Friday, June 19, 2015

Artist Interview: Emory Allen

Meet Emory Allen. Emory is an illustrator and designer based in Minnesota. He is known for his fun character design, custom lettering, and stylish incorporation of animation into his work. Emory has worked with clients such as Star Tribune, Target, and Wall Street Journal and his work has been recognized by Adobe, HOW, and The Huffington Post. Emory has participated in past Light Grey Art Lab exhibitions including Dream Arcade, Guts, and the upcoming Patches & Stitches exhibition here at Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis, which will open July 3rd!

Patches & Stitches is a two-part exhibition that embraces the tactical side of textiles. The Patches side celebrates the grunge and grit of jacket patches, while the Stitches side highlights a more delicate approach to textiles with Embroidered work. The show unites texture, techniques, and tradition, with defiance, personal identity, and experience. We are proud to present Patches + Stitches, featuring new works, originals, and limited edition collections by 70+ artists from around the world. The Opening reception will be on Friday July 3rd from 7pm to 10pm at our location at 118 East 26th Street in Minneapolis. Learn more about the exhibition on our website!

You can view more of Emory's artwork on his website or his blog here!

emory allen

Hey Emory! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What are some of your interests?

I’m an art director at NEIGHBOR by day and freelance illustrator by night. I love my flat-faced cat, my girlfriend, and Magic The Gathering. As of this July, I’ve been living in Minneapolis for 7 years. Which officially makes it the longest I’ve lived in one place.

What kind of media has influenced you the most throughout your life? Did you watch a lot of cartoons or read any comics growing up? What are some of your favorites?

Growing up I loved everything Jim Henson and I watched Cartoon Network pretty much non-stop. It wasn’t until my dad bought me issue #1 of Nine Volt that I really started getting into comics. I also spent a few summers playing Final Fantasy while rocking out to Alice In Chains. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve sadly fallen off of a lot of that stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever get too old for video games though!

nerd nation by Emory Allen
Nerd Nation

Where do you find the most inspiration? What influences things like your color choice or the kinds of shapes that you integrate into your art?

When I started finding my illustration voice, I was (and still am) enamoured with screen printing. A lot of what I was looking at had limited but vibrant color palettes that made the pieces come alive for me. Three colors can say just as much as 1,000 colors if you use them right. As far as shapes, I always draw on grid paper. There’s something about self-imposed constraints, like using a small number of colors or working off a grid, that I find really fun. It’s a challenge to tease an illustration out of just a few elements. It’s almost like I’m discovering an illustration rather than creating one.

What’s your process like? Is most of your work done digitally?

I always start in my sketchbook. Pencil and paper is so malleable—I can burn through ideas and compositions relatively quickly. I erase and draw and erase and draw over and over until I’m happy with the composition. After that though, it’s all digital. I scan in my sketch, create the piece in Illustrator, and add textures and other effects in Photoshop.

snackodile hunter by Emory Allen
Snackodile Hunter

Looking through your work, I see a lot of whacky and fun characters. How important is it to you to incorporate characters into your work? How do you approach designing your characters?

Creating characters is so much fun because they can bend and stretch in ways that would be criminal if done to a human :) Kidding aside, creating characters makes me feel like a kid watching Fraggle Rock again. I mention that show specifically because it was basically a world within a world within a world, each overflowing with characters and personality. That fascination with fun characters and worlds is something I hold dear.

Besides personal work, do you try to have fun with your client work and professional projects?

Of course! Whether it’s personal or professional, I bring my same passion for illustration to every project.

Do you have a favorite piece of work or project that you have worked on?

I recently completed my first short animated film—something that has long been on my wish list. The film is called Triolet For Laika and it was completed as part of Motion Poems. I never had the confidence to tackle one on my own. So, what really sets this project apart for me was being able to work with a few of my talented friends. I’m extremely grateful that they were willing to help me with a passion project and I hope to repay the favor some day!

Swept Away by Emory Allen
Swept Away

You seem to work in many different disciplines (illustration, animation, design). How do you find a balance between them? Do you often like to incorporate the three into each other?

Being able to play and explore is a huge part of the reason I’m in this line of work. Some of my favorite projects have come from combining a few of my different interests. For example, my continuous daily drawing project, An Exquisite Beast, was born by mashing illustration and web development together. My short film came from combining illustration and animation. Now that I think about it, a lot of my other interests support my love for drawing.

Do you think that it’s important for a working artist to be skilled in multiple artistic fields?

It’s definitely important for me personally. I can’t really speak for what’s going to work for other artists.

You’re going to be participating in the upcoming Patches & Stitches exhibition. Do you work with tactile design often? What made you want to be a part of this show?

Because I do so much work digitally, I jump at any chance to create something I can actually touch. In the past, that’s meant screen printing or papercraft. This show gave me an excuse to explore a bit of embroidery (and dust off an old jean jacket). Now that I know what’s involved, I’ll be definitely making more patches in the future!

Are you working on any exciting new projects currently? Do you have a “dream project” that you’d like to work on in the future?

I’m in the middle of 100 Days of Merit, a project where I design a merit badge for something I’ve done that day. Four of patches from the project are going to be in the Patches & Stitches show! Triolet for Laika is based on a poem of the same name, so I would like to write and direct an original animated short.

Other thoughts?

When in doubt, add bacon.

Thanks, Emory!

Again, you can find more of Emory's artwork at his website or his blog here! You will also be able to see his work at the upcoming Patches & Stitches exhibition, opening July 3rd at 7PM at Light Grey Art Lab, 118 East 26th Street in Minneapolis, and Emory's patches will be available to purchase from the Light Grey Art Lab Online Shop here!

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