Q&A with an artist: Emily j. Taylor (Ejits)
Emily J. Taylor, the incredible illustrator behind the utterly cute brand Ejits, is a Bristol-born creative (like myself) that I met at a local Etsy seminar. I recall falling in LOVE with her cute enamel pin characters, and I knowing instantly that I’d be a life-long Instagram stalker of her work!
For Creative Happy Life Club members, Emily has gifted 3 absolutely adorable pages from her newest colouring book (hello, cute critters), and also gives details below on how you can enter a big giveaway to celebrate the launch of her brand spankin’ new website!
Read on to find out more about Emily’s career path, her design process, and how she balances her creative work alongside protecting her energy as an introvert…
Q1. Who are you, and what do you do?
Hello. My name is Emily J. Taylor and I’m the creator of Ejits – a quirky, character illustration lead, design brand.
I illustrate super cute, silly animal characters that I apply to products such as prints, cards, stickers, pins, pencil cases, colouring books and more!
Q2. How did you start making art? Did you ever study a creative discipline(s) or are you self-taught?
One of my favourite things to do as a kid was copy cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. I think that’s where you could say that I got started. I would sit and copy all the Looney Tunes characters from Tazos (remember them? If not Google it).
I realise now it was my way of learning how to draw, and I still use some of the forms I picked up by doing it – the way Bugs Bunny’s foot is drawn, or Daffy’s bill. It all still influences what I make today along with a lot of other bits I’ve picked up along the way.
Art was my favourite subject at school and one of the only ones that I excelled at, so I followed that path and studied art at A level. I thought I might become a fine artist at one point, however, I still loved cartoons. When I found out studying Animation at university was actually a thing people did, I jumped at the chance!
So I’m a bit of both – I’ve studied animation at degree level but I started off by self teaching and I still self teach now. I feel that there are always ways to improve, so I keep absorbing as much as I can and practicing as often as I can.
Q3. What does it mean to you to be an artist?
It’s freedom of thought and expression. You can literally do anything you want as an artist and I love that. It’s making what’s in your head a reality, even if it doesn’t always look exactly the way you planned.
There’s nothing more satisfying than getting what’s in your brain onto paper. Sometimes it can even turn out better than you planned.
Q4. How long did it take for you to develop your signature style as an artist?
Ooooh, it felt like forever! In fact, I feel like I’m still developing it, but I think it’s more like improving on what I already have now, rather than finding a style.
I struggled with liking what I did for the longest time, and you know what it was? It was trying to work in traditional mediums and being frustrated that it never turned out the way I wanted it to.
When I started to move into working digitally (only 3 or 4 years ago), my style really started to take shape. When I invested in an iPad and Apple Pencil, it really came together. I could work traditionally (pen to ‘paper’) but on a digital tablet, which meant I could undo anything I didn’t like! You can make changes much easier than in traditional mediums. That was a real game changer.
For the first time I was actually happy with what I was producing and it just keeps improving with practice.
Q5. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published artist? Have you ever done any other jobs before becoming an artist?
I won’t bore you with too many details, it’s been a long and windy path but I came out of university and couldn’t find a job.
I wanted to work in traditional animation but at the time I studied it it wasn’t a booming industry, in fact it was dwindling. The reality came crashing down around me. I hadn’t worked hard enough, and I didn’t have the resources I needed to make it in that industry. I needed to make money to live.
After a few years in minimum wage jobs, I decided to re-train as a web developer. Sounds a bit random, but it turned out I had a knack for it and it afforded me the security to then pursue my first love – drawing.
I got a job in Bristol, and I made money through web development and practiced my art on the side. I started to build Ejits as a brand on Etsy and Instagram during evenings and weekends, whilst also working as a web developer by day.
I created a range of Ejits illustrations that I then made in to products. I could afford to do this because of the financial security of the day job. I built up my confidence in the brand, and as an artist again, and that eventually lead to me having the courage to quit my day job and go freelance 2 years ago.
Q6. Have you learned any lessons along the road to becoming a full-time artist? Is there anything you regret, or things you wished you'd done sooner?
Things I wish I’d done sooner? Oh gosh! How long have you got?
