An interview with the digital illustrator artist behind Emma Make Studio

One of our all time fave places to discover new talents, is on Etsy. There’s an endless supply of incredible artists to uncover and it’s also where we found digital illustrator artist, Emma Hall from Emma Make Studio.

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Emma Hall, the artist behind Emma Makes Studio
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Starting out on a completely different career path, Emma turned her love of illustration into more than just a passion project.

“I was born in Cambridge to an English father and Mozambican mother. I grew up in Oman and Romania for some of my childhood, and my father worked abroad, so I traveled a lot with my parents,” says Emma.

“My current home is in Lisbon, Portugal, where I try not to give in to my love of Portuguese pastries and cake too often!

“I studied a Bachelor of Architecture at university as I always loved art and graphic design at school. My degree was actually a really good basis for the digital design I do today. It’s where I learnt to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, which are key to my work now.

“After working in practice for 2 years, I fell into pattern design, and after that, my work became more illustrative.

“I started by designing cards which I sold locally, and from there I used the skills I’d learnt in combining hand drawn elements with digital and began making artworks.”

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Key themes in Emma’s works are bright colours and bold designs.

“I’ve always been attracted to colour. Even while studying architecture I would spend a lot of time ensuring the colours of my renders and diagrams created the right mood.

“My work is always a mixture of digital and analogue methods. I start almost all of my work by sketching out elements in pencil or ink first,” explains Emma.

“Then, sometimes I might take my sketch and trace over it roughly into a chunky, blocky illustration on my computer.

Other times the illustration will be compiled and layered with crayon marks or ink strokes that have been scanned into the computer.

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As a digital illustrator artist, Emma finds inspiration from all around.

“At the moment I’m drawn to a lot of contemporary graphic designs which feature bold, clashing colours.

I like art where the colour is almost a surprise.

“Sometimes, my inspiration comes from travel. For example, my African series was inspired by the African hillsides I traveled with my parents when we drove from Malawi to Gurué in Mozambique. It’s my Mum’s birth place so is quite special to me.

“I don’t think many people are familiar with how luscious and mountainous Africa can be. I got the idea to turn them into art while looking through my photos as I was flying back home and started the first sketch right then and there.”

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A mixture of hand drawn and digital, Emma’s designs take on a unique creative process.

“It depends on what I’m working on, but when I’m making my landscapes, I’ll find an image of a mountainside I like. I sketch it out in pencil, making sure to play around, dividing it up into abstracted shapes based on vegetation or rock formations,” explains Emma.

“Then I’ll trace it in Illustrator and play around with colours, making about 10 different versions to choose from. I’ll import it into Photoshop and draw on top using my tablet pen. The aim is to create a soft patchwork effect.

“With my other works, the process always changes. I try and start with a mood board and go from there. Sometimes I’ll be working with ink and brush, other times paint and finally I might cut up pieces of paper and scan them in to create a collage.”

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Selling her creations through Creative Market and her Etsy shop, Emma has recently expanded her range to textiles, and some extra special cards.

“Making my scarves has been a real career highlight. Many of my pattern designs only get as far as the mock-ups that I use to present to clients.

“Last year I took my Wildflower pattern series and tested it out on a silk scarf mock-up. I loved it so much I began looking into printing and manufacturing them. It was really important to me that the process be as environmentally-friendly as possible,” says Emma.

“I have them printed onto organic cotton in Finland, then they’re sewn in Lisbon or Cambridge, depending on where they’re being sold.

“It’s taken months but I’m so happy with the final result.

“I also designed some service call-cards to use during the recent pandemic. They were actually my Dad’s idea!

“I think he’d seen people on the news offering their help to others and when it all kicked off, I was feeling a bit helpless.

“I wanted to do something proactive so I designed the call-cards and offered them for free on my website. It felt like the right thing to do and I was glad to be able to do something!”

Thank you to Emma for sharing her story with us. To see more from Emma, visit her Etsy store or follow her on Instagram. We just loved discovering the creative process of how a digital illustrator artist works… did you? Tell us in the comment section below.

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