Emily Chu is an illustrator of the most colourful, bad ass, nod to feminism - with a sprinkle of humour, images we have seen in this city. Throughout her youth, Emily was an avid painter. She knew she wanted to pursue art, and was accepted into ACAD for design and illustration. Fast-forward six years post-graduation, and Emily works as a freelance designer, an illustrator, and teaches at Edmonton Digital Arts College. Boss babe? Most definitely.
We met up with Emily at Wild Earth Bakery in Edmonton, sipped our caffeinated beverages, and discussed what it takes to be an artist in Edmonton's maker-community.
Read on to learn more about why this gals favourite part of illustration is the direct relationship it has with logic, and why she has so much love for comics in our latest #getREAL interview...
What do you do and why do you love it?
I like illustration and design because I don't think I am actually that creative (laughs). If I was painting, I would have to worry about gallery shows and I don't think I would enjoy the pressure to be innovative in that way. Illustration is about making things, but for me, it is also about problem solving; it is very logical. I like having a project, I like focusing in and doing my research; I have to challenge myself to think of new ways to approach my work and represent what I am creating. I spend just as much time thinking about my work as I do creating it, and I enjoy the balance of that.
Who or what influences you?
I get inspiration from so many different avenues, but I think I get most of my inspiration from nature. There is so much texture found in nature, and I get a lot of ideas by simply noticing what is around me: the colour composition of different seasons, patterns on the leaves, and character homes in my community. I like my work to be honest, so I take my inspiration from what I see around me, and then I create something that I understand. I mean, who doesn't want to be a mermaid, petting a cat, while sipping on wine? (laughs).
Piece of advice you need to take just as frequently as you give?
I tell my students to take a break. Giving them this advice makes me a pretty big hypocrite (laughs). I mean, I understand the importance of taking a break, but I also understand what it is like to skip meals and work 12-hours straight until your hands hurt and you can no longer feel your legs, because you have been sitting for so long. It is easy to become so focused, and deadlines can become all-consuming; you lose track of time. Taking a break is so necessary - you burn out if you deprive yourself of life outside of your projects. So, get up, walk away from your computer, walk away from your sketch book, and turn your phone off. At least that is what I tell myself to do. One of these days I will get better at it (laughs).
Last book you couldn’t put down?
Hmmm. I will tell you what my favourite book is. It is a comic book called: Good-bye, Chunky Rice. Craig Thompson wrote and illustrated the comic, and I was inspired by him to do my own. So, when I graduated from ACAD, I paired up with a friend and started writing and illustrating comics. It was a huge undertaking, so I am not sure when I will do something like that again, but it was a proud moment for me when we published them.
Biggest item left on your bucket list?
Ummm. I am not sure if this applies anymore, but for awhile I wanted to have a studio and storefront space. It is still something that is on my mind, but doesn't seem to be at the forefront for me anymore. This year, for me, has been more about experimentation with different mediums and trying to have a bit more fun with my art; I am trying not to focus on any one specific goal. So, I guess I will have to revisit this question (laughs).
What keeps you moving forward no matter what?
Having a deadline is really good for me. The markets I am part of are really helpful; I have to produce new things when I am signed up for a market, so as a result, I am not really able to fall into a slump.
I think it would have to be finishing and publishing my comic books: The Floaters and Nocturnal. At that time in my life, that was the dream for me, and although my dream has shifted or evolved from there, I am still very proud of that accomplishment. Comic book writing, in general, is a male-dominated industry. It feels good to be able to tell my female students who are interested in the comic industry that they can pursue it, and that it is possible to break into that scene.
Words to live by?
Find balance. A lot of my work is about balance: nature and technology, sensitivity and strength, and leisure and responsibility. It is one of those things I find myself thinking about all the time. Am I balancing my life? That's the goal - I am definitely trying.
Memorable moment you have experienced in your life that has made you feel strong as a woman?
I recently had a friend who was going through a really turbulent time in her life. Her support system had fallen apart, and I was able to be there for her. I think being compassionate, listening, and having empathy for other women is a strength that females possess. Women often juggle so much throughout their lives, and we are resilient through it all because we find community with each other. We are able to show each other our weaknesses and insecurities and see the fortitude in sharing these experiences with one another.
Complete this sentence: To me, beauty is___________________.
Being able to express yourself openly and honestly. Honesty is what makes people relatable; when you are willing to be transparent, others do the same. I see honesty as a brave art form.
Emily Chu is a multi-talented illustrator, designer, and entrepreneur residing in Edmonton, Alberta. Interested in shopping her work? Head over to her online shop, or stop by her booth at a local market. She is a regular at The Royal Bison, so mark your calendar because the next one is just around the bend (May 5 - 7, 2017).