Emily Carlton | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?


My name is Emily Carlton and I'm an illustrator & designer based in Nashville, TN.

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I started as a child and I just never stopped. I think some children stop creating art because someone said it wasn't very good or laughed at it, but I think I just saw those comments as a challenge to be better. I wasn't the brightest student in other subjects, but I did see myself excelling in art. I have a competitive nature and I wanted to be better than everyone else at something, and that happened to be art. I continued because my family was (is!) encouraging and creating brings me a lot of joy. I can't not do it.

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

It's messy! Knowing God gave me a gift and not knowing exactly how to use it for His glory is something I'm still learning about and working through. In the past, I've not been a proponent of art and faith mixing, particularly in today's Christian culture as history and personal experience has showed me the combination hasn't been very beneficial. A lot of Christian art I see is cheesy, distracting, inaccurate, or just plain bad.

I used to be a designer for a church for about 3 years, and I got a lot of fulfillment out of using my gifts and talents to help people worship, learn, and hear the gospel. More recently, I began doing sketchnotes and graphic recording for clients. (Sketchnoting is documenting a lecture, experience, process, etc. using written words and images to create a more engaging and memorable visual record.)  I really enjoy the medium and want to get better at it, and one way I do that is by sketchnoting the sermons I hear on Sundays. It's been a really neat way for me to use my gifts and share the message when I post images of my notes. I've had quite a few people tell me they love looking through when they miss a Sunday or that they like the visual aid. I love being able to capture information and bring life to it visually to help share the gospel.

 Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

While I still have some design and illustration clients that are churches, missions organizations, and non-profits, I have come to the believe that you don't have to work at a church or use your gifts for the church in order to glorify God with your gifts. I think simply using them pleases Him.

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

I'm thankful that I live in a creative environment. Nashville has been a place of tremendous growth, encouragement, and support. I especially love the opportunity to be around other great creative people at WELD. I'm so thankful that I get to create art for a living, and that my personality, passions, and desires are being fulfilled with my career.

What are you working on now? 

I'm working on a few things right now - I am learning how to do hand-lettering and I'm also spending more time improving my drawing skills. I have a lot of room for growth and want to be the best artist I can! One of my new year's resolutions is to draw every day; I've been posting many of the results on Instagram to share, even if I'm not proud of it. We all have to start somewhere!

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by a lot of things that are hard to recall after the fact. I love being outside - it clears my head and renews my sense of wonder. I love talking with other people about what they're passionate about - being around someone who is excited and driven inspires me to be the same way. And, as silly as it might sound, I'm inspired by cartoonists! I love how they tie in art, humor, and story in a tiny space.  

What does "being creative" mean to you?

I think creativity is problem-solving. "Being creative" means being someone who solves problems in ways that haven't been solved before. "Being creative" means seeking new things, learning, and innovating.

Was there an artist in your creative field you admired when you were young that inspired you to become an artist? Why?

I love Gary Larson, cartoonist for the famous 1-panel comic The Far Side. I loved that he was a talented artist. Moreover, I admired how he could make you think and laugh in a single panel. It takes a lot of wit to be able to do that, and it's something I aspire to be able to do myself. I loved the fact that an adult was drawing for a living and I wanted to do make that happen for myself, too.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

Right now I'm in the middle of Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, Creative, Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldridge, and Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine. Faith and creativity are colliding in my reading list!

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Work hard. Put in the hours and take the time to become an expert at what you do. I think if you are serious about your craft, people will take you seriously. Not that they shouldn't already, but I think there's a new level of respect people have for you when they see that you are dedicated.

 "I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose." - Emily Carlton

"I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose."
- Emily Carlton


How does being a woman of faith inform/influence your art-making?

I don't know that it does - not consciously, anyway. I don't create art that is controversial or vulgar, but I think that's more personal taste than anything having to do with me being a woman and being a Christian.

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

I'd keep my normal morning routine of waking up early and writing. After that, I'd make breakfast tacos and read for a few hours. Then I'd go hiking or kayaking, and come home to clean up and make a delicious dinner for myself and some friends. I'd spend the later evening drawing & watching a movie, and then I'd go to bed early.

I cannot live without...

 a sketchbook.

Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

Spring Freebie | "Spring Leaves" Wallpaper

Here is a freebie phone wallpaper to freshen up your phone for warmer weather and bluer skies.

Just in time for the first day of spring!


Here's a fun tip for how to make this wallpaper work double-duty: 
For your home screen, zoom in on the wallpaper and set it where you like for something different!


Use, share, and enjoy!

A Measure of Grace | A guest post by Julie Presley

I am an expert on grace. Nay. I am an expert on needing grace. The funny thing is that I’ve only realized that in the past couple of years, and it took an incredible journey into a dark pit in order for me to come to grips with my humanity.

You see, I know how to do this Christian life, and do it well. I am a worship leader, a mentor, and I know all the right things to say and do. I am equipped with the tools necessary to find and walk in healing, and do lead others through it as well. Jesus and I are tight.

