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NOSTALGIC YOUTH, by Elley Designs

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caleb entry page.png

Elley Design's Instagram: @elleydesigns

We interviewed Caleb about his views and artistic journey.
A Conversation with the Artist  


So first off, would you like to introduce yourself to readers?




Sure! I’m Caleb — better known as Elley Designs. I’m a 19 year old graphic designer and artist from New Zealand. 


What inspired you to join the zine?


I was just scrolling on Tiktok one day and I saw one of your videos. I already had a piece in mind, so I thought it would be a cool opportunity regardless of the outcome. 


Take me through the process behind your submitted piece — Was there a specific approach to it? Obstacles faced in the process?


Most of the piece was just trial and error. I knew the style I was going for and the overall idea, but I just kept chipping away at it until I was satisfied with what I made. I think it took a total of 10 hours. 


I’m not sure how this is for you, but I always associate a specific song with an artwork I see or create. Do you associate any specific song, music, or even sound, to this piece?


Yes! Most of my work is inspired by music. At the bottom of this particular piece, it says “we’ll never be those kids again,” which is a line from the song Ivy by Frank Ocean. I feel like that song encapsulates the vibe of the illustration. A lot of other indie music also helped the process. 


I love Frank Ocean. And I totally see that — Ivy really ties in with the nostalgia in this piece. Godspeed also comes to mind when I look at the work you submitted. 


I can definitely see that.


Delving more into your artwork in general, rather than this specific piece, what inspired your work? Are there any particular artists, colour palettes, or general media you pull from?




I’ve taken inspiration from a bunch of different sub-cultures and artists throughout the years. Currently, I am trying to get into more psychedelic and spiritual art — I feel like that sort of work has the most soul and it’s super fun to make. I’m also inspired by my life experiences, and try to encapsulate their vibe. Music is a big part of this as a lot of music reminds me of specific experiences. 


A lot of creatives I’ve talked to tend to have more than one creative outlet. Whether it's music, poetry, etc, are there other forms of art you explore?


 I like to dabble in film photography and try to incorporate that into my work. I’ve also been teaching myself to sew and make clothes. 


Ooo tell me more about your sewing — how long have you been interested in making clothes?


I’m still very much in the learning stage hahaha but I’ve been interested in clothes for years. Streetwear and fashion are what actually got me into graphic design. 


How so? Was it the patterning of clothes, or colours, that linked to graphic design for you?


More so the graphics printed on the clothes. The idea of someone across the world wearing something I made has me mesmerized. Currently, I don’t sell clothes myself, but I guess working with other brands is the next best thing haha.


Ohh I got you. So do you make graphics for clothing brands? 


Yes, that’s my main thing right now — my day job you could say. And when I have free time, I work on personal projects. 


Gotcha. Wow, that's so dope. And about film photography — what got you interested in working with film? How do you incorporate it into other work?


I’ve had a thing for film for ages. I just love the vibe and realness that film gives. I also like the idea of taking a photo and not really knowing how it will turn out. I’ve found that even if the photo comes out bad it has great use for texturing and adding character — that’s what I have been playing around with lately. Film also connects back to trying to create nostalgia and a feeling. 


I admire that you enjoy the uncertainty behind using film. Is spontaneity a significant part of your creative process?


I guess you could say that. I’ll still have a brief for my projects for the most part but I am always open to trying something a little different. Most of what I do, even in my everyday life, is sort of like, “let's see how this turns out.” Some of my favourite pieces of work and memories have been made this way. 


I know a lot of artists (including myself) who struggle to allow for spontaneity in our artwork. So it’s really cool to see that comes to you so naturally. 


Going more to your life, and coincidentally the topic of your submission, what are your earliest memories involving creative expression? 


I don’t have too much recollection from early creative expression, but I know I was always into drawing and building things as a kid. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I took art more seriously. 


Do you think your childhood has had an effect on your artwork?


Somewhat. But I feel like my teenage years have had a much bigger effect. A lot more has happened in the last six years than when I was younger. The teenage experience is the biggest turning point in everyone’s life — or definitely for me, anyway. 


Yeah definitely. It’s a lot of change in a really short amount of time. 


More on the people in your life, is there anyone in particular who has impacted your creative journey?


An important person in my life is my friend Finn aka Capr1. He makes music and has a lot of similar interests, so we both inspire each other. Collaborating with him is also super fun as I feel like there is a better connection working with a friend in person. Of course, I also love my mum and other friends who support what I do.


I love that! Yeah, being able to collaborate on creative projects is super dope. You guys can just bounce ideas off each other, and you always learn so much from the other person.


100%. And most of the time, you get a better outcome.


Going back a little bit to your art, are there any specific themes or topics that inform your work?


My work is all over the place as I sort of make what I’m feeling at the moment. But, a lot of my work has elements of spirituality and kind of the idea of finding peace and happiness in life. 


Can you talk a little bit more about how spirituality has influenced your work? Or just your background with spirituality? 


I feel like it's important to have some sort of practice or religion in your life to bring clarity and balance, and that’s what spirituality gives me. A lot of my work also comes from a hopeful place — sort of like manifesting. 


That’s beautiful — it’s something everyone can resonate with. 


Thank you.


With artwork, do you ever feel obligated to incorporate a sort of “deeper meaning” behind an artwork? Do you feel like having a “deeper meaning” changes the value of the piece? 


Yes and no — it sort of depends on what you are creating. Most of the time I leave the viewer to decide what my art means to them, even if the original deeper meaning is different. But your statement is pretty true: I find if I create something that is important to me I have a hard time selling that piece to a potential buyer. 


When showing other people your work, do you ever feel hesitant to tell them about the meaning behind a piece?


Sometimes — it just depends on the art and who the person is. But if I’m going out of my way to show someone my work, it would generally be to someone who is open-minded. Showing something you are passionate about to someone who doesn’t understand is like talking to a wall. 

How do your emotions affect your work? (Both the creative process and the final outcome).


I guess it depends on the project. What I usually do is have an emotion in mind from the start, and try to keep that energy up until finishing it.


If that’s the case, do you try to bring yourself back into the emotion whenever you work on the project?


Yes, I do. It helps to have a mood board and music that encapsulates the feeling I want to achieve.  


Gotcha. Yeah, music helps me get into the mood as well when I’m working on an art piece with a specific vibe. 

As we’re nearing the end of our interview, are there any upcoming projects, social media, or websites you’d like to talk about?


I have a lot of cool projects I’m working on at the moment, and they should be coming to fruition soon. Just keep an eye out on my Instagram @Elleydesigns.

One last question we had for you — what’s one thing that’s made you smile this past week?


The direction my life is heading.



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