Emily Julstrom says it’s good to get as many terrible ideas off your chest as possible so you can get to something interesting. I think she must have done an awful lot of work, because what I see is utter skill and total clarity of vision.
I first came across some of Emily’s surface designs on Pinterest (oh yes! I still love it – I’m here)– lush florals in a modern illustrative style, full-bodied and sensuous. So delicious!
emily julstrom – magenta flowers
But when I dug a bit deeper, I discovered her work jumps from illustration through art direction to surface design and lots in between, AND in every format from digital animation right down to absolutely stunning pencil drawings, and traditional figure painting. SO good, that even though she only graduated from design school last year, she’s already worked with Tupperware and Skippy Peanut Butter, to name a few.
emily julstrom – blue bulbs
emily julstrom – jungle
After graduating from Ringling College of Art & Design with a BFA in Illustration in 2014, she now freelances full-time, and works from her tiny studio home in Chicago.
When working for a client, Emily stresses that communication is key. “At Ringling two ideas were stressed to the students – to ideate extensively, and to respect, understand and commit to what a client asks for. Often times you cannot do both. So, be incredibly clear about your intentions – I show the client my ideas each step of the way first in sketches, then thumbnails, color studies, value studies, and final tweaks. Whether I’m working for me or a client, it’s important to always have a plan so that I know I’m meeting my needs or the needs of my client and won’t get stuck along the way to a good finished product.”
“When I have the opportunity to be creative, I sit down and write down as many ideas and sketches as I possibly can. One way to move away from the cliche and into something new is to create word lists – each word relating to the last in slowly more and more remote ways until you have something strange and unexpected.”
emily julstrom – brights
emily julstrom – brights
It doesn’t hurt to have a great atmosphere when you’re growing up either. “Growing up in Indonesia I was surrounded by a constant supply of intriguing textiles and arts that probably jump-started my need to live a life based heavily on aesthetic designs. I also was lucky enough to have a mother who would let me sit down and draw as long as I wanted any and every day – always supporting any avenues I wanted to explore from my ill-fated attempts at jewelry, or sharing with me her love of paper flowers.”
emily julstrom – magenta geometric
“One of the things I miss most about being in school was having all the time I wanted to explore and learn. I’m so thrilled to have a steady income and job but I do miss the days of having all the energy I need to learn more new and exciting techniques. I’m still grappling with it myself, and so far all I know is that to gain one thing you must lose another and that might mean one weekend I don’t do much socializing in exchange for sitting down and making an effort to learn, or not eating out for a month so I have the funds to try a new software.”
“I truly believe anything is possible if you are able to think and prioritize what matters to you. “
emily julstrom – illustration – the mother of dragons
from emily’s sketchbook
What’s the best piece of advice she’s ever been given? “I’ve been given amazing art advice, on all kinds of subjects…but the most helpful thing I’ve ever heard was during a period where I was out of work. I was told to invest in myself and believe that I would find the work.”
“It ended up being true and I know that if in that period I hadn’t have been spending my time working hard and investing my time in learning and creating I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
“So believe and invest in yourself or you have no chance of achieving what you’re hoping for.”
You can find more of Emily’s work on her site, emilyjulstrom.com.
emily’s studio, where she surrounds herself with books and colour
Based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Julie Emmerson is making her mark in the world of pattern. And just like her location, her patterns are filled with sunshine too – bright colours, simple shapes and warmth.
emmerson – vintage spring
After a long career in graphic design, she says it was a natural progression. “Creatives are always looking for new ways to express themselves and learn so for me, exploring the freedom of drawing, painting and digital design then converting it to pattern has been my next step. I started approx 3 years ago, have sold patterns through my US agent and my dream is to have my own ongoing signature line of products sold worldwide and to also teach up and coming designers.”
julie emmerson – indian summer
julie emmerson – cutesy flowers
Having that career background with constant hands-on in Photoshop and Illustrator has meant that some parts of the new career direction come easily and naturally – but not everything. “Understanding colour and loads of other technical skills have been helpful when designing, and knowing Photoshop and Illustrator have been invaluable in creating patterns and product mockups.”
“But Accounts … Web Coding … Marketing … these things make my eyes glaze over. My brain just switches off. When I do eventually tackle these things, I take a deep breath and get it over and done with. I leave my End of Year finances with my accountant and everything in between I manage myself, albeit grudgingly. Coding for my website makes my head spin so I outsource this and I am still pushing through with consistency in marketing. I’m quite shy so it’s a challenge for me to promote my designs and products on all the social media platforms but I’m getting better.”
julie emmerson – springtime buttercups
She’s received recognition for her work already – design sales through a US agent, as well as subtantial sales of artwork locally, and she says that that acknowledgement of her skills and style has been really important for her. But her sights are set higher still – her desire is to secure a licensing deal with a manufacturer of globally distributed products.
