In the colour club with mural artist Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa

How she found her passion and why we should all get creative
Common Exception Eloisa Henderson Figueroa
Dreams do come true! London-based artist and creative entrepreneur Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa is proof that you should go after your dreams. With a mission to make the world more exciting and colourful, Eloisa is doing exactly that, one wall at a time with her bright and colourful murals and prints. But it wasn’t always that way. After years of working different jobs, including starting her own clothing business, and feeling like it wasn’t quite working, it was only a few years ago that Eloisa found her passion for murals and a style of her own. With her work now popping up all over the UK and showcased at the Adidas x Creative Debuts exhibition, I caught up with Eloisa to chat about how she found her passion and how she’s inspiring other people to have fun with their own creativity in her Colour Club.
Collage by Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Big, bold, bright and colourful! Full of fun and happiness!

Can you tell me about your background? Did you always know you would be an artist?

I knew that I didn’t want to go into a job of high stress, exams and working so much that I would have no life, because just thinking about it made me anxious. I didn’t necessarily know that that would end up with me being an artist! It just happened. I went from doing a fine art GCSE to fine art A level, where I eventually went on to do my art foundation at Camberwell College of Arts where I specialised in design and craft. I was then advised by my tutor to look at 3D materials practice and 3D design because I liked making things, so ended up at the University of Brighton where I did just that! I specialised in metals and plastics and made toys and games for children with emotional and behavioural problems and absolutely loved the whole experience and the friends I made.

You’ve had quite a few jobs in the creative industry — including your own fashion business — before becoming the artist you are today. Was there a moment that made you realise you needed to move in a particular direction, or did it feel like a natural progression?

I’ve had so many jobs! And all of them never felt right. I knew they weren’t for me but just kept ploughing on, hoping that it would work and I would find what I wanted to do.

Just working for other people and doing crazy long hours for not much reward just wasn’t for me. The only things that kept me going were the people I met. Or the only reason I tried to stay in film and tv was that the pay was really good! But I just realised it wasn’t worth it for me. The long hours, the long commutes, the crap working conditions just weren’t worth it in the end. It was only when I started painting murals more frequently that I realised that I might not have to do these jobs anymore. I finally saw a way for me to live the life that I want, and not have to do jobs that I don’t enjoy. So it naturally progressed and, of course, with a freelance life as an artist you don’t know when your work will dry up, so I’m always aware that this might not last forever, but for now, I am thoroughly enjoying making a living from doing the thing I love and not feeling bad for not working on films as a prop painter. 

Common Excecption Collage by Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa
Kents Hill Park Primary School mural by Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa

Can you tell me about your process when designing a mural?

Depending on whether the client has asked for something specific, I generally start with collaging. It’s a way for me to get things down quickly and experiment with ideas. I look at what is working for me and just make a natural progression towards something I’m really happy with. I then take that onto my iPad where I digitally impose my designs onto the building or wall I’m painting and there I can play around with the scale and colours. Sometimes when I know I have to design something I hype it up so much in my head that I find it really hard to even start because I’m worried it will be rubbish! So that’s when I just have to start from a simple collage and tell myself I’m just having a play, I’m not designing!

You’re passionate about getting other people to get in touch with their creative side. Can you tell me about your other venture Colour Club and how it started?

Colour Club started as a way to offer people a chance to get creative through fun classes where they wouldn’t feel the stress of creating something amazing.

I think basically from when I was a kid up until a few years ago, I always felt this immense pressure to create an amazing painting or a beautiful drawing and it was a style I never enjoyed, so always felt like I was crap at art. Then I discovered collage and realised that this was what worked for me. It was quick, it was simple and I could have results within minutes and I wouldn’t overthink the process. I could just do what felt natural and what felt right. So I wanted other people to feel the benefits of finding something that didn’t require a PhD in art history and was a bit of fun! It has been amazing seeing people’s work after sessions and seeing how much they enjoy making and collaging. Makes me proud to know that I was able to help them find their creativity and make it accessible to them again. 

What do you like most about working for yourself?

That the stress and anxiety you might get from working for someone else is not for anyone else. It’s only for me and only benefits me. The hard work and time I put in isn’t going into someone else’s pocket. It’s going into mine and that is a very special thing. It’s taken so much self-doubt, time and effort to get to a stage where I am just so happy to be doing what I’m doing and doing it for myself. Not many people can say that. It feels good to have finally found my place in the art world and be proud of what I am doing.

Common Exception Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa
Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa painting one of her murals

Who or what inspires you? 

Anything with colour and shape! There’s also something about Art Deco that I find super fascinating and inspiring. It’s the shapes, the extravagance and the beauty of the architecture and design that I think are beautiful. Walking around my area and in London inspires me too. I look out for shapes that I can see and take in my surroundings through my little sketchbook of ideas. I also get inspired by just having a play around with cutting paper and a pen. Just seeing what comes out of my brain!

A huge part of starting and growing a business is having the right mindset. What are some of the things you do to stay motivated?

Getting outside helps my brain. Trying to be creative as often as I can. I find that if I don’t draw or collage, I find myself getting a bit down. As soon as I’ve done something creative I feel so much better. I give myself little collage tasks, which push my ideas and help me see new ways of thinking, which then move my work in a different direction. 

It’s really important to talk about how much our failures shape us, perhaps even more than our successes. Can you tell me about a failure, and what you learnt from it? 

I think that would be starting up my own clothing business where I hand-painted and screen-printed clothing. This was a way for me to try and leave the jobs that I was doing at the time and focus on doing my own thing, but the problem was that that thing wasn’t representing me as a person. I was embarrassed to talk about it and show people and I realise now that it was because it didn’t reflect who I was as a person and my style. I didn’t do particularly well with it, considering the effort and time I put into it, which also made it more soul-crushing. I was inexperienced with running a business and look back on things now and feel sad that I was too silly to notice things that I should have done with it. Obviously now I have perspective on it and have been able to take on that knowledge and apply it to my work now, and am now screen printing my designs which sell really well. It’s been a confidence boost and I swore I would never make clothing again, but here I am, still screen printing! But I guess now I’m only making things that I would wear and making things that I’m not embarrassed to show people. I’ve learnt that you should only do things you love and put time into things that mean something to you, otherwise it’s wasted time and doesn’t help you.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their journey?

Try and develop your style as much as you can by just creating, making and putting your work out there in the world for everyone to see. Instagram is brilliant for this! Only make things you are proud of and things you love, because it is a representation of you as a person. 

What’s next for you?

To keep painting as many murals as I can so I can continue doing this full time. Collaborate with people and keep spreading joy through colour!

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