EliOli (Elena & Olivia Ceballos)

Where did you girls grow up and when did you decide to become artists? Did one of you two get into art first or it's always been a common interest?
We've moved around quite a bit when we were younger, but Southeast Georgia has been our home for the longest amount of time. It seems that all young children like to draw, but as you get older, it either sticks with you or it doesn't. Around the age of 4, our parents started noticing that our interest in drawing was more than just scribbling at school. We were scribbling anywhere and everywhere! It was nothing impressive, by all means, but it felt like drawing was always a part of our lives early on. Not all twins follow the same path, but we were always very close, so the creative energy was always being exchanged. It’s a good thing we really enjoy each other’s company, or this whole art thing may have never worked out! We definitely give each other credit for the endless amount of encouragement, even if we were just drooling on each other at the time.

Did you go to an art school or are you self-taught? How did you develop your skills?
We would say that we’re self-taught. In our pre-teen years, growing up in the rural parts Georgia didn't offer as many of the artistic opportunities other kids had. There was only one art class in town, and we were the only attendees. The lessons didn't cater towards anything animation or illustration related. And that only lasted for 3 weeks in the summertime. Our school didn't have art classes either. A lot of our “lessons” were from the internet, or Art of Books that we would purchase with money that we saved up from doing chores around the house! BlogSpot, when it was in its hay-day, was our main source of inspiration. We could have spent days looking at industry professional portfolios and watching any tutorials we could find online. Before we had iPhones, we would print references out on paper, and file them away in an organized, plastic folder and carry it with us to school. We attended a local college for about a year to earn credits (nothing art related) so we could transfer them over to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). But that didn't go as planned since we only attended 3 weeks of school before we were pulled to work for DreamWorks. But we've been pretty happy with that decision!

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Our parents have always been great supporters our artistic pursuits. But it's a question we asked them, and ourselves, from time to time. Wasn't it risky for anyone to encourage us to pursue a career that many believe isn't ''stable'' enough? Parents are typically supposed to be supportive of their dreams and proud of their child's accomplishments, but were they just being nice and are actually blind to any artistic quality? (They're both teachers and NOT visual artists, so we're not trying to discredit their ability to judge, but they have to be proud no matter what, right? Hah! Sorry mom and dad. No hard feelings?) They clued us in, being aware of all the encouraging feedback we were receiving online and from teachers, so it gave them some reassurance that we were heading in the right direction. We've been blessed to have had the support that our family has given us!

What was the strongest influence that both of you had when you were growing up (artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc...)?
''Avid'' movie watchers isn't a term we would use to describe ourselves, but we had the normal exposure to animated movies and watched a lot of Nickelodeon or whatever was on T.V. at the time. Picture books was a lot of our childhood reading material, although in contained the lack of actual words. By the time we were 7, DreamWorks released Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and is the film that ultimately inspired us to work in animation. (Yes, it was NOT a Disney film!) The DVD also had some behind-the-scene features of the animation pipeline. It looked so exciting and we wanted to be a part of it! As Christians, 2001 was the same year we gave our lives to Christ, so it makes the connection to discovering a new passion even more special to us.

What goes through your mind when you are designing? Do you share the same expectations regarding the final look of an artwork when you're working on it?
The final piece looks like nothing and everything you imagined all at once, if that makes sense. There’s always that general idea of what you want to draw, or how you want to do it, but it never really looks like how you envisioned it in your head. Any artist can attest to that! How we create our art usually involves no expectations. There’s always an expectation of quality, of course, but not the final look. Color, shape, lighting, and mood are always the most present concepts in our work. Building off a splotch of digital paint pixels, however, becomes a search for a story or a scene, which may be obvious to us or can be interpreted differently by the viewer, or vise versa. There are other times where we just draw our own ideas or personal projects. It’s a good balance of intuitive, free-flowing randomness to a more structured world-building and character designing process for the more established ideas that we have.

Do you create your artworks together? How do you plan and organize your workflow?
We work on all of our pieces separately! It would be very difficult to physically work on the same piece together, especially if you have your own unique way of painting something. We sign all of our pictures on the bottom left or right corner with either ''ELI'' or ''OLI'', but you have to look carefully! As for workflow - there is no workflow! We paint what's on our mind and just go for it.

What is your process in coloring your art and what type of tools and media do you use? 
As we started to get more into illustration around the age of 14, our process involved a lot more organization. Our artwork now is a lot more spontaneous, with no real plan and a lot more ''building'' of colors and layers, much like a real painting. Digital work is created in Photoshop CS6 and occasionally Paint Tool SAI. Traditional media is usually just a regular mechanical pencil, a few different colors of Col-erase pencils, cheap watercolors, brush and ink pens, and the good ole' tissue for blending. We recommend the Kleenex brand with infused lotion. It works pretty well!