I think my biggest regret is that I lost faith when I left university and couldn’t find a job. I lost a lot of time trying to find confidence in my abilities again.
In that ‘wasted time’ I’ve had a lot of experience in different jobs, with different people that taught me that I am capable and smarter than I thought I was.
For me, I don’t think it could have happened any other way because I needed to learn those lessons in order to build the confidence, determination, and the skill set to do what I’m doing now.
Q7. What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from and what excites you most about the creative process?
I always start with a sketch. Sometimes I have idea, sometimes I just put pencil to iPad and see what comes out.
I get inspiration from everywhere, but my main sources are other illustrators and animation. I love Adventure Time, Cartoon Network, Studio Ghibli, Aardman, Cartoon Saloon, Laika and various artists I follow on instagram. A lot of my inspiration comes from seeing what other people are doing and figuring out how I can do it in my own way, and in my style.
Ejits characters all start off as a single circle and I do that because a) it means they all have a consistent starting point and look like they all belong together, and b) having to stick to a basic shape limits what you can do, and means some surprising things can happen.
Q8. Have you every suffered from creative block or burnout?
Oh yes! Burnout is something I’m constantly treading a fine line with! I put a lot of pressure on myself to be where I want to be already. I work too hard, sometimes pushing my limits to the edge.
Ask any of my friends or my partner and they’ll tell you that I’m way too hard and critical of myself. I’ve always been that way, and whilst I’m grateful that it’s what drives me, it also means I struggle to acknowledge the signs of burnout. It creeps up on me and then BOOM! My brain stops working and I can’t focus. I just have to take myself away and stop ‘doing’ for a bit…and I REALLY struggle with not ‘doing’ something.
It’s been happening a lot more than usual lately while I try to grow the business, so I have been paying more attention to the ways I can prevent it. I think my strategy really comes down to one thing – don’t force it.
If my brain just isn’t in the right frame of mind, then I go and do something it is in the right mood for. If I’ve lost focus, it’s happening because I need to take a break.
I have some daily things that help me as well:
Moving – Illustration is actually a physically demanding job. It can give you seriously bad posture, plus back and neck pain from sitting in one position for too long. Moving is important. It’s also an excuse to take a break. If I’m struggling to focus, I go for a walk or to the gym to clear my head.
Quiet time – I make sure I take some time every day to just to be quiet, do nothing, and feel calm. It could be anything from 5 minutes to an hour, whatever I’ve got.
Socialise – I try to put the screen down and get out and see people. This one is also difficult for me because I’m an introvert, but there’s no better way of stopping myself from thinking about work for a while.
Eating healthily – I’m still trying to get this one right, which is why it’s last in the list! All too often I give into snack temptation and my energy levels go haywire. When I get it right, I find I have more focus and energy at work.
Q9. Have you ever suffered with any struggles as an artist?
To make money from art, you have to be putting it out into the world all the time – either through social media or events, or by doing things like this.
You have to be making people aware of your art constantly and that means you have to talk about it a lot. It’s not that I’m shy, it’s just that my energy is finite and it can get to a low point very quickly when socialising.
Due to this, I’m not showy or loud, and I don’t like to push my opinions or art on other people. I like to do things a lot more subtly than that, but that doesn’t work well when you want to make a consistent living from it.
My struggle with is doing all of that is ensuring I have enough energy left to make more art. It’s a balance that I’m still working on, so I might need to get back to you on that one…
Q10. Are there any tools in your studio that you simply can't live without?
I’ve mentioned my iPad, but I think I could live without it. Actually, I think it’s important not to rely too much on one tool as it’s useful to be adaptable and to experiment with different ways and means of doing things. You never know, you might discover a better way! I learnt that when I switched to working digitally, but having said that, I would struggle to be quite as productive without it. It’s really sped the whole process up for me, so it would be my number one tool.
Q11. What does your work space look like?
My work space is the spare room in a rented flat that I share with my partner who is a graphic designer.
Some of the furniture is custom built by him because it’s such a tight space and we’ve had to think creatively to fit everything in. I have a desk with my computer on, with a home made IKEA hack shelving unit above. Storage is key when you sell products!
