Emma Russell is an illustrator who has worked very closely with Old Tat magazine since issue 01! We decided to chat with her before her latest work for us comes out in issue 03!
“I’m an illustrator specialising in contemporary, figurative drawings, flat colour and patterns. I also make 3D paper sculptures. I think my work is fairly straightforward. I try to make things that can be simply understood on the surface, even if there is something deeper or more ambiguous going on underneath. If someone doesn’t like it I’m not going to hold them at gun point over it. If I’m working to a brief then the client and their audience is the first thought. Otherwise, I create work for myself initially and personality aspects of people I know or have chatted to. Things that inspires me include stories, overheard conversation, reading, friends, interesting colour combinations, landscape and wildlife, the news, walking and train travel. My creativity began (it’s a cliché to say childhood isn’t it?) but I’m going to. Drawing and making stuff out of other stuff was everything. I was fascinated by how different materials worked and tried out metals, clays, paper, card, plaster, fabric, rubber etc. My work trajectory isn’t straight so far. I really didn’t like school, so it took a few years to consider higher education. In the end I studied Fine Art at Plymouth University, then ran off to have an adventure in New York instead of graduating. I moved to London where I’ve been ever since. I ended up working full time at an art school, which was great, but I had almost stopped making my own work. I realised this made me miserable so I started making again, spent a year or so developing my work, then took some intensive workshops. That was three years ago now. I quit the day job last year to concentrate on illustration and art. It’s still early days, but I have never worked so hard, it’s great! I have developed hardcore procrastinating skills and my kettle boiling abilities are second to none. I also really believe that the more you draw, the better you get. Practice, practice, practice. I like a colour you really want to sink you teeth into or reach out into. I think a lot of people find colour quite emotive, so I want to make chewy, licky, touchy colour. My pet colours come from mid 20th century interiors like mustard, burnt orange, teal, mint, chartreuse and a range of greys. Plus if I’m honest my 80s childhood was when the acidy pastels seeped in, alongside even more greys. A colourful grey gives me the warm fuzzies every time. Everyone’s art is unique as we’re all just turning out bits of our brains for inspection. I often make work about unlikely champions, jokes and puns, memory, animals, fairytales and stories. The worst part about being an artist is uncertainty. Is this any good? Where’s the next job coming from? Where is all this crap in my head coming from and what if it goes away? Will I be a success and what does that even mean? But it is also exciting. You never know what’s around the corner. The dream? I had this scary one about weasels on horseback. The good dream is pretty much taking over the world really, in a nice way. I’d like more editorial work, some advertising work (billboards, posters, TV, imagine!), cards and gift-wrap, a range of homewares, fabrics, jewellery and accessories, having my prints stocked in stores worldwide. Oh and I’d love to do a window display, I’ve always wanted to get my hands on doing some kind of paper set design, and I really love books – book illustration too. I dream of being offered lots of varied opportunities to make more stuff. First and foremost I’m always looking for more great clients. Recently, I’ve been lucky to have a corporate client who has been amazing to work with. Their humour and their willingness to allow me a pretty free reign within their requirements was lovely. I’d love to find some more like that!”
Words by Loo Loo Rose