Fortunately, fear of high places is not an issue for her – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. For real. Julie explains, “I experience “High Place Phenomenon”, not a fear of heights but the opposite, a desire to jump … be it a plane, hot air balloon, high building… Don’t worry, I’m not crazy! It’s more common than you think. Authors of a study on “high place phenomenon” at Florida State University’s psychology department concluded that this feeling is a positive trait implying “an urge to jump affirms the urge to live.” and this definitely sums up how I feel about life.”
julie emmerson – secret flowers
Her best piece of advice? “One thing I have always missed in life is a mentor to guide me careerwise, so I have sought advice through friends, family and various books and online resources. The best advice that resonates with me in relation to my creative journey is from Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. ‘The more important a project is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it.’ ”
You can find more of Julie’s designs on her website, dreamcreativedesigns.com.
laura olivia – floatingflowermarket
Laura Olivia has a long-term fascination with Vietnam. So much so that she has designed her latest collection around it – from the floating markets where the locals trade from boat to boat, to the lush tropical flora and fauna of the area – especially around the massive Mekong River, which is the lifeblood of Vietnam as well as so many other countries in South-East Asia.
Perhaps it’s a foil for her home-base in not-so-tropical Nottingham, but Laura has built up a career and portfolio based around these lush, vivid themes. Vibrant colour and bohemian style, in lots of handpainted, layered textures, she focuses on supplying designs to the interiors and soft furnishing industries, and her clients now come to her from around the world, including Haiti and Malaysia.
laura olivia – Market Day
Although she does work with some major retailers, she often finds herself being sought out by small start up companies. For instance, the client in Haiti requires stationery and homeware designs for the launch of a new brand strongly reflecting the Haitian culture, and she’s also working for a fashion designer in Malaysia who wants to produce a new line of dresses aimed at ladies who are respectful of their faith yet want to wear beautiful clothes. Laura loves it, and says it’s great for keeping everything fresh – “My projects are very random but always exciting!”
It’s taken some time and very hard work, but since she established her studio in 2010, she’s built it up to include a small team of designers, and now offers clients a bespoke pattern design service, a print library and a luxury boutique homewares brand.
laura olivia – Mekong Flora
Branding is something that has grown naturally over time. “It’s still a work in progress but I know I’m on the right track. The best method I have found to help with this is creating a huge story board to refer back to and develop; it’s a big visualization tool. This could include pictures of your work and other inspirational images that best fit your brand, but also props such as furniture and accessories that would work well when styling product photoshoots, to ensure everything is working well together. I’d also display your colour palette and include some key words to describe your brand. A great way to do this is imagine for a moment that your brand is a person, if they entered a room how would you describe them?”
“I do use a photographer for my product and lifestyle images and I’d say that is a must, but I didn’t get any help with my branding because I thought there wouldn’t be anyone who understands my brand better than me, and a lot of branding companies I looked at were geared towards a more corporate look.”
laura olivia – Vietnam Floral Blush
laura olivia – Mekong Lily
Her best piece of advice?
“The best advice anyone gave me is don’t be too hard on yourself, and try to learn how not to ‘self sabotage’ . We are our own worst enemy sometimes and it is true that we can often stand in our own way! . Oh and also don’t compare yourself to strangers on the internet, no good can come of it!!”
You can find more of Laura’s work on her website www.lauraolivia.com, where you can also purchase prints and homewares with her lush designs.
laura mysak – roses
“It’s funny how sometimes, the thing which daunts you the most is the area that you should be pushing yourself towards.” Two years after I first featured Laura Mysak‘s surface designs, she took a brave step into the unknown world of large-scale wall art. And suddenly realised that her particular style of painting actually looked great in this format. She hasn’t looked back.
laura mysak – peony
Designing repeats is still an important focus for her, and two years counts as a substantial amount of work; It’s no surprise that Laura’s watercolours are more confident and richer than ever before. “I think the feedback I’ve had from the various people I’ve worked with has helped me develop my style to what it is today. There have been several successes from which I have gained more confidence in my work and just the realisation that other people like it, and are willing to buy into it helps.”
laura mysak – hyacinth
laura mysak – large rose
“I also think that a general maturity naturally arises when you’ve been trying different things out until one thing fits. Having said that, I do believe my work will always change and grow. And I actually think that’s better than staying stagnant. It’s important to try new things but to always remember what you’re essentially good at and, with me, it’s the original watercolour painting which always remains the starting point for each of my pieces.”
“It’s important to try new things but to always remember what you’re essentially good at”
Since her last interview with me, Laura has been working hard at honing her style and making connections within the industry. Now her work has been spotted by high profile licensing consultants, and she is currently working with some clients she loves. And last year she was chosen to be part of Artistic Britain’s slot on QVC TV. Laura calls it “lucky” to have these things happen for her, but I’m thinking that it might also have something to do with hard work and perseverance…
laura mysak – poppies
laura mysak – iris hydrangea hellebore
She has her eyes set firmly on the future. Laura is working on gaining more momentum through additional licensing, so that she can grow her brand and get to work with more varied products and clientele. “I hope, one day, to have a range which I can be really proud of and perhaps see it in a high street store!”
I’m sure she will.
You can find more of Laura’s beautiful work on her website, www.lauramysak.co.uk.
laura mysak – wildflowers 3