We also have a standing desk that doubles up as storage for photography equipment, which has a cutting mat on top where I take photos of my products and process online orders. The rest of the room is taken up with more shelves and his desk.
We work back to back so we don’t disturb each other too much during the day. It’s a cosy set up which I like, but we’re starting to feel like we’re outgrowing the space.
Q12. Describe your typical day as an artist…
I’m happy to say that I don’t really have a typical day. I could be doing anything from scheduling my Instagram posts, ordering new products, taking product photos, editing photos, packing orders, creating new characters and illustrations from sketch to final thing, or doing my accounting.
That’s another thing I love about being an artist, you do a bit of everything so it never gets boring!
Q13. Do you have a morning / evening routine in place to encourage self-care or productivity?
Tea! My only real routine is to start the day with a big cup of tea. It tells my brain it’s time to work.
If I’m feeling a little reluctant, just sitting at my desk and opening my MacBook will usually start something.
If I start to get tired or unfocused, I take myself out for a walk and get the blood pumping again.
Self care for me is about knowing when it’s time to take a break, remembering to have lunch, and stopping when it’s dinner time.
Q14. What things do you do in your day-to-day life to encourage personal growth as either an artist or an individual?
I listen to a lot of podcasts by other artists and small business owners while I’m working.
Listening to these podcasts has been a major factor in what finally made be believe that I could do what I love for a living. I cannot express how much they’ve helped me realise what’s possible and helped me find the confidence to go for it.
Q15. Are there any themes you try to capture in your art?
The main themes I try to capture are: cute, colourful/cheerful and a little bit weird or silly.
As long as I’ve ticked those three things off when I’m creating a new piece, I know I’ve got something that’ll make people smile and that makes me happy.
Q16. What is your dream project? Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I’ve been working on my new website for the last few months, which will have an online shop, and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.
I’ll be launching it at the end of May with a giveaway and some free goodies for the first 20 orders. Hopefully it will be live by the time people read this, so watch out for news about it on my Instagram @Ejits!
I have some big ideas for dream projects.
The first of which is bringing back my handmade plush toys. When Ejits first started out, it was because I’d got really into stop motion model animation at Uni and discovered I also loved making the characters that I drew into physical objects. Ejits actually started out as soft toys because I love working with fabric, and it’s also why I started off with such simple shapes.
I took soft toys out of my product line a few years ago so that I could concentrate on getting the illustration side of the business just right, however, now I’m planning on re-introducing them. There is a little way to go in the design process, but it’s my next big project so it should be happening in the near future.
I’d also like to start illustrating some comic / picture book style short stories about the characters. I have an idea in mind for Lionel the Yeti, my newest character.
The third – and maybe one of the most ambitious – is my big art idea. I’d love to start painting Ejits murals everywhere. Bristol is known for it’s graffiti art. I’ve participated in Upfest for 2 years running and it’s given me the bug for big art!
Q17. Have there been any milestone moments in your life that you've channeled / used as inspiration in your art?
It’s something a bit silly, cute and brightly coloured that takes your mind off your worries, even if it’s for a moment.
Up until now I haven’t really used my life as inspiration, but I’m planning on making a few short comic style stories about the characters so some of my life will creep in.
I have an idea for a story about Lionel the Yeti and how he copes with being introverted in an extroverted tribe. Although it’s not a milestone moment, it is something close to my own experiences.
Q18. What do you love / you dislike most about your job?
LOVE: The freedom to work when and how I want, and being able to say no to things I don’t want to do. There are still things I don’t want to do in my job (like paperwork) but because it’s my own work, it’s something I’ll happily do because it enables me to do what I love as a job.
Something I was never happy with while working for someone else was putting in all that time and energy so that someone else can reap the rewards. It just made sense to me to strive to do my own thing.
Also, I’m not a 9-5 kind of person. I like working all hours and being able to have a flexible day. It means I can go to the cinema in the afternoon when there’s no one else around.
DISLIKE: The amount of admin involved. Nobody ever warns you when you say you want to be an artist just how much admin is actually involved.
You want to be stuck in creating things and making a mess, but the reality is you have to do your taxes, billing, invoicing, social media management and website / online shop management.
