ELIZA SVIKULIS

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You’re ¼ of the typographic girl gang “The Letterettes” - Can you please introduce yourself and share what you have gotten out of being a part of The Letterettes?

Hello! I’m Eliza, a lettering all-rounder from Melbourne. You may know me for my hand-painted signs, graphics/ branding, illustration, live-work with the ‘Ettes or pimped-out jackets (as “Back at Cha”). Or perhaps, if you’ve been following on for a while (Hi Mum!), you’d even recognise me as a former winner of Saturday Disney’s “Letter of the Week” in 1999!

So proud of what we’ve created in our pink-bomber-donning, brush-pen-wielding gang of letter-lovers, The Letterettes. I’ve gained so much experience through our partnership; in matters of business, constant remote communication, professional skills, collaboration and best of all, emotional support. 

Where do you see yourself and your art headed in the next few years?

I’m keen to continue the path I’m on - developing my lettering, painting and illustration through an exploration of multiple mediums and applications (with a range of clients). Add to that some product creation, an exhibition or two, travel, perhaps a publication or another side business? I wouldn’t rule out further education and/or teaching either. 


Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way? (Personally or professionally)

Yes, lots. When you’re a full-time freelance artist there’s no separating the personal from the professional. That in itself is probably the biggest challenge! To have a “off” day at work, and have no objective distance from it since you play both roles; employee and boss. So on one hand while you feel justified and deserving of a break, the other says, ‘Get back to work!’. No such thing as guilt - free procrastination over here! 
And then there’s all the business know-how! 6 years down and still learning-from-experience makes for a new challenge everyday! 


What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why? 

Well, if the amount of times I’ve rewritten my response to this question is anything to go by… hell yes, I’ve struggled! “Body” and “Confidence” don’t typically belong in a sentence together for me, but the evolution has started. I’d love to say I’m all-in with preaching (and believing!) function over form; even better if I could whole-heartedly appreciate both. I’ve been so conditioned to outside pressures and expectations of appearance (and the value placed on that), that I’ve purposely focused all my life on blocking out that noise and built my confidence in other attributes. The truth is, some of my favourite labels don’t carry my size, and that sinking change room feeling of literally not fitting in is a hard one to combat. It’s great to see the wider conversation shifting somewhat, and I hope to be an active participant in the change instead of running away from the conversation all together!


What’s your favourite part about your body and why? 

My eyebrows deserve a shout-out. I put them through a lot in early highschool, and they came through it like a pair of champs!

Since Praise You started in 2017 we’ve started to see a shift in the conversation with creative women, being more open about their journey and eliminating competition - Have you noticed this yourself and have you ever dealt with competition? 

For sure! I am naturally quite the over-sharer which can leave me feeling quite vulnerable if others aren’t as transparent with me, so I try to surround myself with like-minded people. Thankfully, I was also raised to be genuinely happy for others achievements and I believe we’re all on an individual journey, so if ever thoughts of comparison try to invade my brain, I’m very strict with blocking them out.    


How do you deal with the dreaded comparison bug?

I actively ignore comparison, and I encourage others to do the same! Your goals and your achievements are your own. There’s enough work for all of us. And tread lightly with social media.  

What’s your idea of empowerment?

Being fully charged with the knowledge of what I stand for and what I have to offer.


What inspires your style of art? What are the best ways you've found that have refined your practice? 

Vintage advertising, ghost signs, childhood memories and pop culture, grit/texture (some evidence of the maker’s mark), and a cheeky tone of voice. 

Since my work is generally centred around a phrase - I sit with the words for a while, and let the feeling in those inform the drawing style. My practice has always been brainstorm, rough layout play, sketch, sketch again, trace... But over the years advances in tech have allowed me to speed up those processes. Where I used to draw everything in pencil on paper and use a lightbox to make adjustments before scanning in a final sketch/ trace only the final artwork digitally… I’m now almost always working digitally from the very first stage!

