Westmont Magazine An Illustrative Career
The passion that spurred Robin Eley ’01 to drive a basketball down the court now animates a different activity: the art of illustration. The former Warrior is gaining a reputation as a freelance illustrator, and his work has appeared in numerous news-papers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Time, the Nashville Scene and the Dallas Observer.
The bold colors and strong, exaggerated features in his work (see the images at www.robineley.com) not only capture the likeness, but provide a provocative commentary. Although he is an artist, Robin approaches each subject like an engineer.
“It’s the problem-solving aspect of illustration that appeals to me,” he says. “Finding a way to solve a problem is what inspires both my creativity and productivity. This incorporates many things, ranging from concept to technique to composition. When I am asked to paint a portrait, first and foremost it has to look like the person. Secondary to this (and only if the assignment allows) I like to bring a conceptual twist that is relevant to the subject matter yet subtle in its conceit. Artistic freedom varies greatly from job to job.”
That twist makes an illustration especially valuable to a publication. “While a photo can support the content of a story, an illustration can add to it,” he says.
Robin was born in London and grew up in Australia. He came to Westmont to play basketball under Coach John Moore and to pursue a degree in psychology. But an art class with Tony Askew changed his life. “My decision to major in art was based on passion rather than specific career objectives,” he says. He decided to become an illustrator after hearing Professor Scott Anderson talk about his own career.
That’s how a basketball coach and an art professor shaped his life. “It’s difficult to describe the influence of one man on your life when it’s so pervasive that it changes the very core of who you are,” he says. “On the surface, Coach Moore made me a better athlete and a better student, but it was only after I had played my last game and sat my last exam that I realized he had made me a better man.
“And it wasn’t until I met Scott that I found my career direction. He introduced me to the world of illustration, and we have become close friends.” At Anderson’s suggestion, Robin attended the Illustration Academy in Ringling, Fla., an intensive seven-week program taught by leading illustrators.
Returning to Australia after graduating, Robin launched his illustrating career from there. The Internet allows him to work primarily with U.S. clients, and he often stays up at night to accommodate their schedule. As it turns out, living in Australia helps set him apart from other illustrators. “I know that it’s mostly the accent,” he laughs.
When he’s not isolated in his studio creating acrylic paintings on masonite, Robin plays basketball in the state semi-pro league in Adelaide. He draws inspiration from any artist who has mastered a particular craft such as painting, music or acting. He admires the kind of perfectionism that characterizes his own work, that drives him to paint long hours to capture an elusive image.