Do you like foxes? Mythology? Fantasy? Emily McLaughlin creates BEAUTIFUL illustrations and is currently working on an illustrated book that’s truly eye-catching. #artistquote #creativityquotes #artiststrong #artistinterview

The Lady Aideen by Emily McLaughlin

Emily is a mixed-media illustrator, with a preference for watercolor and digital art. She is a recent graduate from Montgomery County Community College with an Associates in Fine Arts, and had the joy and privilege of being the Editor-in-Chief of the college’s art and literature magazine, producing the 2019 edition titled “Replications.” 


Currently she is in the process of earning a Bachelors of Fine Arts at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Illustration and books are her passion, and her professional aspiration is to be a children’s book illustrator. 


Self-Portrait by Emily McLaughlin

Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?

Though it may perhaps be a rather stereotypical answer, I have always had a passion for art! Some of my earliest memories are long days I spent as a young child passionately drawing cats and dinosaurs. Back then, I drew for the sheer joy of it. It wasn’t until the past few years, however, when I began to pursue my own projects and stories through my art, that I realized just how important art is not only to me, but as a powerful means of communication to all. 

Carrie: How would you describe your art?

Loose and yet precise when it needs to be. I seek to achieve a painterly, traditional feel, even when I work digitally, and I am always striving most of all to capture the “feel” of the subject or concept, rather than a mere physical representation. 

Carrie: What does your workspace look like?

I actually have two workspaces; one for my traditional, hand-to-paper work, and one for my digital work. I have surrounded both of them in inspirational art and phrases to glance at and achieve a new wave of passion. I sketch and paint traditionally on a tabletop easel, as I found that I love drawing vertically. It’s also easier on my back that way. At my digital desk I have a dual-screen monitor setup, with one monitor for drawing, and one to put up references. And of course, I have a Wacom tablet, a medium-sized Intuos Pro. 

Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?

For my finished digital paintings, I do have a fairly consistent pattern. I begin by envisioning the concept in my brain. Though the result is never the same as my first mental concept, I seek to capture as close to the feeling of that initial image as I can. I then gather multiple photo references or other art that pertains to the concept, compile them together into one image in Photoshop so I can see them all at once, and then begin my sketch! I make one initial rough sketch, and then I lower the opacity and do a finer sketch overtop of it. When I am ready to color it, I first lay the color underneath the sketch layer, keeping the sketch lines intact. Once I am ready, I begin to paint overtop of the sketch layer, until only small portions of it still peak through. 

But of course I break this process and go right for the action in my quick painting studies and sketchbooks! 

The Golden Bird by Emily McLaughlin

Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?

A seed of beauty. I hope that when my viewers look away from my work, they will find that something in there spoke to them, even if it had no tangible voice

Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?

If a drawing gets messy, and seems to keep running away from you, just scrap it entirely, and draw overtop of it! You can do this with tracing paper if you are not working digitally. The key to a refined and clean drawing is the act of simply redrawing it until you thoroughly understand it. It took me so long to learn this. 

Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”

The main one is to simply stand up and walk away, even if it is only for a minute or so. Sometimes my brain just falls into a stupor from sitting for so long. Another strategy is to simply look up more references and especially art that inspires me; looking at how others have solved problems in their art is always a wonderful refresher for my brain on how to solve my own. 

Carrie: Tell us about your current project right now?

Currently I am in the process of making final edits to my all-ages Celtic fairytale book Sionnach Abú: Fox Forever that I wrote and illustrated myself, and preparing it to go to print! I will be self-publishing it and printing one hundred copies through the self-publishing service Bookbaby, and I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. This book is a passion project of mine. I have devoted nearly all of my free time to its creation over the past year and a half, and I am excited to see it in print! 

As for my next project, I can stay simply that it will stooped heavily in Celtic and medieval literature, and will involve both faeries and dryads. I have a lot more research and sketching I need to do before it gets anywhere, but I am so delighted to pounce upon it next!

Sionnach Abu – Page 24 by Emily McLaughlin

Carrie:  What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?

I had to overcome the feeling that I was not a good enough artist to start my own personal project. I had always told myself before that I wasn’t good enough yet to begin something of that scale, and that I had to keep studying. When the spark of Sionnach Abú was planted in my brain, however, I cast all that aside, and simply went for it. I followed the motto of Jake Parker, the creator of the Inktober challenge: “Finished, not perfect”. And I discovered that the best way of learning how to make a project is to simply begin, and face head-on the challenges that come. Also, I can jokingly yet truthfully add, I didn’t quite feel comfortable working on Sionnach Abú until after page 100!

Carrie:  What is one creative resource you can’t live without?

Books! During the creation of Sionnach Abú I kept a mountain of books on a shelf adjacent to my desk. All with art that inspires me!

Carrie: Who/what inspires you?

My friends and family inspire me to keep pursuing art with their constant support and encouragement. But artistically, I am mostly inspired by a vast plethora of other artists, as well as classic literature and folklore. Sionnach Abú specifically was inspired by classic fairytales of old, Irish folklore, medieval illuminated manuscripts, the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements, and of course, nature. 

Remember by Emily McLaughlin

Carrie:  What does the word artist mean to you?

To me, an artist is one who casts the spices of beauty into everyday life. Throughout history artists have both shaken society by its roots with the poignancy of their work, as well as soothe and enchant it with their beauty and sensitivity. As an artist myself I hope to achieve both of these effects, even if it is only in the lives of a few individuals. 

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