Interview Illustrator Emma Carpendale

Emma Carpendale learned her trade with an Illustration course at The University of Northampton, she fully immerses herself in her craft and design work. Since graduating in 2010 she has been on the path to success and has freelance work on the go as well as working with the Edge Arts Collective.

Who is Emma Carpendale?

I’m a freelance Illustrator and i’m totally obsessed with drawing, design, art and craft. I graduated in 2010 and since I’ve been pursuing a freelance career while working part-time. I’m also chairperson of an art group called Edge Arts Collective. We do a mixture of exhibitions and projects and our next project is a month long series of drawing workshops for The Big Draw in October.

Talk to us a little more about Edge Arts Collective, what is it all about?

Edge Arts Collective is an art group made up of eight arts alumni from The University of Northampton. We started the group a year ago and have exhibited twice so far and have held one children’s art workshop. Our disciplines range from painting, print making, photography, illustration and sculpture and we are all interested in collaborations and engaging the community with art.

We have two sides to the group, Projects and Exhibitions. The Projects side is mostly organised mostly by myself and Edge member Ann Crearie, with the majority of the Exhibitions organised by the rest of the group. Our next event is a month long series of drawing workshops in October for The Big Draw. If successful, we will carry these on throughout the year.

What first sparked your interest in the creative industries? Which route through education did you choose to follow?

I have always been creative and artistic for as long as I can remember, although it took a while for me to realise I had the potential to earn a living from it. I started illustrating my first picture book at the age of 17 and then the bug really took hold. I drew as much as I could, mostly characters and greetings cards for friends and family and this formed the beginnings of a portfolio. I did an art and design course at my local college and then after a year’s break went on to study BA Illustration at The University of Northampton.

What did you learn the most from your time at The University of Northampton? Would you advise students today to go to university for their design education?

I learnt a range of skills and techniques while studying at The University of Northampton. they have a great facilities in the fine art studios so I was able to try out a range of printing techniques such as etching and screen printing, as well as 3D modelling and various photographic techniques. I also learnt how to use different computer software programs such as Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator which I use a lot in my work now. I think the most important skills learnt were interpersonal and communication skills as I’ve been able to transfer these across not only my freelance work, but in my additional jobs and just in day-to-day life. I think this is what a lot of people gain the most from higher education and that’s why I would definitely advise people to go to University.

What were the biggest lessons you learnt in your design education?

Although I learnt technical skills such as printmaking and basic photography and honed my skills in drawing and my use of digital software, the most important thing I learnt was how important people are in being a successful and fulfilled creative or freelancer. I was fortunate to have some amazing tutors who shared their passions and experience in the art and design industry with me and I learnt a lot from them. While studying it was great to be amongst people who were just as passionate about Illustration as I was and i’m still connected with many of these people now. I learn from these people all the time.

Which designers are you inspired by the most?

There are so many! How do I choose! Well, the first illustrators I was inspired by and whose work I loved the most growing up was Quentin Blake, Korky Paul and E.H Shepard. Their illustrations just looked so effortless and had so much character in just a few simple lines and brushstrokes. Since then I have been inspired by many illustrators, designers and artists. One person I go back to again and again is Dave McKean. I’ve always been fascinated by his chameleon like approach and how he hasn’t allowed himself to be pigeonholed as an illustrator. I hope to work on many types of projects some day just like McKean has and he is a constant inspiration to me.

Other illustrators and artists that inspire me are Oliver Jeffers, Shaun Tan, David Roberts, Ronald Searle, Marco Wagner, The Quay Brothers and Jon Klassen to name a few!

What is it about the work of Dave McKean that inspires you the most? Which pieces are your favourite & why?

It’s hard to choose as all his work has merits. I’m inspired by how he constantly experiments with new styles and techniques. I was always most drawn to his multi layered collage techniques as they were so visually rich and added substance to the stories he would illustrate. One of my favourite graphic novels he illustrated was Signal to Noise that was written by Neil Gaiman. It’s about a film writer who is dying of cancer and it documents the final days of his life. When I first saw this Graphic Novel I was blown over by the artistic talent McKean had and how proficient he was in so many mediums. He uses a change in medium to show a change in mood, time of day or place and it’s so effective.

I’ve also been inspired by McKeans children’s book illustrations. His first was The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish and it was novel in that the style of illustration he used were so different to most types of children’s books. It made me realise it’s possible to break to mould in a genre that for the most part is so stuck in tradition.

Which other publications both online and print, do you read on a regular basis?

I dip in and out of printed magazines as they are usually so expensive! But I usually go for Creative Review, Varoom, Computer Arts and Digital Arts magazines and these have really good online content which means I don’t have to buy the printed mags very often.

I also read various blogs (including this one of course!) and keep up with news and events on Twitter, Facebook and the Arts Council news feed. Some particularly good blogs and online mags I read regularly are Flamingo Magazine, Graphic Exchange and Ape on the Moon.

Who are your top 5 people you would recommend to follow on twitter?

@DesignJuices of course!
@MooseAllain – Very funny illustrator.
@wowser – Very funny. Not an illustrator.
@TheDesignTrust – Very informative.
@IdeasTap – They run great competitions and funding opportunities.

Let’s shine the spotlight on your fellow creatives. Who should we be following who are making big strides in the industry?

There are some great illustrators out there but theres two that stand out for me;

They are Emma Reynolds who produces beautiful children’s book illustrations and Kristyna Litten who is a very talented Illustrator and Author from Yorkshire. Lastly Holly Booth, who is an amazing Photographer from Derby that does all my product photography.

What are your future plans for 2012 and beyond? What for you would be a success as an emerging creative?

My plans for 2012 are to continue to promote my illustration work and gain more clients. And I’d have liked to got some commissions for children’s book illustrations, for book covers and picture books. There’s lots of other projects i’d love to work on such as a range of illustration designs for homeware, stationary and t-shirts, as well as experimenting with moving image, set design, storyboarding and illustrations for a graphic novel or video games. I

I’ll also continue to work with Edge Arts Collective on projects and exhibitions but I can’t divulge too much about that just yet!  Alongside my freelance work and projects with the collective I would like to get part time work in the arts industry and get some hands on Arts Management experience.

Outside of working, what are your favourite ways to relax?

I love listening to music which soothes me greatly. To let off steam I go jogging and I cycle, and occasionally take part in crazy exercise classes but then instantly regret it.

Follow Emma on her Website, store, Facebook and @emmaillustrates on twitter.