Having grown up in Mexico City, studying at Falmouth University and now living in London, perhaps it's natural that Elena Boils is an artist concerned spaces, place and nature.

We spoke with Elena about spaces, bodies, the approach she takes with her work and her sketchbooks.  

I’m really into the contrast between architectural spaces and natural forms. A combination between the rigid lines of a room or a building and the curved forms of nature. As for surreal creations I really like images that seem somehow surreal. I think folk art and stories influenced me early on and I loved the idea of an image being able to represent what can only be imagined.

In regards to spaces, do you prefer to work in one space - London, for example - or do you find inspiration from changing locations? 

The places I go to always influence the kind of work I'm creating. Consciously of subconsciously I always pick elements that I see from different places and work them into images.

Public spaces in general usually interest me - museums, libraries, hospitals. I really like big spaces and grand buildings. I think architecture always inspires me for a location in which to base an image, even if it's just taking in a small feature or a corner. 

As a whole I don't have a building that I could pick out as being a favourite. I like modern architecture like the Barbican but I also really enjoy more classical buildings too. I mostly like to look at different components and then incorporate them into something else. I go through stages of being interested in things, like stairs or windows. 

Your work for the Wellcome Trust shows different blood types. Are you interested in the body? If so, could you tell us a bit more about the significance of this?

Absolutely, I wrote my BA dissertation on medical illustration and its necessity in understanding the human body, I've always been keen on scientific illustrations both in a decorative and informative way.

My main line of thought was that because investigating the human body is understanding the thing which we understand with, there was a necessary detachment and abstraction that had to be mediated by an image. Either because of the physical necessity ( one cannot look into oneself or another whilst alive) and because of the emotional/ moral aspect of the subject matter. In order to investigate anatomy we had to draw and dissect the human body, something which wasn’t always accepted therefore slowing or muting progress in medical research. I thought it was really interesting that we could never really observe internally without an image of our own body and what effect this had on the history of medical illustration.

It's something that I want to explore more in future work, I think I've concentrated a lot on space without figure, but it's something I am really interested in. 

Those images for the Wellcome are interesting actually. One was about the different blood types and myths surrounding them, and the second on the effect the design in a hospital had on the well being of the patients. 

What's in your sketchbook at the moment? What project are you working on next? 

I keep two sketchbooks, a neat one and a messy one. The messy one is where I come up with ideas and whatever crazy things I need to put down. The second is where I do detailed drawings, both personal and for commissions and roughs for future work. This way I feel like I can have stages to the way I work and feel like things get developed.  


At the moment I'm working on some illustrations for a furniture company. The feel is very mid century design, I'm really enjoying this project, working with interior design and space. So far it's on the very early stages so I'm only working on research and initial ideas.

Whenever I do an image I start with rough ideas of composition and colour. Colour is always something I like to start with, for some reason it gives me an idea of what the image is going to look like. Then I think about the theme, context etc.. And look into the main idea for the image. For example with the blood type article, I was looking at old textbooks for inspirations as well as abstract patterns. 


Check out her portfolio here