Emma Roulette

Emma Roulette is an illustrator from south Florida, USA, living in Barcelona. She has a background in biology, and has illustrated for various entomology and botany labs at the University of Florida.

Emma Roulette

Hey Emma, can you give us a quick intro to your work and how you started working in illustration? 

Hello! I make colorful, detailed scenes with a focus on landscapes, architecture, and biodiversity. Like most illustrators, I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon/pencil. When I was in school I used to fill the margins of my notes with drawings, portraits of my teachers and the backs of my classmates’ heads, monsters, and of course those legendary S things. You know what I’m talking about. The universal Symbol.

Emma Roulette

But I really started drawing professionally like this: I was at a party in college, playing beer pong. The signups for the beer pong tournament were on a whiteboard. There was a big space at the bottom of the whiteboard so I drew an octopus there, because XD so random. A girl named Suzie came up to me and told me that she was the art director of The Fine Print, which was a little independent magazine in Gainesville that came out 4 times a year, and asked if I wanted to volunteer to illustrate for them. That’s where I got my first illustrations published.

Emma Roulette
Emma Roulette

What was your first ever project? How do you feel about your evolution since that first commission?

My first ever paid work in illustration was in 2014 when I was in college, when I worked as a scientific illustrator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. There I worked in a lab that researched moths, and I had to illustrate them for a guide. Since the moths we were studying were really tiny and had mostly brown, unidentifiable wings, I had to dissect and illustrate the genitalia, where there was a lot more variation from species to species.


At that time I was also illustrating some articles here and there for that magazine, The Fine Print. Back then I used to draw with a much more realistic style, because I really wanted to have a career in scientific illustration. I used to do a LOT of stippling, and I mainly only worked in black & white. Then around 2015 I got tendinitis in my wrist/hand which forced me to stop drawing for a while. When I started again, stippling hurt (and it still does!) but I could still draw lines, so I had to change my drawing style if I wanted to keep drawing. 


In 2016 I moved to Spain, started using instagram, and learned about Cristina Daura and Maria Medem. That was when I first started taking color seriously. At first I only used primary colors (totally influenced by Cristina Daura at the time) but a few years later I started experimenting with muddier color palettes. 


How do I feel about my evolution? I look back at how I used to draw, and think: God, I used to have so much patience! But I’ve also learned a lot of ways to streamline my process now, so it doesn’t take me like three hours to finish the shading of some minute detail. Also I’d say that my drawings are more fun and imaginative now 🙂

Emma Roulette

How would you explain your creation process? do you have any go-to influences?

My process is pretty straightforward! Once I get the brief from the client, I’ll spend some time doing visual research to come up with ideas and look for details that I can incorporate in the drawing. I’ll make little thumbnails in my sketchbook. Then I choose 3-5 of those, redraw them slightly better in color using my drawing tablet, and then I send that to the client. Once the client chooses their favorite, I’ll start drawing in pencil on a sheet of bristol paper (usually A3). Once the pencils are done, I go over everything in ink and erase the pencils. Then I scan it and add color and texture in photoshop.


Influences: I use Google Street View a LOT when I’m in the research stage. Especially when I want to see what typical buildings look like in a particular area, or what identifiable landscape features an area has. To make the plants/animals geographically accurate, I’ll also check out species checklists from nearby national parks, as well as geotagged photos from Flickr and Google reviews. 


Sometimes if I’m struggling to draw a particular thing (especially cars!!!!) I’ll search “thing + 3dwarehouse”, which usually gives me some 3d models of the thing that I can rotate and use as reference. 


Another very helpful resource is ukiyo-e.org, a huge database of high res scans of ukiyo-e japanese woodblock prints.. I often find myself browsing the images on this site to see how certain objects, like trees, clouds, waves, etc are rendered. Shin-hanga (japanese woodblock prints from the early 20th century) artists such as Hiroshi Yoshida and Hasui Kawase are huge for me. 


Also Liam Cobb! His work totally inspired me to use perspective in my drawings. 

Emma Roulette
Emma Roulette
Emma Roulette

We had a lot of fun working with you on the Away project last year! How was it collaborating with Genis Rigol and a team of animators on that project? 

That was super fun, yes! I remember it was a LOT of work (I made almost 50 drawings in 3 weeks!!!) but it was very rewarding. I had never collaborated with anyone on a project before and I learned so much. Genis had very high standards and was always pushing me to improve my work. I was really proud of how everything came out in the end. 


Also Genis puts lots of dramatic shadows in his drawings, and always considers the light source and things like that, something that I had never done until we started working together. That’s something very concrete that I learned when working on that project– how to do shadows. And now I try to use them whenever I can!


Plus– so much respect for all the animators on that project! I was IN AWE when I saw how they animated my drawings. It’s truly a magical feeling seeing your static images come to life. 

What is your favorite part of working as an illustrator? 

So many things: I have a flexible schedule. I get to sleep 8 hours most of the time. I get to listen to music all day. And most of all: I get to invent little detailed worlds as my job!


Do you have any new projects in progress you’re currently excited about?

I’ve been procrastinating on this for too long, so if I say it here, then it’s out there in the world, a promise that I can’t break. In October I am going to draw the first pages of my ~120 page comic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!