It's very interesting the way you use light in your illustrations. Do you have any tip to share with our readers about this subject?
Our interest in color and light only happened around 2010, so it wasn't something that was prominent in our earlier work nor did we have a technical understanding of it. We may not be the best people to ask as we still feel like amateurs in a lot of different areas of art, especially in the use of lighting. Our basic understanding of it comes from simple observation! We've never been ones to whip out a sketchbook and paint from life (although everyone recommends it), but we just soak in a lot of different details throughout the day and find certain lighting situations to be fascinating. Photorealism has never been our goal, but what we take in from our eyes, to our brain, and to the final drawing creates a dream-like quality more so than realism. Mood even plays a big part in our art, so recalling certain feelings and capturing the essence of that moment also dictates the lighting, as cheesy as it sounds.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Personally, it's easy to think of something to draw. The hardest part, however, would be knowing when to stop working on a piece before you over-work it. Then you just ruin it!

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
Collaboration with other artists from online is not something we do very often, but we do lots of collaboration with our co-workers in the studio in the efforts to make one big show! Assignments, drawing, more drawing - that’s pretty much how the day goes!

As twins and art partners, what advice/wisdom would you share with an artist who is struggling with an artistic collaboration?
Just knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and although you may think alike most of the time, there will be things that you disagree on. Teamwork all around!

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
Freelancing for a few companies, big and small, made up most of our high school career. We did some freelance for Disney Toon Studios, a short-lived assignment for Universal, and a few things for Nickelodeon. We started working for DreamWorks when we were Nineteen. Fast forward two years later, and we're winding down on the Third season of VeggieTales in the House for Netflix. It's been a blast! As for personal projects, we're always working on something. We're trying to complete another art book and a potential Kickstarter project by the end of this year. We're always staying busy!

What is your long-term career goal and what would your dream project be?
At the end of the day, if we are creating something, then that is our long-term goal. What it is, we will never know until it happens. Anything is possible!

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
At this point in our lives, a studio environment seems fit. But we're not opposed to the idea of working and publishing a few books in the near future, maybe with some freelance on the side. But for now, we like having the company of other people around us and being in a collaborative environment. It keeps us energized and its fun!

What advice would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
The best remedy for us is to NOT force ourselves to draw if we don't feel like it. Always having other creative/productive outlets like baking, relaxing, cleaning, or just going for a walk does your mind a lot of good. There're many sources out there that suggest you ''draw'' your way out of it, but just like your body, you can't wear yourself out exercising, even if it’s good for you. Your brain needs the rest too!

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you're young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
Enjoy being young, first off! As much as we loved drawing, we didn't try to start making a job out of a passion. At one point, we really wanted to be animators, but we ended up appreciating visual development and illustration a whole lot more! (Animating was too time consuming and we weren’t very good at it.) It's good to be driven, but also good to be open to a lot of the different opportunities an art career can offer. There’s still some time for exploration! That’s the beauty of art, (and being young!)

Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
Absolutely not! In fact, a lot of our freelance gigs were only possible because we had a wide variety of styles on our blog that different studios liked. We love dabbling in different styles or trying out different techniques. Variety keeps the creative juices flowing, and allows more open doors for opportunities. Although there’s nothing wrong with having a distinctive style, experimentation isn’t bad either! We believe that your personal flair is always there, so you still have the best of both worlds.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
There are many artists we've drawn inspiration from over the years, but as we grow artistically, our inspirations expand. We're definitely drawn to simple shape language with subtlety in detail, like textures or patterns. Eyvind Earle and Klimt are great examples of this. There’s something about simplicity that can be complex and hard to master. That’s definitely an area of art we want to be better at!

Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
Our work can be found on Tumblr ( elioli-art.tumblr.com ), Twitter ( @ELIOLICeballos ), Instagram ( @elioliart ). Our online store is on Bigcartel ( elioliart.bigcartel.com ) We're currently lacking an actual, professional portfolio at the moment, so don't be surprised if you do find some less-serious work as well!

Finally, which one of you is the evil twin (and how many times you have been asked this question)?
We're identical as far as we know. You have to be tested for that, but we like to believe that we are identical. There’s always a few differences, but we’re alike in a lot of ways, physically, mentally, and occupationally! Good or evil? That's up for people to decide. The question? More than we could count!

Thank you both :)