Emily Parsons: True To Herself

It’s been a very long, rewarding TWO months of Illustration at the ADC, but we weren’t about to close it without featuring our very own ADC Staff Member and gifted illustrator Emily Parsons! Some call her EPAR, and all who are following her synonymous Instagram account will catch glimpses of sketches, commissioned work and almost daily doodles. Emily has an infectious personality and her work has the same energy, grace and sense of style, mixing traditional drawing and painting methods with digital rendering to produce her sketchy, unique (and sometimes bizarre) visual narratives and designs. Emily has worked on a range of personal and editorial projects. Originally hailing from the Sunshine State, she graduated with a studio art degree from The Florida State University in 2014. After traveling abroad, she bought a one-way ticket to NYC and hasn’t looked back since. Living and working in New York, you can see more of her work online on her website or visit her at the front desk, right here at the ADC!


New York



When did you discover your own talent and then later turn it into a viable working gig?

I’ve been drawing and painting since I could remember. My mother used to cover our kitchen table with white paper and we’d draw all over the “furniture” with markers. I’ve grown up in a family that’s supported any type of creative endeavor I expressed interest in, but it wasn’t until my art teacher in high school shoved a bunch of art college brochures in my hands that I realized I could make a living from my hobby. After graduating college and moving to New York, I started selling prints online and finding freelance illustration gigs. That’s when things clicked into place.

How long have you been an illustrator?

I did my first freelance gig about three years ago while still in school.

Self-taught? School?

Although I ended up not attending an art school, I majored in Studio Art at a state university. The basics of fine art I learned there were extremely valuable, however, the illustration business and Photoshop I taught myself because I knew commercial art could support my thirst for art and of course, pay the bills.

Was a career in the arts encouraged at a young age?

Yes! Like I said before, my family has always been and continues to be gracious in their support. My grandmother was a painter and my mother an art teacher and an extremely talented artist herself, so I guess you could say I come from a family of dreamers.

Take us through your creative process.

I had a professor say any good piece of art has a “U” process. You start the rough sketch absolutely loving it, knowing it will be a complete masterpiece. Then you reach the bottom of the U, and you’re cursing the entire idea, saying its complete rubbish, and fantasize about burning it and picking up a career as an accountant. Then you keep at it. complete the work, and come to the top of the U, and sigh with relief knowing this piece actually turned out pretty well. I’d say this is pretty accurate to my creative process.

In illustrating, what are the tools you can’t live without?

Pencil, paper, a quality scanner, a solid Spotify playlist, and snacks (chocolate).

What is one of the most exciting projects or a favorite one you’ve worked on or are working on?

In September of 2015, I was one of the three New York-based artists chosen to collaborate with three Barcelona-based artists for a creative organization called FIU. A bit like an artist’s TED talk, we collaborated with one artist from Spain, and then presented our work along with our creative process at a WeWork in SoHo. The illustrator I worked with was extremely talented, and I loved the entire project because it felt like a true celebration of a creative community.

How do you describe your aesthetic?

I find myself drawn to styles that are a little on the edgy and funky side. No matter how hard I try, all of my work comes out slightly imperfect, but I’ve started to embrace that.

What is the biggest challenge about being an illustrator?

Being true to yourself and your style, especially in this world where everyone’s blasting their work and comparing it to others on social media. I have learned that art directors are genuine creatures, and will only hire you for a project if they can see sincerity and consistency within your portfolio.

What do you love most about it?

Simply the work. It’s fun to create!

Any dream collaborations or brands you’d like to work with?

I’m attracted to brands and companies that use traditional illustrators and are bold enough to use traditional drawing or painting styles on advertisements. Some really rad ads I’ve seen on the streets of NY come from Nike, Oreo, Lyft, Coca-Cola. Editorial dreams would include New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Nylon.

What is your favorite place to go/thing to do to get inspired?

I love running. Either taking a run around Central Park or just getting out and spending time with my friends refreshes me.

Any contemporary artists on your radar?

Leah Goren, Rich Tu, Tim Goodman, Erik Jones, Charmaine Olivia, Ana Rifle Bond, Jonathan Bartlett, Jasmine Dowling, Rachel Green.

For anyone considering illustration as a career or just something to try for curiosity, do you have any advice?

Keep producing work and seeking counsel from other creatives. I’ve reached out to a number of illustrators I admire to ask politely for a portfolio review, and most illustrators are the kindest people you’ll meet. Having others to check the consistency and quality of my body of work and encourage me has really sparked me to keep going with my freelance illustration career.