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Artist Interview & Studio Visit: Elle

December 22, 2015
12 min read
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The elusive Brooklyn based street artist Elle is not so elusive anymore.  She has finally after years of anonymity stepped out of the shadows and revealing herself to the public.  So to celebrate Elle invited me over to hang out in her studio, and then got me drunk off a bunch of very expensive Old Fashions while we chatted about her art, and a bunch of other random stuff.  If you are not familiar with Elle’s work this is your chance to catch up.


Gimme some background on yourself for the readers unfamiliar with your work…

My name is ELLE. I’m an artist based in Brooklyn NY. Originally from California, I’ve been out here 7 years now. When I first moved to New York I really SAW street art for the first time when I was in Chelsea- a piece by Swoon and a piece by Gaia, and I was so moved and thought they were so beautiful that I decided that I needed to do it. I started making wheat-pastes and getting up work and immediately got addicted to it. That’s when I started seeing graffiti and becoming interested in that as well. I came up with the name ELLE because it means “she” in French. I noticed a big lack of women putting work up on the street and I wanted to help fill that void… so I got really really into graffiti and kept doing street art… then eventually when I had a joint solo show with Martha Cooper a couple years ago I got a paint sponsor from Liquitex and decided that since I had all this free spray I should start painting really large walls- so since then I’ve been painting huge murals as well!

When did you start making art?

I’ve always been drawing and painting since I was a kid.


How was Art Basel this year?
Man it was a wash!! haha… nah, but really- I nearly drowned there was so much rain- at least my phone did! I still managed to paint a few walls and had a blast, but it was a wet one for sure! I was in Secret Walls down there for my second year in a row and had a kick ass team: Hueman, LoloYS, Caratoes, Nychos, Topo and more- and won for my second year in a row! Booyeah! ;). One of the big highlights was working on the Wander and Wayfare wall with the ladies… Daniel Rocha from Rocha Gallery in SF and Hueman came together and curated a group of the most incredible street/mural ladies and we had a show together in SF. They brought us all together again in Miami do wrap a building and do a huge collaborative building piece. The ladies include Starfighter, Tatian Suarez, Caratoes, Hueman, Amanda Lyn, Lolo YS and myself. They’re really a killer group of women and I’m so honored to be among them!

Favorite places that you have painted?
Malaysia, Penang with Urban Nation Museum. The people there were soooo excited to have us there painting they would come by with food and drinks and treats- they were just so awesome and kind and loved the art- it made it really amazing.


How is your work evolving?
My work is constantly evolving. I’m not one to settle, ever… so I keep pushing. Right now I’m deep in this tropical floral world- exploring different shapes and also trying to incorporate the idea of making my work more poetic. I love how Dada collage, but putting different things together create a story- so I’m making all hand painted and sprayed collage-esque tropical jungle pieces…. haha.

Collaborative projects in the works?
I love collaborating with people or companies- it pushes me to think outside of the box in a way that I can’t push myself on my own… I currently have a poster for sale in every single Ikea worldwide… I just did a piece for Halsey – The New Americana- Press release opening for her upcoming show at Madison Square Garden… I have a couple really big collaborative projects coming up soon but unfortunately I can’t talk about them yet!


How was it working with Martha Cooper?
Martha is awesome! She’s such an inspiration to me- for all of the work she has done and all of the work that she continues to do! She has a work ethic like no other, is constantly traveling, and is passionate about her work. I was so honored to do a show with her, the two of us took over a massive warehouse building a few years ago and had a collaborative show together and it was huge! I adore her.

You’re from Bay Area Cali – how has your work changed since you’ve been living in NY?
I actually didn’t really get into street/graff/murals until moving to the East coast… so I would have to say that honestly the west coast has had a minimal influence on my work at this point… that said, I’m going to LA for the winter this year and I’ll be interested to see if I have any crazy new influences out there!

