“Art is supposed to be fun. If you are not having fun creating, then you are doing something wrong.” We couldn’t agree more with the wise words of artist Emeline (Project M). And coming from a painter who’s made a living creating work that exudes fun vibes from sprinkles to hearts, she knows what she’s talking about. Emeline started her creative career in the fashion world at the prestigious Ted Baker by day while putting on her own art shows by night. Her passion for painting won out and she went on to become an artist full-time. She has a knack for creating fun geometric patterns that look totally digital, while many are actually created traditionally on massive canvases. Her large-scale paintings look amazing on products as big as duvet covers and as small as phone cases. And now that she’s one of our Artist Shop Accelerator selectees, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her amazing work.
We talked to Emeline about her traditionally painted work, how she first started getting her art featured, and all about the inspiration behind her pieces. Read all about it below!
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First things first, tell us a little bit about you and your work!
My name is Emeline, but my friends call me Em. I grew up in a small village on the South Coast of England. As a kid, I was encouraged to be creative and was always making things. Sewing, crafts, painting, and more. I won my first painting competition at age seven. My artwork is inspired by my life and things I come across, and my prints are inspired by my artwork. These are then digitally manipulated and morphed over time. I’m forever updating and improving my prints and pushing them in different directions. You can find my designs licensed on many different products including home wear, tech accessories, fashion and wallpaper.
When did you first start getting into art and pattern work?
I have always been creative. At Art College, I was able to try out all facets of art. I did life drawing, sculpture, pottery, graphics, printing, and more. My tutors told me I should focus on textile design and that I should do screen printing. However, I wanted to do something with the fabric and I loved sewing. My great-grandmother was a fashion illustrator in the 1900s and I had a dream of being a fashion designer. So I decided to go to Fashion College. It was a very practical course, but I still didn’t know what to do when I finished. I managed to get a job as a pattern cutter for a clothing company in London. After a while, I became a Technical Designer for Ted Baker. This was such a fun place to work; I was working in a very creative environment with very creative people. But I still had a need to paint. So in my spare time, I would paint and exhibit my art. Then after I moved to California, I realized I liked making patterns. It seems my art tutors were right after all. However, if I had not gone the route that I did I probably would not have gained the experience I have now or have met such wonderful creative friends.
How did you get your start exhibiting your work?
I started doing art shows with my sister in our own home in Peckham, London. And you can blame our landlady – it was her idea. These shows were fun and successful. People asked us when we were doing another art show. So we started doing art shows elsewhere, including trendy bars, restaurants, bookshops, and small galleries. We called ourselves the “Tate Sisters” – our surname was Tate and we are sisters. It was easy for people to remember us because there are two huge galleries in London called “Tate”.
One thing people might not guess about your work at first glance is that your patterns are done by hand with stencils – what’s the process of making one of your patterns?
What some people don’t appreciate is that all of my patterns start out as one of my paintings, drawings, or photographs. I like to paint in blocks of color or make stencils by hand. My prints may look very minimal, but it’s taken a long time and complex process to reach that design. It’s all about editing and having an eye for detail.
There is one print that is a favorite that started out as a large painting that I actually didn’t finish. It’s called “Abstraction”. I’d mapped all the bright colors, but I decided to photograph it and finish it digitally. It was a 40-inch square, which is why it has a different feel than something that is drawn on a small screen or sketchbook. Slowly over time this bright colorful print became black and white and morphed. I’ve added lines, spots, grids, in effect playing with it and having fun.
My print “Pin Points” is not just some random spots. It started out as a 3D painting I created using colorful golf tees on a pegboard. I sold the painting 5 years ago, but an Italian wallpaper company wanted a digital version which I happily accommodated. I’ve been doing versions of it using different shapes recently. Even though I created it over ten years ago I think it still looks fresh and new.
As a kid I loved a game we call “pick up sticks” – I had an idea one day that it would be fun to have a painting inspired by this game. So I cut a stencil of a simple stick and stenciled my signature colors on denim. I mathematically mapped out the colors equally which is why it feels complete as a whole. Since then I’ve done multiple digital versions and I think it’s fun to see this print on a variety of products. It’s like part of my childhood is still around.
People are pleasantly surprised when I explain my knit prints. These prints are inspired by a section of my own hand-knit knitwear that I created while at Fashion College. So each stitch was created by me and then each stitch was hand drawn and then digitized. A long process, but also therapeutic and fun for me.
How large are your patterns usually?
My paintings are quite big – most of them are 40-inch square. I like to buy a roll of canvas or prime some denim. Then I paint with acrylics and then stretch them on a frame. In the past, I said I would never go digital. But after I started a painting in Canada, finished it in Palm Springs and then shipped it to London I realized I had to change my working habits. I now love using the computer with my art and designs, as I can actually get my ideas down much quicker. My Mac was actually bought with money I made when I sold a commissioned art piece, which I think is pretty funny. So my own paintings actually helped me to go digital.
As part of the Accelerator program, what’s one of your biggest goals? What’s something you’re most excited about?
I’ve been selling my art for over 15 years and licensing my art on a variety of products for five years. Being part of the Accelerator Program is exciting, as I hope to boost my art business. I feel Project M is almost at that point where people are starting to recognize the brand and my style.
What does Project M stand for? Where did the name come from?
When I first moved to California I was still exhibiting with my sister under our brand “Tate Sisters”. Our artwork complemented each other’s and sometimes we would collaborate on paintings. But after a while, I realized I needed to work solo. It was a very tough decision as we were just starting to be recognized in London. I created the brand “Project M” in 2010. It was my new venture or project and my friends call me Em – so it made sense to call my new brand “Project M”. You may wonder why “Project M Gallery”? Well, I hope one day to own a gallery to showcase my art and products. I think it’s good to be ambitious and look ahead.
What made you decide to move from London to California?
In 2005 I got married and moved to where my husband lived – California. I had never dreamed of going on vacation in America, let alone live there. It was not easy and it took me five years to get my Green Card. But it was a good excuse to be creative full time. I couldn’t work, so I painted full time. I even exhibited at some group shows in Santa Rosa, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles
What or who most inspires you?
I love Sarah Morris and her bold, colorful paintings. I hope one day I too will be able to create such large paintings, but right now I don’t have the room.
What’s your artistic philosophy?
Art is supposed to be fun. If you are not having fun creating, then you are doing something wrong.
Any exciting projects or shows coming up? What can we expect next from you and your Shop!
Last month I signed a contract for a collection of my geometric prints to be installed in a new apartment building in Chicago. A collection based on these prints that were chosen are available in my Threadless Artist Shop. It would be very cool to showcase some of the products from my collection with the prints in the apartment building. So I really hope that somehow that this can happen. Also in October, I am participating in an art show in Palm Springs. I hope to create a new geometric collection inspired by my large painting “Abstraction”, which I will then digitize and create new prints for my Artist Shop.
Featured image is “Ab Lines White” from Emeline’s Project M Artist Shop.
Content & Strategy Manager at Threadless by day, dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I’m not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.