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Eloise Dörr

Born and raised in Oxford, it took a while till Eloise Dörr found skateboarding cause there wasn’t the biggest skate scene in the City of Dreaming Spires – especially no girl scene. It was the internet that helped her discover this new world and it also started her career as an artist. Now, she’s living in London, is still 21 years young, and already one of the most popular female skate artists. Or wait, what does “skate artist” even mean and why should a gender description be necessary? Exactly, so let’s just say, here’s Eloise, her art, and what she has to say about it. 

"The first time I met Eloise, it was in London three years ago for my solo art show. She was there to help me hang my stuff and she was a perfect assistant. It’s rare to see that today, people who are happy to give a hand for the love of it. We spent a week together and she showed me all the good spots to skate in London. Three years later, we are still in touch and I’m super hyped to see her growing and evolving in a good way. She is not only a rad artist, she is one of the nicest people that I know!"

[Lucas Beaufort]

What came first, drawing or skating?  

I’ve been drawing my whole life. I left school and started skating with 16 and the two kinda merged together really easily.

Why did you quit school so early? 

I was very academic and always wanted to go to university, but I got ill and had to leave as I missed too much school. I’m kind of happy it did, though, as I probably wouldn’t have considered art or started skating. If I carried on in school, I probably would’ve done math or something, then been bored my whole life.

Did you go to art school after you quit? 

I just went straight from leaving school to drawing, and I had a Tumblr and Instagram, so I just put everything on there. That’s kind of how the “career” started. It didn’t start with a degree, it started with a blog. I’m social media-born basically, which is kind of depressing, but it is what it is. It’s just this generation and I think it is good and bad in different ways. It’s frowned upon to be “famous” or started on social media. But that’s how you do it these days. It was way harder to live being an artist before social media. And now there’s so many different platforms you can sell on and share your work on.

When did you sell your first artworks? 

I sold my first painting in October 2013 to a guy called Alejandro in the US. I think I sold him two paintings for $40. This was a few months after I started posting stuff on Tumblr and six months after I started skating.

Are you making an income from selling your artworks or do you mostly live off commissioned work? 

I do make enough to kind of live on through my art. It goes up and down. I’m technically freelance. Some months are crazy and I’m working a lot and other months, I’ll be like, “Do I even have a career anymore?” I have a little part-time job at a museum and I’m gonna get another part-time job. It makes freelance life a bit less stressful. I kind of steadily sell through my website as well, but it is not quite enough for London rent.

The artworks on your website have quite moderate prices. Why are you not charging more? 

To be honest, I think I should charge more, but I don’t think I’d sell anything at all at this point if I charged more. But I think it’s ridiculous how much some artists sell their stuff for, thousands and thousands for something like a mediocre word made out of a neon light is ridiculous! If I’ve done a really simple painting with like three block colors and a character, I feel bad charging a shit ton for it.

"It didn’t start with a degree, it started with a blog. I’m social media-born basically, which is kind of depressing, but it is what it is."

You did a board for Vans’ 50th anniversary. How did that come together? 

I don’t really know how they knew about me. I just got an email one day that they want to do boards with five UK illustrators. And I was instantly, “Yes, yes, yes, I wanna do it!”

Your latest exhibition was called 3rd St and it was inspired by your trip to San Francisco. 

In 2013, me and my parents went to San Francisco and I skated around the city. It is a weird other world because I never left Europe before that trip and it kinda felt like I was in a painting cause I guess America is such a new country compared to where we live. That kinda stayed in my system. I had this show planned out and I had no idea what to do and was brainstorming what the theme’s gonna be and I was looking on the work I had and it all was pretty much based on San Francisco, not so much about the spots, more about the feel I had when I was there. Kind of the feeling of skating around the city rather than skating spots. The architecture and the colors, everything looked sharp and bright over there cause the sun is so much brighter. And definitely, the pool paintings are California inspired. I really like painting California backyard pools. I really like David Hockney and that’s what he used to do but not skating. So I kind of took his thing and put my thing in it. I’m probably stealing his work completely, but I hope I’m giving it enough of my look. I liked him before, but then I went to his exhibition in San Francisco and it blew my mind! In the beginning, I couldn’t pick a style. I was drawing every different medium and everyone else had their style and then I went to David Hockney’s exhibition and every room was something completely different. I thought, “Oh my god, that’s me!” You can be indecisive and still have a show in San Francisco in this amazing museum!

