Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 18, 2017

Illustrator Saturday: Emily Emerson

Emily Emerson is am an illustrator and surface pattern designer. She creates whimsical illustrations for children’s publishing and lively patterns for fabric, apparel, stationery, home décor and much more. Hope you enjoy the magical creatures you will meet here on Writing and Illustrating. Maybe even become friends with cute animals and go on fairy tale adventures. Emily lives in

Here is Emily explaining her process:

I usually start with a simple sketch done on paper or in Photoshop (in this case, Photoshop). Sometimes I will sketch the background out as well, but I just let the background of this piece develop as I went along. After the sketch is done, I will start loosely adding color to the image. For color, I’ll mix a simple palette on its own layer and use that throughout the piece (top left).

Most of the background is now complete and I’ll continue to add detail to the entire piece. I usually work on very few layers (often only one or two) similar to how I would paint on a canvas.

I start adding leaves to give dimension to the background and continue to develop the characters.

Finished Illustration

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for a few years now, but I’ve loved to draw since I was a young child.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? 

My career began when I started a small greeting card and wall art business. I printed everything in my own studio, and sold my work in boutique art shops as well as Etsy. A few years ago, I received my first commission to create seasonal street light banners for nearby city’s downtown area. It was really exciting to see those hung up around town!

Did you go to college to study art? Where?

I have taken drawing classes throughout my time at school, though I did not get a degree in art. My digital work is primarily self-taught.

What do you think influenced your style? 

I enjoy reading children’s books now as much as I did when I was a child. All of these books over the years have influenced my style.

What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

After school, my first illustration-related work was my greeting card business.

What is a surface pattern designer?

My surface patterns are images (usually plants and animals) placed in a repeating pattern. The designs are then printed on clothing, bedding, room decor, stationery etc.  Designing little characters to repeat seamlessly in a pattern is so much fun!

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I’ve always loved children’s books, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional illustrator. It wasn’t until I finished high school that I realized I wanted to focus on creating children’s illustrations.

Do you illustrate full time? If not, what type of job do you have while advancing your illustrating career?

I don’t currently illustrate full time, and spend part of my days working at the natural foods co-op in my hometown. This job doesn’t call for any art skills, but has helped me grow in other aspects of my life (such as learning about health and caring for the environment).

Do you do art exhibits? 

Yes, I’ve done a few over the years at local galleries.

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I focus on my artwork, and rely on my agent to promote my work.

How did you start doing stationery and cards?

I started making cards out of my home and selling them around town and online. I printed and packaged everything myself! It was fun having that freedom – when I thought of a new idea; I just drew it and started printing! I learned a lot about what designs people wanted to see from that period of my career.

Do you have an illustrator who you admire?

One of my favorite artists is the brilliant Mary Blair. Her work is so lively and joyful! I have a large collection of vintage books that I’ve sought out over the years. Some other favorites are Gyo Fujikawa, the Provensens, and Adrienne Adams to name a few!

Have you illustrated anything for magazines? If so, which ones and how did you get the illustration job?

While I have yet to work on a commission with a magazine, I am honored to say my patterns were recently featured in an issue of UPPERCASE Magazine.

You mention doing apparel. Is that fabric for apparel or do you make clothing using your art?

I create fun patterns to be printed on children’s clothing.

Have you design wallpaper?

Not yet, though I would love to someday!

Would you like to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes, this is a dream of mine!

Would you be open to illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Possibly! I think it would really depend on the project.

Have you worked with educational publishers?

No, but I would love to work on educational projects! Books that taught me about nature and science were some of my absolute favorites growing up.

How did you connect with the The Organisation and get representation? 

While I was looking for representation, I discovered the Organisation’s website. I was very impressed and reached out to them with my portfolio. Lorraine was interested in my work, and I’m happy to say that we are now working together!

What is your favorite medium to use?

I use Photoshop for my paintings and Illustrator for my patterns.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve been using both for many years!

Do you have a studio set up in your home?

Yes, a computer table and bookshelf full of my sketchbooks – as well as my favorite children’s books to keep me inspired!

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try and use any spare moment I have to illustrate! I love to draw so it is not difficult for me to sit down and work each day!

Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I often use the internet to find reference photos. Books are great for animal photographs as well.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I live in a small city in Kansas, yet the internet has allowed me to connect with people all over the world.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom Intuos tablet and Photoshop.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am an animal lover and I would be so happy to use my art to help the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) or any organization that helps animals around the world.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been creating some fun personal work involving animals – my favorite subject to draw!

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

My best tip for anyone interested in digital art is to find some great brushes that work for you because they can make a huge difference. Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop brushes are so amazing! They are designed to act more like real paint – they changed the way I work!

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Keep a sketchbook with you and draw as often as you can. Draw what you love and it will show!

Thank you Emily for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Emily’s work, you can visit her at her website:

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Emily. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Nice work, Emily! Thank you for sharing.


  2. Wow, excellent work. Very cute. Thank you for sharing.


  3. I especially adore the patterns Emily makes for children’s clothing!


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