Published on

Q&A with Emma Charleston

Illustration and graphic design, UK

My name is Emma. I graduated from Brighton University with a degree in graphic design nearly four years ago. During the daytime I work as an in-house graphic designer for a group of international colleges. During evenings and weekends I do bits and bobs of freelancing and spend a lot of time on silly personal projects to try and improve my drawing skills. I also like to try and sew things.

Software / hardware

At work I use a 27” iMac plus a fairly cheap low quality secondary screen for emails, twitter, file browsing etc. I hate Apple’s magic mouse, so I use a logitech wireless model whose only weakness is a lack of sideways scrolling. I work mostly in InDesign but also use Photoshop and Illustrator on a daily basis. I also sometimes use Scribus, which is free, open-source design software that some non-designer colleagues use to create simple local materials at the colleges. (It’s a bit of a nightmare if you’re used to InDesign, but I am very positive about it nonetheless - for free software it’s pretty amazing, and can achieve everything InDesign can, with a bit more effort).

Usually my personal projects are hand drawn and then scanned into the computer for artworking in illustrator. I have a 24” iMac at home, plus ancient HP scanner/printer.

I love uni-pin 0.8 black pens, and my box of Caran D’ache wax crayons which I was only able to afford because they’d been smashed into lots of tiny pieces and the stationery shop let me have them for a fiver. I’m also a big fan of Berol’s brush tip felt tips. I just wish they came in more colours! They’re the only felt tips I’ve found that don’t dry up or run out of ink super fast, but that I can still afford.

Ideal work environment

MASSIVE DESK! That’s the dream. Especially at home, I wish I had a big enough desk to draw, scan, paint, get my sewing machine out, and not have to constantly be putting things away and having things fall off the edges. That, plus a nice pair of headphones to block out the world, comfortable wheely chair, and a good window with plenty of natural light = perfect workspace. (Added bonuses, I'd love a lightbox and a really elaborate compartmentalised box for art supplies. But I mustn't be greedy.)


I look around me a lot. There's a lot to see if you're looking. I also spend a lot of time on the internet. There's so much out there to see and I'll never see it all, but I'm a firm believer that almost anything can be inspirational if you want to take inspiration from it. Some days it's easier than others, but hey! Nice lamppost. Wow, look at the colour of that beetroot! Poster in the window on my way to work. Design blog. Five pairs of chopsticks neatly lined up. There's something in it all, if you're looking right.

Admire most

On a personal and creative level, Grayson Perry is my hero. He manages to represent a very under-represented group of people in the mainstream media with grace, humour and articulate intelligence. And regardless of his personality, he is an incredibly talented ceramicist and visual artist. His “The Vanity of Small Differences” show which I saw as part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition last year was without doubt the artistic highlight of 2013 for me.

![](/sites/default/files/graph bus colour.png)

© Emma Charleston

I’m in awe of Graham Rawle’s projects - he takes the art of collage to a whole new level. I highly recommend his book 'Woman's World'. It is a modern masterpiece.

Typographically, Letman and Jessica Hische are both a huge inspiration to me.

When I was at university I attended a module on visual diaries, tutored by Margaret Huber. It’s taken a few years for me to appreciate how much of an impact it made on me, but I’ve found keeping a visual diary every day to be one of the most rewarding exercises possible, in terms of personal creativity. She played a big part in showing me how important it could be. Some days are good, some days are bad, but it always forces you to think and create.

Visual diary