Emily Carlton | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

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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