Besides Hockney, you’ve talked about some other artists that inspire you in former interviews, but you didn’t name any “skate artists” in there. 

I definitely get inspired by artists in the skate scene. Lucas Beaufort is a really good friend of mine. I was a big fan of him before I became friends with him. I spent quite a lot of money on his work. In his early stuff, he was doing a lot of nice complementing colors and that was exactly what I was into and I was like, “This guy is amazing. I need to be in his brain!” Then he did a solo show in London and we became really good friends. I was definitely heavily inspired by him and obviously by James Jarvis. He’s also London based. He’s working with really simple characters, which I take an inspiration from. People who can do a lot with a little, that’s good.

Is there something like a skate artist scene? Are you guys all connected? 

I guess so. I’ve done a lot of group shows with lots of skate artists. I was just in one in Amsterdam. My friend Ben Gore from Brighton organizes a lot of group art shows. There’s always stuff going on.

Is there a difference between the “regular” art world and the skate art world? 

I think the art world is really disconnected from the skate art world. There’s some skaters who managed to break the art world. Obviously, Ed Templeton is really big in there. But me myself, I think I’m just in the skate art world. Because skateboarding’s such a small subculture, it’s quite easy to gain recognition, but in the art world, there are millions of artists, so it’s so much harder to be recognized.

"You definitely have to skate to be a girl skate artist, otherwise no one will take you seriously."

I asked myself, what does “skate artist”, if a term like this even exists or makes sense, even mean? Is it an artist who skates, somebody who has skateboards in their artworks, or somebody whose artworks get used within the skate industry? 

I remember my show in January in Bristol. There’s no girl skaters there and I got so many times that night people just assuming I didn’t skate, and people would ask my boyfriend, “Oh, you’re the artist?” It got very annoying throughout the night. So you definitely have to skate to be a girl skate artist, otherwise no one will take you seriously.

There are more and more girls skating, but there are not many girls who are known for doing skate art. Why do you think that is? 

I guess because girls are only really properly starting to skate recently. Since I’ve been skating in London, I’ve seen the number of girls skate increased three times over. There are a lot of skateparks that do girls nights. When we used to go, it’d be four of us and we’d have the park for ourselves, but now there’s 30 girls sometimes.

It’s too much! 

[laughs] I guess because it’s so newly that more and more girls skate, I think we have to wait for the girls to start painting as well. I know a lot of girls who skate and paint, but I guess they don’t wanna do it as a career or maybe they haven’t thought about it yet. But I’m sure as we see that girl skating increases, girl skating art will increase as well. 

What do you think would help to get more girls into art? 

I guess seeing more girls do it. Every guy I know, not just skaters, has got a skateboard at some point in their lives, but I don’t know any girls that got skateboards as a random birthday present. So, girls now seeing more girls skating helps them doing it more, and if girls see more girls painting in the skate world, I guess they’ll probably do it. I don’t wanna say I’m the leading woman, but I’ve been in a lot of shows where it’s been 30 guys and me. I’ve pretty much always been the only girl in these art shows.

How did you get into skateboarding when you didn’t get a board as a birthday present? 

I stumbled across a girl skate video on the internet and suddenly got opened up to this world that I didn’t know it existed and I just wanted to get a skateboard and I did. I lived in a really quiet area and started just pushing around the blocks. I had one friend I skated with a couple of times, but she moved to London pretty soon after, so I was pretty much by myself most of the time.

You didn’t skate with the guys in Oxford? 