The problem for me was that I didn’t see myself as someone in need of grace because of the way I have lived my life. When I considered the cross and what Jesus did there, it really didn’t occur to me that I was sinful enough to need a sacrifice like that. Of course I never would have said this out loud. I wasn’t even fully aware of the issue until two years ago.

 HAND LETTER: Ephesians 4:7 “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Two years ago we left the first place I’d ever felt at home in 10 years of marriage and moved to a new city where I knew absolutely no one.

I was devastated to say goodbye to friendships and to uproot ourselves for the umpteenth time; I was lonely and weak. If there is anything that is true, it’s that those two words, “lonely” and “weak” are like an alert siren for the enemy’s attack. Temptation entered my life in a way I never dreamed was possible for me, the good little “praise team girl”. 

Temptation came in the form of an online conversation with a man who was not my husband, and I let it linger. I let it toy with me, and I even reached out for it a little because it had the façade of comfort, value and escape. 

You know how they say women are most beautiful in candlelight? It’s because the shadows hide the flaws in our skin, the wrinkles around our eyes. The same is true for temptation. Darkness blinds us to its warts and scales. 

The proverbial lights were turned on and I looked at what temptation was doing to me. I was appalled and I fought with all I had against it, but then the lights would dim and temptation’s appearance suddenly became shiny and enticing again, and I would admit that I was just too weak and lonely to do the hard thing: turn the lights back on. 

I danced with temptation in the darkness and in the fleeting moments of daylight, I saw my own warts and scales for what they really were. Soon, not even the light was enough to keep me away; I chose to ignore the ugliness that had become me. The conversation fed my starving and wounded soul.

I knew there was only one way out, but I was too weak to stand on my own two feet and expose myself. I was terrified of the repercussions. Thankfully, the conversation ended, but not by my doing. For a long time I was ashamed of that. Ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to dig myself out of my pit. Recently, the Lord revealed to me what had really happened in that process through a hard parenting situation. We had to allow our son to struggle and attempt to come through a trial on his own before we stepped in and rescued him out of it. The Lord showed me that this was exactly what He had done for me. 

I learned so much in the midst of my failure, I uncovered so many lies that I believed to be true about myself and about my heavenly Father’s character. My faith grew as I struggled through the worst failure of my life. It seems so contradictory to say in the midst of my sin, the Lord was teaching me and growing our relationship. But when it got to the point where something had to be done and I was at the end of myself, the Lord did it. He swooped in and rescued me from my worst nightmares and He taught me the most beautiful lessons about grace in the process:

Grace is for everyone.

All you have to do is spend a few minutes reading any story in the Bible and you will see that the heroes of our faith were some of the most wicked, most sinful human beings on the planet. Peter denied Jesus. David committed murder in order to be with a woman he lusted after and knocked up. Samson directly disobeyed the Lord’s commands and yet he still has a valuable place in biblical history. There isn’t anyone on earth who isn’t in need of grace, and there isn’t anyone on earth who isn’t allowed to have it, including you and me.

Grace never shuts off.

The Lord often speaks to me in images. When I was working all of this out, he showed me a picture of how I viewed grace verses how grace actually works. In my perspective, grace was received by standing in a line with a big red bucket in front of a wall with a button and a spout. I walked up to the spout, put my bucket down, pressed the button and an allotment of water gushed into the bucket. That was my ration of grace for the day.


In His perspective, however, there is no wall, line, bucket, or button. There is a spout. Instead of receiving an allotment of grace and standing in a shame-filled line of people, we all walk around with spouts hanging out over our heads. The water gushes over us in a constant flow with no way to turn it off.


Grace is given, and therefore must be accepted.

This is pretty straightforward. If someone wants to give you a gift, you have to open your hands to receive it. Yes, it flows over us as believers all the time, but are you walking around with an umbrella to block the flow? 

Once I recognized that I needed grace, suddenly I realized that I didn’t deserve it, and then I balked against it. I didn’t want to burden Jesus with the severity of my sin, and I didn’t want to taint His presence with it. 

The truth is that the cross is our gateway into His presence and at the cross, our burden of sin is removed. Once I got that into my head, I was able to freely receive the gift of grace that God wanted me to have. I was able to walk with my head held high into His presence.

Put the umbrella away and receive the gift of grace that is being poured over you.

I will tell you that there were definite consequences to my actions. My marriage had to go through a very painful restoration process. I had to earn trust back and I had to be honest about things I never wanted my husband to know about my heart. I had to tear myself down in order to be built back up again. Ultimately, however, the gifts that I received as I chose to turn my heart toward obedience, grace and forgiveness far outweigh anything I suffered in the process of shining a light on my sin.

Grace is for you, friend, even though you don’t deserve it. It will never be taken away from you. All you have to do is accept it.

