Nominated by retailers, account managers or vendor partners, Artist Spotlights feature working artists in our industry community. We take this opportunity to explore innovative techniques, tap into the hows and whys of favorite mediums and tools, and celebrate artists who are shaping our world. To nominate an artist please email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com
Emilee Rudd is a lettering artist, illustrator and graphic designer based in Sacramento, California. She is detail-oriented, strategic, whimsical, imaginative and grounded in nature; qualities that show up consistently in her artwork. We reached out to learn more about what inspires her, what it’s like to freelance and which products are essential to her practice and why.
What Inspires Her
Like most creatives, Emilee can’t remember a time when art wasn’t a part of her life. “I always had a sketchbook and art was always a part of who I was. I took art courses in middle school and high school and studied Graphic Design at Cal Poly—I had great teachers who encouraged me to pursue my own style.”
As for inspiration, living in the city of trees has shaped Emile’s aesthetic.
“Nature is number one. I grew up by a river and I’ve always lived by a river. You can usually tell what season it is based on the color palettes that I use…being in nature is a big part of my design process. If I see a really interesting branch structure, leaf pattern or anything I find striking, I research it. Sometimes I’ll hold clients till certain times of the year because I know when I’ll be in tune with the season that makes the most sense for that project.”
It All Begins In a Coffee Shop…
“I stumbled into lettering. Junior year in college, I loved graphic design but hadn’t quite found my voice yet. I was working at a coffee shop and during slow days I would doodle and experiment with letters when writing the special. The owner took a chance on me and asked if I could do a menu. My first ever projects is still one of the largest projects I’ve done so far, surface-wise!”
And so began Emilee’s journey. She emphasizes the importance of lettering and illustration as a foundation that works hand in hand with her background in graphic design. A recent branding project she did for the Plant Foundry, a nursery and store in Sacramento, is a good example of how graphic design and illustration come together for her from start to finish.
“I couldn’t have done it without the art supplies. All the patterns and colors were derived from watercoloring with Derwent pencils.” She then moved from illustration to create the graphic pattern accompanied by a Pantone color set and logo look book.
What It Means to Freelance
Being a freelancer is a lot like being a small business owner. You strike out on your own and build your business from the ground up. Your comfort zone is suddenly a place where you spend very little time. Big challenges, big rewards. Emilee elaborates.
“I love challenges, and working with clients. The feeling afterwards is euphoria…I know what I was meant to do.” A recent challenge Emilee accepted with open arms? “I did bullet journaling for SoFi, a finance company in the Bay Area. They wanted it in one take so it was high pressure. I couldn’t use pencil, so I couldn’t mess up. We finished at three in the morning!”
The result is a beautiful video of what it means to create a bullet journal. Will Emilee be forging a career in long-form bullet journaling performance art? No, probably not. But embracing challenges like this push her to create with confidence and grace. She also discovered that she could create for 17 hours straight (!).
In addition to accepting challenges and risk, embracing social media as a means for community is crucial to her business. “A good portion of my clients find me through social media. It’s a great thing when you use it right… to engage with the community, to create excitement about a project, to get your style out there in the digital world. I love seeing the grid view of the Instagram, it’s very much like seeing someone’s overall style, their portfolio, all in one place.”
While Instagram makes it easier for future clients to see what she’s working on and reach out, it is also a lush stomping ground for the greater artist community. And as an artist who is acutely in tune with the seasons, Emilee looks forward to this month in particular: Inktober.
“Inktober is great because of the community aspect of it: artists coming together, all inspired by the moment and the season. To produce something everyday is a marathon. You train hard, work hard and look back on your work to discover something new about yourself.”
Favorite Products & Shopping Habits
Where the magic happens on our end: art supplies. Emilee has a consistent style and a perfected method—so the supplies she has carefully chosen are essential to her everyday practice. For Inktober specifically? “I like using pigment-based pens and then dye-based pens. I use a pigment pen to lay down, let it dry. Then I go over it with the STABILO Pen 68 Markers. I use dark colors for the contrast and accent colors to play around with. I like to stay in a color palette, and STABILO has fall colors I love.”
For large scale lettering projects, Emilee relies on POSCA paint markers. “POSCA gives you both the pigment and the volume. You can trust that marker. I really like the opacity—gives a depth of color. Not too much shredding on the nib. There are also a lot of interesting, unique colors in the mix… I’ll overlay color with an impressionistic style. The tips are interesting, too – I use the whole range.”
Because she knows her supplies inside and out, she knows where to find them. Her shopping routine focuses on local shops with a few online orders for specific products she hasn’t had luck finding in her neighborhood.
“In Sacramento we are really big on hometown, so I try and shop local when I can. I order pigment pens online because I have very specific needs and online it’s easier and I know I can get exactly what I want.”
Appealing to fine artists who already have their go-to tools can be tricky—but here is where word of mouth, staff recommendations and Instagram visuals come in.
“I’m a creature of habit, but I will try something new if my art friends or personal acquaintances rave about a certain pen. Instagram is also a way to see what different products can do. I get jealous and want to try it out!”
Art Dog Artist Spotlights are also an opportunity to connect. Inspired by Emilee’s work? Conveniently located near Sacramento? Connect with her and learn more how you might collaborate.