I’ve also learnt to trust in the creative process - to plant the seed, or have a huge brainstorm sesh (verbally with a studio mate) or thought-dump on paper, then intentionally walk away from it and trust that the bolt of “concept” lightning will strike while I focus on something else. Works every time!


Do you have any mantras or words to live by?

GO (Once I GET going, I have the drive to KEEP going… but I often need help with that first push out the metaphorical, and physical door!)

‘No one cares!’ I know this one sounds a bit depressing - but I use it to liberate myself from that trap of worrying the whole world is watching my every micro-move, or is somehow aware of all the ways I wish I could change a piece once it’s “done”. 


What’s been one of your most memorable jobs?

Collaborating with star AFLW forward Darcy Vescio on the Carlton Football Club Gamechanger’s clash guernsey ticked all the boxes. Super detailed illustration applied to an unusual canvas / wearable art. Working closely with the team to ensure the illo celebrated the moments during their inaugural season that meant most to them personally. Seeing a bunch of little girls wearing the jumper as they travelled towards Princes Park to watch a game. Having the coach (and a whole bunch of players) personally reach out to me to thank me for the work. And then being consulted for a list of other local female illustrators to pass the baton on to for the next guernsey. Tick! tick! tick! tick!


What the biggest risk you’ve taken to date? What were the pressure points and was it worth it?

One risk I took was outlining a full case-study/ pricing comparison and declaration (with FIGURES!) during my Typism conference talk in 2017. Up until that point (and sadly, still true) I’ve not witnessed a peer so openly share their rate. Risky, because that rate has since upped, and also because I was very aware that due to the nature of our “hush hush” culture and the somewhat subjective value of our work, I could only provide insight into my own practice - which was built from personal experience! I hope it was worth it in the sense that I inspired an audience, largely full of fresh-faced freelancers to know their worth from the moment they step out into industry, and I’d like to think it encouraged artists to be more transparent with each other about money matters, specifically.  I also danced around on stage with maracas during the speech, so there’s that.


How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create? 

I have a busy mind, but I’m also most inspired in that state. So I’ll go for a walk past a strip of shops or deep dive into a second-hand book store. I’m most driven by mixing current thoughts and ideas/ phrases that speak to my own experience with influence from letterforms that exist in a time and place away from my screen.  I definitely experience burn-out moments or periods where I have little motivation… but I try to just ride that wave, because when the ideas inevitably come flooding back in, I can’t draw them quickly enough!

What or who have been some of your main creative influences?

My first love, Neil Buchanan of ‘Art Attack’. Seriously, I still use some of the illustration effects he taught in that show today! My grandmother was an art teacher in her hey-day and dabbled in calligraphy and sewing, so visiting her house as a child felt like being on the set of ‘Playschool’ too. I carried a copy of ‘The Coles Picture Book’ with me everywhere, which was full of etching-style illustrations and poems and must’ve watched Willy Wonka/Sound of Music/ Wizard of Oz a thousand times. I also distinctly remember staring up at the local fish and chips menu board (lettering and chalk illustrations with gradient!) in awe. 

Who’s work are you currently loving right now and why?

I’m constantly inspired by the attitude-to-work of mates, Ellen Porteus and Giulia McGauran. Both have endless positivity and patience with clients, are forever pushing their own practices with experimentation and take the time to collaborate and champion each other and so many women in our industry. And naturally, create incredible work as well! I also have heart-eyes-emoji for absolutely everything bedazzled by Rachel Burke, as well as respect for her business-mind and the way she has positioned her craft. 

Thanks for having me, Praise You.

Girls rule! (and boys drool)


Website: backatchapatches.com

Instagram: eliza_svikulis / back.at.cha / theletterettes

Email: eliza1@live.com.au

Anything else: Check out the “Typism Skills Summit” if you’re interested in taking my online workshop: “Inspiration Investigation: A workbook to help you figure out YOUR signature style”.

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