An Interview with Emily Dove

Lately, we’ve been hunting down designers and artists whose work we really love and interviewing them to find out what inspires them. Our latest is with Emily Dove, an illustrator and naturalist based in California and she’s kindly agreed to be interviewed – thanks Emily!

Can you give a bit of a background as to how you got started as a designer?

Like many artists, I’ve had an interest in drawing and making things with my hands since a very young age. I loved writing and illustrating stories, especially if it involved drawing cute animals. I also realized I could use my art skills to become involved in environmentalism at the wise age of 8, when I illustrated my own neighborhood newsletter to express contempt at a neighbor’s front yard tree removal. I’m sure they were thrilled!

I consider myself extremely lucky to be working as a full-time illustrator for many reasons, but I am perhaps most grateful for my supportive community. I don’t take for granted the fact that my parents supported my decision to go to art school, a decision I suspect many parents dread hearing. Being able to attend Ringling School of Art and Design for Illustration undoubtedly helped me land a job as a designer with American Greetings shortly after graduation.

Kindling Capital Illustration[Above: Kindling Capital illustration by Emily Dove]

Where do you get your inspiration from, and which other designers work do you admire?

I have found that stepping away from my office, being open to all sorts of new experiences, meeting new people, traveling, and constantly learning new things have all been important in building momentum, especially when I’m feeling stuck. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s natural to hit a wall sometimes and lose motivation to work on an idea I once found inspiring–it’s usually a sign that I need to re-evaluate what I want to do with my art. Being open to evolving as an artist and shifting my goals has really helped me find what motivates me. My drive to work for environmental causes is a result of one of those shifts.

There are so many amazing artists out there, it’s so tough to name just a few! Owen Davey, Brendan Wenzel, and Julia Kuo are all artists who use their art to encourage conservation and environmentalism, so they are great role models for me. Julia Kuo is a close friend of mine who never fails to motivate me with her talent and ambition. Teagan White, Lisk Feng, Annette Marnat, Lisa Perrin, Dennis Brown (aka Bagger43), John DeLucca, and Jamey Christoph are just a few extremely talented artists doing some really amazing work.

I also can’t forget to mention art legends Charley Harper and Mary Blair, who have had an enormous influence on my work.

What are some of your favourite illustrations that you’ve created?

My Peter Pan book cover and Kindling illustration are probably the two I’m most proud of so far, and also where I pushed myself the hardest. I also really enjoyed working on the illustrations for Wendell the Narwhal because drawing undersea creatures just makes me so happy.

Peter Pan Book Cover[Above: Peter Pan Book Cover by Emily Dove]

As well as a designer, you’re also a keen naturalist – how much does nature influence your work?

Nature is definitely one of the key drivers in my motivation to create art. It has given me a sense of purpose and lit a fire that I don’t foresee ever burning out. I frequently take a journal with me to the woods and sit for a while, noticing and documenting all the little details of the world around me. There is so much beauty around us, and I relish being able to interpret it in my own way and perhaps expose others to it as well.

Raven Illustration[Above: Raven Illustration by Emily Dove]

You’ve also created your own children’s book – Wendell the Narwhal – what challenges did you come across with creating it?

Writing stories for children is really tough! It can seem deceptively simple, but taking an idea and simplifying it down to a concise story was a unique challenge for me, and one that I really enjoyed. Wendell went through countless edits and revisions to the point where it’s almost completely different from where it began.
Thinking about how images can complement the text, rather than repeat the information, was also a fun and challenging aspect of illustrating a children’s book.

Wendell the Narwhal[Above: Wendell the Narwhal by Emily Dove]

What tips would you give to someone looking to get into design?

1. Don’t be afraid of failure. We all have to start somewhere, and I can assure you every successful artist you see out there has done some really horrible, embarrassing art along the way. It’s actually been a good way to remind myself of how far I’ve come, even if it is painful to look at. Just keep creating and keep moving forward. (Ira Glass said it best!)

2. Develop your taste by surrounding yourself with art and artists you admire. I use pinterest to curate all the images out there that inspire me, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with the art world.

3. Be open to criticism. If you take negative feedback too personally, you probably won’t grow and improve. Seek out opinions of artists you respect and take constructive criticism to heart.

4. Don’t forget that being reliable, trustworthy, communicative, and overall a good human being is so important, no matter how talented you become. Clients won’t want to work with you if you’re not going to follow deadlines or listen to what they have to say, no matter how well you can draw.

Keep exploring, stay curious, and never become complacent!

An enormous thanks to Emily for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. You can check out her work on her website EmilyDove.com and on Dribbble. You can also follow her on Twitter @emilydove144, on Instagram @emilydove and on Facebook.

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