Featured Artist Emily Taylor
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Featured Artist Emily Taylor

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Our June Featured Artist is Illustrator and Surface Designer Emily Taylor. Emily caught our eye with her vibrant color palette and cottage core style. We chatted with Emily about who she is as an artist. Read on or check out Denik x Emily Taylor.

  1. What has driven you to be an artist?
A tough question and I’m not sure I can put a finger on it. I’ve always had an overwhelming need to capture colour and objects that surround me or fascinate me, and visually regurgitate them onto a page. I get fidgety if I haven’t been able to draw for a few days when life gets busy; the need to create in some form or other drives my very soul, and has done so since the first crayon was gripped in my tiny however-month-old-fist before I could walk. Pencil to paper, colour and form, they bring me life.
 
 
  1. What is your favourite medium to work with?
For a few years now I’ve worked almost exclusively digitally. This came about due to necessity, it realistically is just faster to work digitally, and when you have a heavy client load and/or tight deadlines to turn around, digital work makes everything that much more feasible.
 
Ironically, I used to swear that I would only ever work analogue—acrylic gouache being my former medium of choice—but I feel that while I’ve had to abandon the physical brush, I’ve carried over much of the learnings (the textures, the touch) that I once swore exclusivity to, to the digital page.
 
I feel the humble printer paper and mechanical pencils here need a small shout out too haha! I will always sketch the messiest of sketches out when starting a project or pattern series, to roughly convey the flood of images in my mind at the outset of something new. Nothing beats a pristine stack of white printer paper for messy early sketches! You aren’t precious with them, you can lay them out and mix them around; in terms of loose printer sheets over a bound sketchbook for initial sketches, it’s printer sheets for me every time!
 
 
  1. Do you have a favourite piece? A piece that brought you the most joy to create?
Oh my goodness, this is a bit like trying to pick a favourite child! I don’t let pieces that I am not happy with out into the world, but if there are certain projects I feel perhaps prouder of, yes, there are several. Here are two …
 
The past two years I’ve illustrated, patterned, and written some copy for the George & Viv Holiday capsule collections for Anthropologie, as well as was fortunate enough to dream up and pitch some of the products in the collections (like letter-writing sets, milk bottles and bath bomb sets). Working on product collections that span Beauty-Stationery-Kitchen-Home-and Gift categories are huge undertakings, but they are also so fun and fantastically rewarding. Clients (like Anthro) that believe in collaboration in the truest sense of the word, who welcome suggestions and invite feedback, are absolute treasures!
 
In the midst of the first year of the pandemic, when life for all of us had taken a most confusing, scary and dark turn, I worked with Galison to create a series of cards and a jigsaw puzzle, full of messages of hope and refreshing colours. These florals and messages of positivity popped into the world when we needed colour and cheer the most, and I’d like to think they helped bring people some joy.
 
  1. How do you get through a creative block?
I don’t often have creative blocks, usually it is the opposite for me. I’ve lists upon lists of ideas for pattern collections, creative projects, things I want to illustrate, little books I want to write and create visuals for. When I have time for personal work between client projects, instead of a creative block I find I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the number of ideas I have, and I want to work on all of them, and see them all visually realized, and then I freeze because I cannot decide which to work on first.
 
Eventually I pick one idea, and begin working on it, but find there’s still a certain amount of looking back and wondering if I should work on something else instead. It is a bit of a constant battle to be honest! I find that pushing myself sometimes to do the prep is the hardest part, the sketching phase—not because I don’t like that stage, but because I am already too excited to see the colour come together and I get impatient. Building out colour mood boards and inspiration pages helps though, and I imagine it may help with a creative block as well, as they help hone your ideas into a clearer jumping-off point.
 
  1. What is your biggest dream / goal as an artist?
To bring joy, to evoke memories and sometimes to tell a story. As a creative playing with colour, we have the power to help cheer people up, bring hope, brighten a room or a day. Colour affects emotions and stirs recollections. I lean into the more cheerful palette with my work, and if I can improve someone’s day with some imagery I made, or bring back a sweet memory, then my work is done
 
  1. Is there any particular advice that has fuelled your creative journey? (Words to live by or favourite quotes?)
I believe in creating to the beat of your own drum, and always have. Our creative voices sing clearest and loudest when we create upon topics we are genuinely interested in, and I feel that that interest, that excitement in the subject matter shines in the work and attracts like-minded folk to us.
 
Indulge in your interests—create the decorative for the sake of being decorative, if that’s what makes your heart pitter-patter that much quicker. Professors in my university’s illustration program continuously drilled into us students that our art had to have meaning, it needed to convey a narrative or a message. However, this thinking never sat well with me and I still disagree heartily. For one, it completely disqualifies the entire profession of surface pattern design, which creates employment for so many different creatives in addition to bringing colour and joy to the products that surround us continually in our daily lives.
 
I listen to audio books as I work, often stories I know well—like The Hobbit (a favourite)—but as I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic for the first time two years ago, her words really came home to me. She advocated for “frivolous work” (which, I could concede, decorative work falls under - but not negatively!); she said, “…it’s okay if your work is totally frivolous, that’s allowed. It’s all allowed. Your own reasons to create are reasons enough”. Gilbert continued, “…do whatever brings you to life then, follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them, create whatever causes a revolution in your heart, the rest of it will take care of itself.”
 
So if there’s any advice that has fuelled my creative journey, it was to ignore the the advice so ladled onto us students that our work needed to have deeper allegorical or metaphorical intent. I celebrate, as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently put it, “the frivolous”, and have a deep love and respect for my community of fellow like-minded creatives that have chosen to create for the pure joy of it, and indulge in exploring their interests visually to share with the world.
 
 
  1. Anything else you want us to know?
If I had to put a name to my preferred aesthetic, I would say I lean into modern nostalgia. I’m most drawn to objects from the past, be they grocery packaging or fine china, and tend to incorporate their palettes or very forms into my work. Many items I include have some memory or personal nostalgia attached, and when I can, I like working little elements of my own tale into a pattern or illustration.
 
It brings great happiness when someone else sees one of these vintage objects I’ve recorded and shared, and recounts a remembrance of the same item growing up. I love hearing the stories of others, and I find these shared-object histories enchanting!
 
  1. Where is the best place to view your art?
Right now I’d say Instagram! My website is in the middle of a rebuild and in need of an update (watch for the new site in the fall!); my most recent collaborations and work can be found shared on my IG, @emily_illustrates. Thank you! :)
 

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