So why did you finally decide to show your face?
You know, for a while I was doing A LOT of illegal graffiti… scaling billboards and painting them, painting buildings 30-50 foot high with fire extinguishers filled with paint, tagging… lots… and doing street art, so it didn’t make sense for me to be showing my face. At this point, when I’m sitting on scaffolding or a lift painting a large mural and people can come up to me and talk with me and take photos- it doesn’t make sense for me to be hiding anymore, I was feeling silly doing interviews with a mask on! haha. Also- if I am doing illegal work I have to be caught in the act anyways, so I don’t feel terribly constrained. Oh P.S. officer- It wasn’t me.


Favorite music? What inspires you?
Right now I’m obsessed with Asap Rocky’s LSD song- I keep listening to it over and over on repeat. I’m also super into Fever Ray, The Knife, Die Antword (love), my friend Cat King’s mixes (dj)… Grimes, Drake, Selena Gomez… I have a pretty broad spectrum that I listen to.

Your inspiration for the new print? Why did it take you so long to do a print release Of it?
Haha. Good question! Why did it take me so long to finally do a print release of the ELLE Tattoo Girl and a limited Edition Print of the ELLE poster?! Let’s just say I’m better at doing work in the studio and wanting to put work up on the street than being organized and business minded and trying to sell work! I’m on a major learning curve– I still just want to make work and put up- but I’m learning to figure out how to balance and make pieces available for people as well- especially prints and affordable art that anyone can get.

If you could work with anyone who would it be?
Oof. I would have to say Wangechi Mutu. She’s an incredible contemporary artist. I’m in love with her work. It is raw and poetic and just awe inspiring.


Favorite ice cream flavor?
Rainbow Sherbet baby!

What was the last exotic place you painted, how is the street art culture different?
Hmm… I just got back from painting in Iceland with Icelandic Airwaves and Urban Nation Museum in Berlin– it was so so beautiful, but very wet and cold. It was raining, hailing, and snowing while we were painting… so it was challenging, but it was a really fantastic experience. I was partnered up with an Icelandic band called Ulfur Ulfur, which means Wolf Wolf- which is perfect as I’ve had a theme of wolves/coyote throughout my work for years. I was painting this wall in the middle of Reykjavic and overnight I was leaving my scissor lift with all of the paint on raised up all the way, right? So I would get out of the lift, put the key in and raise it up to the sky for safekeeping of the paint at night. So day three I get to my lift in the morning, put in the key and bring it down, only to find that my paint is GONE. Immediately I text the local crew- I had been connected by my friend Nev in hopes that we could paint together– so I text them being like- yo, I know it’s a small island- please help me figure out who stole my paint. So a few hours later two of the top dudes from the crew roll over in a van and they’re like- We found out who stole your paint, and I’m like, Oh word- who? And they’re like- we grabbed him and he’s in the cage in the back of the van, you wanna talk to him? They had actually kidnapped the dude and brought him to me. That was pretty next level. Let’s just say I have fam in Iceland now. lol.

Did you paint with Shep and Cyrcle’s and all those guys?
Yeah! I was in Berlin this summer when Urban Nation’s Yasha Young and Stolen Space had a jointly curated show. Shepard, Cyrcle, Maya Hayuk, The London Police, Word to Mother, D Face myself and a few others were all painting walls outside around the museum. It was really awesome because we all had a week to chill and spent a lot of time chatting and hanging out- and it was really dope to see everyone’s different styles of working.

What are you working on now and what’s coming up?
I’m about to head to LA where I’m getting a studio for the winter, I’m working on putting together a big solo for the next year. It’s time. It’s been  a while. I’m pretty stoked on it! That will also mean good weather- so painting outside around LA this winter will be sick.  I am also being featured in a new art magazine caller Sold Mag… I interview one of my favorite Brooklyn street artists GILF!… so much fun!


Who’s your favorite lawyer?
Matthew Eller?! Obviously 😉 haha

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