Getting chatty with Emily Nelson

Getting chatty with Emily Nelson

We recently caught up with the delightful, cheery and talented Emily Nelson. She is a local illustrator and old time Rummager (we miss her super cute hand painted brooches and portraits!). When she’s not painting dolphins or rainbows or doggos, she’s usually out patting one! Read on for more bouts of whimsy, creative insights and mentions of cute critters.

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do? My name is Emily Nelson and I’m an illustrator/ceramicist/artist/textile designer/creative person based in Coolangatta, Queensland. I love painting with water colours and gouache and creating bright, colourful and a little bit silly illustrations of plants, animals, repeat patterns and tropical settings. I also love making ceramics and painting my illustrations onto them with loose lashings of underglaze.

Why do you do what you do? I think I just can’t stop creating. It’s definitely a bit obsessive, where I think about making things all of the time and then get into the zone and just churn out art works of various forms. I’ve always loved drawing and animals since I was very little and the two have always gone hand in hand. When I was a kid I would sit in my guinea pig pen and sketch my guinea pigs and birds and plants in the garden.

Who are some other artists, crafters, creatives that you love? And why? Leah Goren, Lea Maupetit & Melissa Grisancich are 3 of my favourites at the moment because they make work that reminds me of what I like to create in some way and I own little pieces of art by each of these artists and it’s special to me. I love female artists that are making a name for themselves and are trying new ways of displaying and producing their art, because they are braver than me and it inspires me to bring my ideas to life. I also love Ken Done. His colours are wonderful and my Ken Done childhood curtains will always have a nostalgic influence on me.

What do you enjoy doing when not creating art, working, making stuff happen? When I’m not creating, I loveeee spending time at the beach. I just moved to the beach and am there every morning and afternoon before and after work. Being out in nature is really important to me and I find walking in the rainforest, swimming in the ocean or a fresh water hole or spying on wildlife really fills me with joy and feeds my soul. I really want to interact with animals and get close to them and pat them if I can! I love animals so much. And I love dogs and dolphins. Just cover me in a pile of pomeranian and dachshund puppies and that’s my idea of heaven.

Can you share some details about your most recent project? My most recent project has been obsessively creating a big collection of ceramic mugs, dishes, bowls & vessels and painting them with all of my patterns. I recently became interested in pottery and I’m addicted. And now I have a collection of around 50 pieces.

Are there any projects that you are especially proud of? I really enjoyed painting a cat mural for the RSPCA. It felt so good to see it finished and to overcome the challenges of my first hand painted mural.

Is your creative process rigid, fluid, sporadic? Do you have a ritual for getting into work mode? My creative process is definitely sporadic. I work in sporadic intense bursts. Sometimes with long periods of panic and anguish and guilt and then periods of revelation and deep focus and joy. I like drawing after my morning swim, when my brain is fresh and happy. Sometimes listening to rainforest sound tracks help get me into a deep focus for an hour or two. Breaking challenges into smaller tasks and to do lists can be helpful if I’m overwhelmed. Taking it back to sketching with a pencil and paper usually  helps if I’m having trouble achieving the desired result that is in my head. I need to get better at finishing and releasing some of my personal ideas. I don’t always give them the importance that I give to clients work.

What’s the best or the worst advice you’ve ever received? I’m not sure. Someone please give me some good advice. I kind of just go by the philosophy of just keep making and practicing so I get better and better.

We noticed that you use your art to support projects and issues that you feel strongly about. Can you tell us more about this? I have some sort of a public voice and a platform (even though it’s a small one) and I have the means to create a visual message. I’ve been thinking a lot more about making an effort to stand up for for others that don’t have the means to make their voice heard. I had a really positive response to a range of art I made for free use to campaign for same sex marriage. I saw lots of people using it everywhere. It felt really nice that people could share this message using the art that I had made available to them. It’s definitely something I will continue to do because I feel I have a responsibility to think about these kinds of things as a maker. I’m still learning a lot about the ethics of the things that I make and how they will affect the audience that views them and what I can do to create visual messages that support important issues that are current or need attention in our society.

Who would you have over for your ideal dinner party and what would you serve up? Prince, Nai Palm, Sharon Jones, Buena Vista Social Club, Etta James. I’d make soft tortillas with lots of simple fillings like chorizo and radish and pickled onions and salsa. And some tequila cocktails with lime and agave. And maybe a pineapple upside-down cake with brown sugar and rum and cherries. And there would be an epic jam and dance off. And everyone would cuddle fluffy puppies at the end of the night.

What tips can you share about being aware of your impacts on the world? I’m still learning how to reduce my impact. I’m definitely not perfect. Trying to cut back on your use of plastic really makes you aware of how easy it is to rely on plastic. This year I’m trying not to use plastic bags, plastic water bottles, straws, take away containers, glad wrap and fruit and veggies packaged in plastic. I’m also trying to make myself pick up rubbish when I see it on the ground at the beach or out in nature. I also try to think about how I produce art and products and the most ethical ways to do this and ways to make an impact with my visual message through the art that I make. I appreciate the environment so much, it amazes me and recharges me and fills me up and the weight of its plight drives me to try and help make a difference. It’s definitely not the norm to take action and you need to push past that safe feeling of just caring about it but not actually doing anything. I’m trying to make myself do that! You feel so helpless and overwhelmed but you have to do something!!!  Let’s stop that big awful Adani mine!! And reduce our environmental impact! And always use kindness.

Where can we find and follow you? You can find me at: Instagram: @emilynelsonart &