Behold the Off-Centre Positivity of Sydney-Based Artist Elliott Routledge
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
WNW Member Elliott "Numskull" Routledge is a designer and artist working out of Sydney. Over the course of his career, he's collaborated with brands like Mercedes AMG, Kiehls, RVCA, Bose, Sydney Opera House and more. In our interview below, Elliott talks about his shift away from the agency world to embrace a career in the arts where he's found his voice. He's tried his hand at a variety of fields and mediums including painting, illustration, and design, but always relishes the opportunity to go big and do large-scale public murals and sculptures. "Murals and sculptures are quite similar to me in a way, as the viewer needs to be there to get the picture. My walls are usually odd shaped so people need to walk around it and view it from different angles. I find it’s the same with sculpture. There’s no one vantage point. You need to emerge yourself into its space."
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Elliott and how did he get here?
My background isn’t very formal. My environment as a kid was always very creative and conducive to experimenting with anything and everything, including art and design. I ended up choosing a career in Design and worked in the agency world for some years, until I realised it wasn’t for me. Art became my passion and I made the decision to pursue it as much as possible. I’m still creating my art as my career and feel incredibly lucky to be doing so.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links all your projects?
It’s definitely taken time, but I now feel I have a certain aesthetic or voice that I can call my own. I’ve been told my work is happy, bold, super-colourful, and emits a certain off-centre positivity. I struggle to define it sometimes, but I guess those descriptions could be a good summary.
How long did it take before you felt like you found a voice as a creative?
Years and years. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with my creative voice of the moment. I need to always evolve and explore, otherwise I feel like the work gets stagnant.
What were some of the challenges and breakthroughs in launching your creative career?
For me I chose a slow burn. I never just suddenly launched myself into the creative world. With this came challenges of holding back on certain things, not hitting the goals as quickly as I wanted, but I prefer this way of working. Life moves quickly; I want my art to build at a steady pace.
In terms of breakthroughs there hasn’t been anything specific I can target. I find breakthroughs in the smallest of things. For example finding the perfect brush, or finally sourcing my favourite paint. Things like this are small, but have a profound effect on my overall work.
How does color theory enter into your craft?
It defines everything I do. The foundation of my work is my colour choice.
In addition to your large-scale murals, completed all over the world, you’ve done really interesting sculpture work. How do your approaches to each feel similar and different?
I really get excited when the chance to do a sculpture comes up. It feels completely different to a flat mural. There can sometimes be a crossover when I paint a building that feels somewhat sculptural and 3D if it has corners, protrusions, etc.
Murals and sculptures are quite similar to me in a way, as the viewer needs to be there to get the picture. My walls are usually odd shaped so people need to walk around it and view it from different angles. I find it’s the same with sculpture. There’s no one vantage point. You need to emerge yourself into its space.
Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
‘Here Now’: One of my largest murals, which also happens to be located in the very centre of Sydney, which for me is a really big deal. Having something that big and prominent in my home city is special.
‘Under It All’: This is my first large scale sculpture and something I’m interested in pursuing more. Making my work into oversized 3D physical objects is something I’d love to achieve. This piece is potentially the jumping off point I needed to do that.
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
I’ve always had The Opera House in Sydney on my bucket list. My dream job list is always changing and expanding.
How would you define the Sydney creative scene?
Modest, thriving and unique. Sydney gets compared to other cities in Australia a lot, and I think sometimes this is a good thing. It keeps the creative scene honest. A lot of really talented creatives live here, or have come from here.
If not in Sydney, where would you most like to live?
Anywhere along the North East coast of Australia is nice. As long as I’m close to the ocean I’m good. New York would also be great as I have lots of family and friends there and the creative hustle is always inspiring.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
I’ve always worked and collaborated with other artists. For me, my creative influence comes from the people I surround myself with.
One book, one album, one movie, one show. Go.
Jefferey Smart Retrospective, Radiohead - Kid A, Back to the Future Trilogy, The Sopranos
What’s your favorite thing on the internet this week?
A friend showed me a video of a pet frog refusing to eat a cricket. I have a frog so that got me pretty good.
What do you do when Not Working?
Hang with my family, work on my garden, and surf as much as possible.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard or received that all creatives should hear?
Stay busy and be yourself.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I am creating my next body of work for a gallery show in Sydney in August. I’m hoping this show will be a really progressive step and open some new avenues in my gallery process. After that I’ll hopefully be travelling back to the US for a project, then other things peppered throughout the year which I can’t talk about yet.