Meet the artist: Camdenist X Ellis

Kicking off a new project to showcase local creatives who we ask to design limited edition tees exclusively for Camdenist readers

Ellis Bertram is the first artist in our Camdenist X t-shirt series, featuring designs inspired by personal experiences of living in the borough. The sixteen-year-old has lived in Camden all her life and drew iconic places that remind her of home, including Hampstead Heath, the Owl Bookshop, Forbidden Planet Megastore and the route of her short commute to school.

Ellis sketched some ideas in a notebook (pictured) before designing in Photoshop. “There were a few ideas I scrapped because I realised I should probably turn down the gross factor on something that’s going to be on a t-shirt,” she admits. “I initially had ideas about hearts and road maps and veins.”

The yellow shape traces the map outline of the borough and she chose the colour because it’s bright, warm and makes her think of lying in the sun. The person reading the newspaper was mostly an artistic choice, although Ellis confesses she didn’t want to have to draw a face at that angle, “foreshortening is not something I have a full grasp of yet and I’d rather cover it up than mess it up!”

 ✅ Ellis Recommends

Book: Welcome to Nightvale (originally a podcast) by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, or On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Film: Princess Mononokee by Studio Ghibli

Song: Once Around the Block by Badly Drawn Boy

Ellis mainly creates digital artwork but also enjoys painting, wants to branch out into sculpture and aspires to be a graphic novelist. “A lot of my art is about glimpses into people’s lives, feelings or experiences. I like zooming in on a specific moment and asking, ‘what’s happening here?’”

For inspiration, Ellis looks to graphic novelists like Tillie Walden and Bryan Lee O’Malley. “I like comics because you can create a palpable emotion. I’m trying to chase that with my art.” Music also inspires her. Often when she’s drawing she will write song lyrics in speech bubbles in the corner. “Again with music, it pins down an emotion and a scene that you can have fun with.”

In her spare time, when she isn’t “low on motivation, low on money, low on time”, Ellis enjoys combat robotics which, to the uninitiated, involves building small robots within a set of restrictions that then battle each other. It’s a bit like Robot Wars but on a very small scale – around 150 grams.

Ellis’ top Camden hangouts… ❤

Caliendo’s Ice Cream, Kentish Town Rd: “I went every day during last summer’s heatwave. The queue was horrible, hot and sticky, but I really enjoy it. I’m also a fierce mint chocolate chip defender.”

Carrots + Daikon, Highgate Rd: “I have a joke with a friend that it can be technically illegal to fly kites in London (under the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act) so the first thing we’re going to do when we can meet after lockdown is fly a kite on Parliament Hill. Then we’re going to get Vietnamese food from this amazing little place.”

During her GCSEs, she went through a phase of feeling like if she wasn’t performing well academically or making the things she wanted to then she wasn’t good at anything. “you can and are going to suck at things sometimes, or at least you are going to be average at things, and you’re going to have to deal with it. It’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t always expect more from yourself. We are inherently social animals and society doesn’t have to be defined on an axis of who is better or who is the best. There shouldn’t be a push from any group that there has to be one winner, nobody should judge themselves on these metrics. I guess the thing it comes down to is don’t judge yourself. Don’t put yourself down for not doing something and don’t put other people down.”

Finally, we ask Ellis if she has any memories that sum up her experience of life in this part of the world. “I was once helped out of a mosh pit at the Electric Ballroom by a guy in a Hawaiian shirt with two lip piercings and I feel like that is quite Camden, whatever that really means.”

Want to Collaborate?

If you have a design idea for a t-shirt, you can pitch it to us at team@camdenist.com. Please include a short description of yourself, your idea and any examples of previous work.

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