Artist Spotlight: Emily Isabella

September 13, 2018
If you haven’t had the opportunity to take a good look at artist, Emily Isabella‘s new collection for Red Cap Cards, definitely make the time to take a look at her bright, beautiful, and sometimes cheeky work!  Nothing thrills us more than sharing our artists’ personalities and unique perspectives, and we are happy to have Emily in the Artist’s Spotlight today. Read on below to hear about her inspirations, her fantastic new studio, and more, and make sure to click over to her website to see even more brilliant work. Thank you, Emily! We love you!
Tell us about your life in the Hudson Valley. What are your favorite parts about where you live?
My husband, Paul, and I moved to the Hudson Valley five years ago and have spent that time living in a tiny 200 square foot cottage and looking for property (we found it!) and building a structure to house our creative endeavors. It’s taken a bit of time because we built it ourselves without much help from contractors. Paul wanted to build it himself and I admire all the work he’s put into it. This is something we’ve been talking about doing since the early days of knowing each other and we’re about to move in. Any day now! We’re looking forward to working on our 15 acres and hope to collaborate on projects together in the studio. The Hudson Valley is unique in that it’s a rural community with easy access to NYC. There is a nice community of artists and younger people who have moved here to get away from the craziness of the city.  There are so many interesting things happening to this area and it’s fun to be involved in the resurgence of the region.
Do you have any aspirations to live somewhere else?
Who knows! We are excited to start this next chapter in our new studio but we are always open to what the future may hold.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I kind of work all the time! If I’m not working at my little desk in our cottage, I’m helping Paul across the river at our studio. My main job is to paint! Lately it’s been windows, walls, ceiling, floors, trim – we’re using all natural materials and mixing the colors ourselves so there are lots of added steps to the process. Last summer we painted the exterior, one board at at time. It took awhile. My days off are typically spent with friends. My job is solitary so I always jump at the chance to see people. NYC is a quick train ride away and I often go there for meetings or to catch an exhibit at the Met. I use my days off to get inspired. I take my sketchbook everywhere and often record moments from those times away from my desk.  Maybe it’s the colors I spot on a drive or maybe an older lady on the street sparks my eye. These little bits go into my sketchbook and often turn into something down the road.
Did you always want to be an artist? Did you have any other aspirations?
I remember being in the hallway of my first grade classroom and having an epiphany that I wanted to write and illustrate books! I grew up in a family of artists so as I grew older, I felt the need to have my own identity and being an artist seemed too expected. I finally gave in to the fact that I wouldn’t want to do anything else and went to art school but I majored in Fibers which seemed different enough.
You work in a wide variety of mediums. What is your favorite and why?
I really love gouache. I was taught how to use it in my textile design classes and although it’s my main medium as an illustrator, I like that it ties into my past. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between flat shape and line and gouache is a great medium for this sort of exploration. Also, it dries almost immediately so it’s great for working on deadline. However, there is an oil stick factory close to where I live and after touring the facility, I was hooked. I haven’t figured out a way to work it into my commercial projects but it’s so much more forgiving than gouache! I used to make a lot of weird dolls and sculptural things and I’m looking forward to having the space to get back into that too. This is a hard question! I just like to make things – the medium isn’t a huge factor.
What is your work process like?
My process is pretty simple. For my commercial work, I always sketch out my ideas on scrap paper and once the idea is solidified, I’ll go straight to paint. The way I paint depends on the end use. If something will be used for screen printing, sometimes I’ll paint the layers separately. If it will be printed digitally, I can paint it all right on the paper. After I scan in the painting, I might clean things up in Photoshop or change some colors around or put it into a working repeat if it’s a pattern.
What inspires you most? In work? In life? 
I’m always on the hunt for beauty in the unexpected. This makes my life more interesting because even mundane day-to-day tasks provide inspiration. I love drawing people and watching them too. It would be nice to have a spy camera.
What is your favorite piece of work you’ve created?
I painted this one morning as Paul was waking up. I love drawing him – he’s easy to capture.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?
I remember my mom advising me and saying, “Even when you don’t have work, work.” The only way to improve is to practice.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists and illustrators?
Don’t be too precious with your work. Experiment, explore and move on to the next thing. Keep a sketchbook like a diary, for your eyes only. This helps to take the pressure off and allows you the freedom to work through your process.
Who are your role models in terms of art or otherwise?
My parents have always been really amazing role models in art and life. I’m fortunate in that they both have advised me in different ways. My mom’s passion for art is contagious and growing up, most of our travels revolved around going to art museums or exhibits. Both my parents travel with their sketchbooks. We don’t have many photos but there are shelves of sketchbooks that document my childhood. My dad taught me a lot about the business side of art. He’s also really good at using a computer and figured out a way to pull me out of high school half days my senior year to teach me how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. This was invaluable since I didn’t learn those things in college and they are tools I have to use every day for my work. My parents also taught me to love the natural world. I grew up on 40 acres and they always encouraged me and my brother to play by ourselves outside.  As far as famous artists, I love Vuillard for every reason. My other favorite artist is Toulouse-Lautrec. His flat colors, lines and the way he depicted people has always captivated me.
If you didn’t work as an artist, what would you be doing?
Maybe I’d have a marionette theater.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
This winter I’ll be working on a solo show of paintings for the spring.
Any pipe-dreams?
I’d like to make my first grade dreams come true and publish picture books.
Obligatory Red Cap question: favorite drink?
Sparkling wine, any color.

Photos courtesy Emily Isabella