There is quite a bit of boring stuff you have to do, and it can really eat into your creative time if you’re not careful. It requires a balancing act that can be frustrating!
Q19. What tips would you give to other artists that are looking to start making an income from their passion?
Figure out who the people are that will love your art (your target audience) and then find out how to put it in front of those people. Small business gurus say it all the time, and it took me too long to figure it out, so the quicker you can, the better it’ll be for your business.
Your audience are the key to making a living from what you do and it’s important to figure out exactly who they are. I have 4 different profiles set out of the types of people who will love my stuff. It ranges from a 12 year old version of myself who wants to show how quirky and cool she is by buying pin badges and stickers of her favourite cartoon characters, to the 20-something geeky couple who wear Pokemon t-shirts and love anime, to the 50-something Aunty of an alternative geeky teenager who doesn’t aways know what to buy them for birthdays.
Being able to picture exactly who you are selling to really helps narrow down how you present your brand, and how to get in front of those people.
Quick fire round 🔥
My most embarrassing EVER moment is...
Oh, I can’t think of anything, I really don’t embarrass easily. Or maybe its more like I don’t put myself in embarrassing situations, bit of a control freak!
One thing that scares me is...
Not fulfilling my potential as a person and an artist. I feel like I still have a way to go but I’m always striving to be my best self.
If I could eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be...
Oooooh, I love food so that’s a tough one! The first thing that pops into my head is vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone!
The artist that most inspires me is...
At the moment it’s Golden 305, he’s a graffiti artist and illustrator located in Miami. I found him on Instagram and I love his big art pieces. They’re really vibrant and filled with cute characters. If you look him up you can probably see some similarities in our work. He’s living my dream!
If I had to describe myself in 3 words, I would say I am...
Creative, introverted and silly.
My biggest accomplishment is...
Quitting my job and going freelance. It’s what I’ve always wanted and I seem to be making it work!
If I could travel to anywhere in the world, it would be...
Can I have two? I can’t choose between them so it has to be Japan, particularly the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo and Hobbiton in New Zealand. Yes, I’m a geek!
My favourite book is...
This changes all the time but at the moment it’s the Hilda comic books by Luke Pearson. I love the art style and the stories are that brilliant mix of fantasy and reality.
My favourite band / solo artist / music genre is...
I love modern blues and rock so The Black Keys are my faves. I love Jack White, Seasick Steve, The Kills, Royal Blood, stuff like that.
One thing people assume about me is...
I’m very quiet so I think people often assume I’m shy and not very assertive so it sometimes surprises them when I speak up and am very sure of myself.
My guilty pleasure in life is...
Reality TV shows, I’m loving RuPaul’s Drag Race at the moment and Queer Eye is one of my favourite shows. I think people who know me would be surprised to find out I love RuPaul because I’m a very understated person and that show is so flamboyant!
Fancy winning some Ejits goodies?
To celebrate the launch of her new website that’s arriving on 31st May, Emily is hosting an amazing giveaway where you can win a a bundle of Ejits goodies, including:
1x A4 Rainbow Farts print (unframed)
1x Zombie enamel pin
A set of Cuthbert stickers
2x A2 sheets of Ghosties wrapping paper
A selection of button badges
How to enter
To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is sign up for her newsletter and you’ll be automatically enrolled into the competition.
Nitty gritty details
As a subscriber, you’ll also get updates on new products, automatic entry into future giveaway, and free downloads each quarter.
You can unsubscribe at any time.
The competition is open from 31st May - 30th June 2019.
Discover more of Emily’s art 🎨
If you’ve fallen in love with the cute characters that Emily has dreamed up, you can find art prints, wall hangings, greetings cards, wrapping paper, stickers, enamel pins AND her colouring book all within her Etsy store – and also on her new website!
Emily’s gift to Creative Happy Life Club members
As mentioned previously, Emily has generously gifted members of the Creative Happy Life Club a selection of pages from her Animal Colouring Book.
If you love cute critters, this colouring book is a must-have for your collection, and equally, if you’re yearning for a quirky pencil case to hold your colouring supplies, she’s also got you covered!