’s the perfect time to meet those people and to satisfy your curiosity.”
With more than 1500 artists showing their work in upwards of 180 venues this month, there is plenty to keep her busy.
Eleonora grew up in Tallinn and studied Graphic Design in the Estonian capital before moving to London to study Illustration at Camberwell College of Art. Alongside her illustration work, she has developed a specialism for creating beautifully decorated maps; a complicated task avoided by many designers, but one that she enjoys. “It’s something to do with my dad’s desire for me to become an architect. Maps are something like technical illustration, but more playful.” It started with a personal project that she posted online; a map to make sense of her runs around Hackney. That gave rise to two map commissions, one of which was shortlisted for the prestigious AOI World Illustration Awards in 2018, and they keep on coming. She is technically still on maternity leave – their son, Leo, arrived last spring – but she is already starting work on a campus map for an American University. “I work at home with my husband and we’re always discussing his projects. It’s nice to be doing one of my own.”
The distinctive ‘handmade’ quality of Eleonora’s work is achieved by painting individual elements in gouache and then scanning and piecing them together in Photoshop. Her bold colour palette is, she says, a reaction to her childhood home: “I have a theory that the place where you are born affects your selection of colours. In Estonia we have really dark nights and very short days in the winter. It’s very cloudy, so I was craving some brighter colours. I was reacting against it – trying to balance it.”
There’s nothing but blue skies over her Kemp Town home on the day that I visit, and an uninterrupted view of The Channel. I wonder how her colour palette will change as she explores her seaside city.
Both Eleonora and Paul’s work will be at Jehane’s Open House in Waldegrave Road (venue 13 on the Fiveways trail). See aoh.org.uk – or pick up a brochure – for details of all the trails.