 Portrait by Keith Peeler

Portrait by Keith Peeler

Julie Presley co-founder of Dauntless Grace Ministries, is an author, worship leader and lives in Texas with her husband Rocky and two boys, Salem and Josiah. Other loves include Netflix originals, red red wine and Cadbury Mini-Eggs. She blogs candidly at www.juliepresley.com about life, writing and the healing work the Lord continues to do in her life.

Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

Kelsi Klembara | Portraits of an Artist


What is your name and what do you do? 

My name is Kelsi Klembara and I am a writer and photographer. I wear a lot of hats, but I love writing profile/feature type pieces and writing/shooting internationally when possible. 

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I’ve always loved to write. I used to type up short stories on my family’s very first computer, print them out, and draw photos to go along with them. I remember one specifically that had to do with a lonely Spanish bull. I also read a lot when I was young, so I think I’ve always been fascinated with stories of different people and places. I also love to learn and really enjoying sharing what I learn with others. In high school, I started taking photography classes and fell in love with telling stories through imagery. 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more writing than photography. I’ve wrestled for years on trying to decide if I should give up either writing or photography in order to focus on just one thing. Last year I finally decided it was important to just do what was put in front of me well instead of worrying about what I wasn’t doing. I still struggle a lot feeling that I’m missing out on something, but this approach has helped me not only enjoy whatever is in front of me more. I also realized that what I really enjoy is using my gifts well and working hard. If that’s my focus, comparisons and anxiety are quicker to fade away. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you? 

In my given fields, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to express thoughts, ideas and truths that hopefully make faith more tangible for people. Oftentimes, I think this can happen by just doing a good job at what is put in front of me.  I can rest easy knowing my job is only to use the gifts I’ve been given while trusting the Holy Spirit to work through a story, a photograph or a blog post to point people to truths about our God and our Savior.

I also think Christians, and especially Christian women, can become paralyzed by the idea that their work isn’t good enough for God because it’s not daring enough, creative enough, etc. I certainly know this is how I used to feel, but it’s such a ridiculous notion! I really believe that living out faith is a whole lot less about what we do, and a whole lot more about what Jesus has done. It’s a freeing thought to think that my creativity and my talents were not only given to me by a great and loving Creator (and therefore they already are good!), but that because of Jesus, the ways I use or don’t use them has absolutely no effect on my relationship with God. Realizing this allows me to take bigger risks and try new things because I’m not worried that I’m making a wrong decision, and when I mess up along the way, I am still as loved and cared for by God as I was before.  This is a message I’m really passionate about right now and really want to encourage other woman artists and believers in. 

     "Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."    -  Kelsi Klembara


"Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."
- Kelsi Klembara

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work? 

I will be honest with you that as I write this, I am in a season full of doubt and insecurity in my work. It’s been a slow start to the year and I have to daily fight off thoughts about not being able to make it and about not knowing what I’m doing. 

But I’m getting to a point where I can also be thankful for this time. I think it’s a time to reflect on what I want to go after, and a time where I’m having to choose to work hard despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot to work on. I also know that this time will pass – every year I’ve been a freelancer, there have been slow months and busy months, and I think much of this work is finding the courage to keep creating even when you don’t have anyone else to create for. I‘m thankful for that challenge and for the people around me right now who are encouraging me to do that. 

What are you working on now?


Doug (my husband and I) are in the beginning stages of a passion project we’re basing off stories of people who work on Jefferson Boulevard located in Oak Cliff (located in South Dallas). We live in Oak Cliff and are fascinated by it’s history, and Jefferson used to be the heart of the community. There’s a lot of revitalization going on right now, and so Jefferson is a mix of upcoming business and Spanish-speaking restaurants and shops. We feel like this is a unique moment to capture the stories of all of these people. We also want to use this project to spark conversations about what it means to develop an area thoughtfully and respectfully. These stories can be found at http://www.jeffersonblvd.co/

What inspires you? 

I’m most inspired by quality and thoughtfulness. I may not even like a product or the topic of something I read, but if it’s clear the creator’s goal is to finish whatever they are making to the best of their ability, it inspires me want to do the same with what I do. I also love traveling and thinking through how people in different places interact - I love imagining the lives of people and places I have little context for. 

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

This writer’s work inspires me.
- I am in the middle of House of Cards and consequentially very concerned about the future of our country. 

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

Recharging and relaxing for me usually involves a lot of alone time at home. Cooking a big meal is also something that recharges me – I love trying a new recipe and sharing it with others.

Complete this sentence: "I cannot live without ..."

Podcasts – I feel like they’re listening to stories is currently one of my main pieces of inspiration. 
Below are some of my favorites: 

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, but know that whether you succeed or you fail, your identity and salvation is secure only in Jesus. 
Don’t be afraid to ask! Pitch ideas, send cold emails, find someone to brainstorm with. The worst thing that’s going to happen is the answer no.  

 Portrait by Doug Klembara

Portrait by Doug Klembara

Where to find Kelsi:



- Glass Optical - Matt Bull
Glass Optical - Pastrana
Sister Maria

Social Media: @kelsiklembara

- Instagram

Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com