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I have always drawn instinctively; it is my default method of expression. I make art from a combination of observation and imagination. I believe each portrait is a method of communication of what it is to be human.

I started to make documentary films in 2016, when I discovered how to give a film-like quality to my images. All of my art is autobiographical, and since the pandemic most of it has been sketched and drawn from journals. The journal for me is the medium of growth in which to make observations about the inner world; I have been keeping them since I was a young child. I’m now a journalist and screenwriter and I live in London, United Kingdom. I see my art practice as a necessity to function and create in other ways.

Lisa: When did you first start making documentaries? How did you get into it? What were you doing before that?

Eleanor: I first started making documentaries in 2016, and it was a renaissance for me because I realized how I could combine my passion for imagery and words into one. I got onto an MA degree at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I specialized in ethnographic filmmaking and first experimented with cameras. I made my dissertation film in Palestine and Israel and it won an award for Human Spirit in the USA in 2019. Before that, I worked as an administrator for a TV program and was also an English language teacher in the Middle East. I was a student for much of my twenties. I have studied anthropology, art history, archaeology, and literature. I did a year-long course at art school after I left high school.

Lisa: Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?

Eleanor: I went to the exhibition of Paula Rego at Tate Britain in London the other week. She is one of my all-time favorite contemporary artists, and it was thrilling to see her work displayed according to a period of her life. I have always drawn from her, I love how she plays with the themes of the subconscious to articulate vivid and dynamic scenes. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is also one of my favorite current screenwriters. ‘Fleabag’ on the BBC essentially created a new format of storytelling on screen, I love the boldness with which she writes. My partner, Harry, inspires me every day.

Lisa: What is the most challenging aspect of documentary filmmaking?

Eleanor: The pandemic has been hard for any filmmaker or artist. For most of this year, I have had to temporarily shift my focus. I’ve almost finished a documentary I made last year in lockdown. That was made a struggle naturally through restriction of movement, a lot of the footage is of sky views from my balcony. The message of the film should also be what drives it, and articulating that central message can be the most challenging thing.

Lisa: You say all of your art is autobiographical. What is the process of you envisioning the film to the final product?

Eleanor: My art is the most personal of any of my work because it is drawn directly from my emotions. I can let observations about the world and others emerge through a camera lens of their own accord: pencil and paint always carry something emotionally expressive of the artist. All my creative work is humanistic and in portraits, I do my best to capture something of the person. During lockdown I returned to making self-portraits, having not worked with this form for a long time. I think I wanted to explore my own narrative, see where the next direction would take me, drawing myself was part of that process. Filmmaking, writing, and art are just different forms of narrative expression, story-telling. I tell my story and others’ through my work, and in that sense, I don’t believe in the ‘final product’ as such, because that narrative is ongoing.

Lisa: Share some interesting facts about your art with us.

Eleanor: From a very young age, I always wanted to write and illustrate books. I think the journal-led style of my work very much reflects this. I illustrated a children’s book in English and Arabic on commission for a friend in the Palestinian territories. These days I also often draw portraits to solidify the appearance of the characters in my writing projects. When drawing a character I usually draw from memory on people I know, so it might look like them but not quite, to represent a whole new fictional person. Learning photoshop and filmmaking software completely transformed my relationship to my work, where I could layer my artwork like a film.

Lisa: You are also a journalist and screenwriter, how is that going so far?

Eleanor: I started formal training as a journalist in March this year, as of December I will complete the qualification. Before the pandemic, I worked as a Media Researcher for independent production companies, and a PR company. I want to work to produce factual and documentary content for broadcast. As for screenwriting, that has been a passion project turned career path. I established a script business in early 2020, subsequently, lockdown and furlough allowed me the time to devote to writing again. My TV pilot screenplay made award-finalist in the New York International Screenplay Awards 2021, and London International Screenplay Awards 2020. I am not yet produced but I certainly hope to be in the future.

Lisa: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Eleanor: That I’m adept at capturing emotion. A friend I made while traveling once messaged me to tell me that my art was a reason and motivation for him to keep drawing. I like to use art to communicate with people, and many people I care about have received some sort of artwork from me as a gift.

Lisa: What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your work?

Eleanor: My website is www.eleanorveness.com otherwise you can message me on Instagram.

Lisa: Do you see art serving a purpose beyond art?

Eleanor: In my opinion, art is as functional and integral to our lives as much as it serves as a tool with which to reflect on and playfully engage in the world. There’s a community aspect to creative practice, whether that means shooting an interview for a film or doing a painting and then sharing it on Instagram. My writing and film work engages directly with social issues more so. Art’s ‘purpose’ , in terms of my own relationship with it, is more of a necessity for my mental health and general wellbeing. I don’t believe in art as pure ‘aesthetic’, it always has a purpose to communicate something.

Lisa: What’s next for you?

Eleanor: Soon I’ll be a fully qualified journalist. I’m also working on another screenplay for submission to a broadcaster. Otherwise, who knows from there? I’m keeping positive.

Thank you!

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