I was too scared. I was far too intimidated to go to the scene until I moved to London. When I first moved to London, I didn’t skate with any girls, I only skated with guys. A little crew of guys who were all in their 30s and I was 18. I was this little tag-along. Then I started to go to girls nights and found my crew, but I don’t only skate with girls.

"My friend was like, “Here’s a broken skateboard.” I just painted on it and fell in love with that."

You’re drawing on old boards. How did that come together? 

A few years ago, I was thinking about why we all paint on squares and rectangles? My friend was like, “Here’s a broken skateboard.” I just painted on it and fell in love with that. I like that they’re all different and the different way they’re all snapped. I don’t do it as much anymore after I did this one show where I painted 60-70 broken skateboards in a month.

Which materials do you like to use the most? 

I don’t really like painting on canvases. I like painting on plywood. I like the little bubbles, I like different grains.

How did the skate characters come into your drawings? 

Before I started skating, I just liked the act of drawing but really didn’t know what I wanted to draw, so I was just doing still life. Then, when I started skating, I started drawing humans as they are. Pencil drawings of skaters I liked, but I felt really limited cause if one of the legs looked wrong, there’s only so much I could do to make it still look like a human. But I wanted to manipulate it a bit more, so I made a character. It started off as a stick person. In that way, I could move the leg in a weird place or whatever else.

"I’m having a bit of an existential crisis thinking about there’s gonna be a dead body that I don’t know somewhere with my art on it."

How did you get to your current characters in the end? 

It was a stick man for a while, but it morphed into different versions of this character now. In the beginning, he was really, really tall, he didn’t have eyes for a while, it was just a black long blob. It got smaller and larger… The first one I drew was actually orange. I tried loads of different colors, but nothing really looked good unless it was a silhouette. I tried pink, but it looked really phallic… [laughs]

You said, “he” was really tall in the beginning. So they’re boys? 

It was an accident, oops! They have no gender, it wouldn’t make sense for me to be painting boys all the time after complaining about how male-marketed skateboarding is to so many people. [laughs]

Do they have names? 

No, I’ve been suggested a few names and I thought about names, but every time I think of something and I look at the character, I don’t think it fits. I like it being quite illusive and anonymous. I think that suits the way it lives.

Do you redraw tricks from videos or tricks on real spots or is it all just made up in your mind? 

I started out with pretty much only drawing photos and screenshots from videos. It was more of a way to practice, so I could make it up. If I practiced enough, I could figure out to think of something I really like and draw it.

There are two characters on a lot of your drawings. Is it important for you that they’re not skating alone?  

I think it’s subconscious, I don’t usually think about whether I’m painting two or not. But if I do a painting with one character on it, I think I got a motherly attachment to this character and if it’s alone, I ask myself if it’s gonna be okay. [laughs]

Besides drawing, you also do some clothing. 

I just kind of wanted to do something different. I just started with this one T-shirt and sold them quite quickly, so I did another T-shirt and so I occasionally make more T-shirts. It’s fun and looks cool and it’s really exciting when you get a big package of your clothing. And also it’s quite a good way to get a steady income as well.

And it’s cool to see people wearing your artwork. 

Yeah, I’ve seen it occasionally at the skatepark. But I was too embarrassed to say, “Hey, that’s me.” But I get a little bit of self-inside stoke.

And I saw photos of some people getting tattoos of your artworks. 

Yeah, but nine out of ten of them are horrible. [laughs] I got really upset that they’ve done that to themselves. A few of them are nice, but some of them are just terrible. My friend Leon Karssen, he gets a lot of people who tattoo his stuff. We’ve chatted and he sent me over some really horrible photos, but you know, it’s their body, not mine. They’re stoked on it and I’m still stoked they did it.

It’s like reaching Ed Templeton’s level if somebody gets a tattoo of your artwork.

[laughs] It’s definitely very weird. It’s like someone I don’t know thousands of miles away has my symbol on their body forever… Oh, I’m having a bit of an existential crisis thinking about there’s gonna be a dead body that I don’t know somewhere with my art on it. Oh my god, that’s horrible. [laughs