Emma Punch is a multimedia artist from Richmond, Virginia living in Chicago. She is currently attaining her BFA in Studio art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is largely based in print and animation, however she has recently been exploring paper making and pulp painting.
Kaelyn Becker: Let’s start with what you do. Could you give me an overview of your practice?
Emma Punch: I started at SAIC in painting, then I became more interested in sculpture. I’m drawn to representational and narrative works, and started making comics. I ended up in a comics class on accident but ended up really enjoying it. From there I was making a lot of comics, printmaking, and animation. This semester I’m in a papermaking class.
KB: Yeah, your work covers a lot of ground with animation, drawing, printing and sculpture. Do you think those mediums influence the way you work? For example, do you think about the way animation or print will affect your drawings as you’re making them?
EP: I feel like a lot of the prints that I do on the risograph machine are just doodles I have in my sketchbook that I photoshop together into something. I really like instant gratification. I don’t think about much, and it’s a lot more of just making. If I think I’ll get too into my head I won’t do it. For a lot of sculptures I make, people have told me that they look just like something that I would draw. I guess they are-they’re just three dimensional.
KB: Do you prefer certain mediums over others?
EP: I really like the risograph machine because I like multiples. Like I said, I like the instant gratification, but I’m in a drawing class right now with Gladys Nilsson which is very cool. I like drawing a lot because it’s just immediate and it’s done, and I can just have it.
KB: Your work is very whimsical and playful. Is there anything that you’re trying to communicate with that or is it just an aesthetic choice?
EP: I think I just want people to enjoy looking at them, so I think that plays into it. You’re the third person who’s told me that recently-Gladys Nilsson also told me that.
KB: It’s true though! You have a lot of characters and faces. For example, you’ll put a face on a mountain and it makes your work come off as very fun and lighthearted.
EP: I think that’s aesthetic that I’ve kind of fallen into, I like it and so I keep doing it.
KB: Everything you make is really colorful as well. Do you tend to gravitate towards certain color palettes or do you like to experiment with colors?
EP: I do have favorite colors. My favorite color is pink, if you go on my website it’s all pink. It’s like a default color. I think it’s beginning to be a really popular color, especially with the risograph. People love the hot pink on the risograph machine. And then I like greens and blues too.
KB: I love the zine you made with the flowers on the cover, the leaves and the hot pink. (‘Love Flower’ – 2018)
EP: Yeah thanks!
KB: And then, the music video that you just did for The Slaps, that was great! Do you find it difficult to find commission work as a student?
EP: I actually approached them. They’re my friends and I said, “Let me make this for you!” And then from that I’ve had more friends in bands who have asked if I can make an animated video for them as well. And I’ve gotten Instagram commissions, but I don’t take a lot of them because animation is hard to be paid for because it’s so much more work and everyone that’s our age has no money, so I would just be underpaid for the amount of work I’m doing. But my mom told me I can’t put a price on exposure.
KB: In the same light, is it hard to balance work you do outside of school with your practice within school? Or do you find that they tend to correlate with each other?
EP: Last semester I tried to make that video for The Slaps my final project for my animation class, and my teacher wouldn’t let me. At one point in time I was working on about three different animations which was wild, and I can’t believe I did that. I feel like the ideas in them really go together. For commissions I always tell people it’s going to take me a lot of time because school is my priority right now.
KB: Do you see your work as going more in the direction of exhibition spaces or distribution?
EP: I do like galleries, I just took SAIC’s study trip in New York about Art and Criticism. Most of what we did was go to galleries and do studio visits. We got to meet with a lot of the curators. It was an awesome opportunity. Also, I worked in SAIC’s Sullivan Gallery, so I do think about how I would present my work in that context a lot. I don’t know, I like both of them and hopefully I don’t have to choose. I think that as a job once I graduate I’d like to be in animation for a career, so it wouldn’t have to be either.
KB: I was going to ask; do you think you have to pick between the two or do you think that you
can do both?
EP: I think I can do both.
KB: Especially with your work, I mean having sculpture which is conventionally thought of as
more of an “exhibition space” medium.
EP: Yeah, I’ve been talking with different groups of people about doing shows together, and applying for
things. So maybe!
KB: Have you participated or are you interested in participating in local zine fests like the
Chicago Artist Books Fair?
EP: I did volunteer at the Chicago Artist Books Fair, and when you volunteer they let you put some work
in the show. I sold out of the Love, Flower comics I brought! I only brought five or six, but it’s still a really
nice feeling to know people enjoy what you make enough to bu it.
KB: Since you just finished up that music video I want to ask, is there any music that’s been
inspiring you recently?
EP: Yes! I was listening to this song on repeat the whole way here, it’s called Full Circle by The Pom-